Miniatures – British and allies

The thin red line

For those who are unfamiliar with the “gaming distance” the term refers to the distance you view your miniatures from when gaming. This usually means a metre or yard.

BRITISH Miniatures

Janne tried to purpose paint each British and Portuguese unit that took part to the battle. However as the terrain building took somewhat longer than anticipated part of the Anglo-Portuguese forces aren’t the actual units. This really isn’t a biggie as only the facing colours differ a bit so this wasn’t that noticeable from the gaming distance.

AB Miniatures: Greatest thing about AB is that you do not need to purchase your miniatures in packs but you order them individually. This means you shouldn’t get swamped with leftover extra figures. The downside of this is very high price. But you also get figures with mind-boggling amount of detail in them. Janne actually thinks that there is too much fine detail on these that gets bogged down with his style of painting (rather thick layers of successive drybrushing on black undercoat) in addition to taking up somewhat too long to paint as well since it won’t be visible even from half the gaming distance.

AB’s range is extensive having virtually everything imaginable in it, even including a pike bearing sergeant; something most manufactures have omitted. There are several pose variations for most figures that will give especially the cavalry a very suitable look. The horses seem to be universal since their separate riders are the ones that have the saddle attached to them. The horses are also sculpted in numerous different poses. The artillery pieces AB makes are truly magnificent.

Chariot Miniatures: Not very large a range, but while most other manufacturers have their line infantry wearing trousers Chariot has pantaloons. The figures have plenty of detail which is just nicely exaggerated so it doesn’t get bogged even if you do not use the thinnest possible layers of colours. Unfortunately the cavalry has extremely small horses that will look dead wrong especially on heavy cavalry. The artillery pieces on the other hand look quite good and are extremely affordably priced.

Essex Miniatures: They have a large range of miniatures which could easily be described as being your “basic figures”. The anatomy is somewhat on the thicker side making them look slightly squatish. Also some details, like rifles, are just plain wrong. Cogs in the wheels of the artillery are so horribly miscast that they require huge amounts of work to be cleaned so it is just easier to purchase your artillery pieces elsewhere.

Lancanshire Games: The bulk of the Brits are by Lancanshire Games. Janne has the megalomaniac idea to paint each British unit that took part in the Peninsular campaign. Because of this the price of the miniatures is also a big factor and Lancanshire offers, especially when purchasing their excellent Battle Packs, a solid amount of miniatures for a very reasonable price. Service has always been excellent and if certain miniatures have been needed these have been obtained without any problems.

Spanish and British forces

The miniatures themselves work just fine. While they do not have all the possible minutiae detail in them they most certainly contain everything relevant. Because of this you tend to paint these guys quicker as you don’t get swamped by painting nitpicky details. Janne actually totally loved the poses of the rank and file of infantry as arms and musket were positioned so that they almost completely were in front of chest thus eliminating the need to paint the time consuming details on it. Smart sculpting! The only negative thing that one might come up with, besides not yet having any artillery pieces or cavalry command figures in their range, is that the metal tends to be slightly too soft. This makes the figures marvellously easy to clean up but the small parts, especially the rifles, sometimes snap off. Not a big loss since the Battle Packs always includes quite a few extra figures.

Lancanshire is also one of the few manufactures to offer British fusiliers in their range. This is hardly surprising really, as it is still debated whether shakos were actually worn on field instead of their fur hats. We decided to use these as there are so few British units that differ any from one another.

Painting the British

After flash had been cleaned all miniatures were given a black undercoat after which all line infantry and heavy dragoon coats were painted first. This was done by drybrushing of dark brown followed up by a reddish brown. To simulate the different materials used by the tailors, the officers and NCOs received also a drybrushing of actual red whereas the rank and file just had tiny dabs of red as highlights in most prominent areas like elbows. After this quick and lavish painting of the coats for all the minis each the figures were divided into battalions and each battalion was painted separately which speeds up the painting.

Each following colour is first given a more covering drybrush layer followed by a lighter one to more prominent or central areas. First the facing colours and webbing is painted (no need to drybrush the webbing), then flesh followed by browns for the gun and hair. The lighter shade of brown is used also in all the brass areas as well as haversack. This is drybrushed with buff which is also used for the strap of the rifle. The trousers and rolled up greatcoat is drybrushed with dark grey and with a lighter grey. Canteen is painted a slightly greyish blue. Black areas like boots, knapsack, shako and bayonet scabbard are retouched with black and their edges receive a grey lining. Shako’s plume is painted red and the top part is then painted white. The brass parts which were painted mid brown earlier or receive a drybushing with brass (and the same goes for gold parts, brown followed by a drybrush with gold). The metal parts of the rifle are first painted with gunmetal followed up by another coat to which touch of silver has been added. Finally the bayonet, swords etc are painted with pure silver to make them stand out a bit.

After painting the miniatures are glued to the gaming stands with PVA and after the miniatures are firmly fastened watered down PVA glue mixed with very dark brown paint is applied to the base which is dipped into a box of sifted sand. When this is dry the base receives a wash of darkish brown and several drybrushes of lighter browns and ochres as we are trying to simulate the hot climate of Spanish peninsula. Don’t fret if you get some paint on the boots, as long as it is not hug blobs the boots will look slightly more realistic as if the figures had been marching in hot and dusty conditions. Some of the bases even have small clumps of foliage (Woodland Scenics manufactures some marvellous stuff) here and there, but there wasn’t enough time to apply it to every base. Don’t forget to paint the sides of the base accordingly so it won’t stand out.

Dress ranks!

Other troop types are painted similarly but with different colours. Artillery and light dragoons have dark blue coats and Royal American riflemen (5/60th) and KGL lights have green coats and the trousers are blue for the Americans and grey for KGL. The woodwork on the artillery pieces is light greyish blue and the guns themselves are painted as the brass bits of the infantry i.e. drybrush of mid brown followed by brass. When painting cavalry all the horses are first finished en masse in different shades of browns, although some occasional other colours are used as well (always use greys for the trumpeters though), after which the riders are painted each regiment at a time. Don’t forget to check several books on horses on what kind of white markings their muzzles and legs have and apply what you see with good taste. Horse furniture is dark brown.

British Flags

Janne used the stunning AB flags as you really can’t recommend them enough! The only grievance is that these are rather pricey and one would think that there’d be room for almost twice as many flags in the sheets, but then again business is business.

Books and guides

You can find plenty of info through the net, some of it more accurate than others. If you want printed stuff then probably cheapest yet rather accurate method is to buy the cheap painting guides by Active Service Press that at least used to be available via Essex Miniatures. Punters with more compulsive need to know “everything” on the subject will most probably buy the multi-volume Osprey Men-at-Arms -series and the couple books from their Elite -series as well. As a one volume set Ian Fletcher’s Napoleonic Wars Wellington’s Army from Brassey’s History of Uniforms -series works pretty well too. Unfortunately these all, like most Napoleonic books, have most of their pictures in black and white.


For Portuguese Janne used almost only Lancanshire Games with two units made out of AB Miniatures. Basically everything that has been said about the British can also said about the Portuguese. Janne was surprised to find out that AB’s cazadores either stand in attention or lie on the ground. As making coherent units from prone figures is rather difficult AB graciously agreed to change the miniatures to standing ones after some exchange. The pose of the Lancanshire’s cazadores is very dynamic. We haven’t seen any of their British in 1812 uniforms but the Portuguese line troop’s sure look like Brits especially as the shakos do not have the characterised metal bands in them. Luckily it isn’t that big a chore just to paint these on.

Painting the Portuguese

This was done along the same lines as with British i.e. black undercoat and lots of drybrushing. All Portuguese infantry first got a liberally applied drybrushing of dark blues to their coats and some to their trousers as well. The rest had their pants painted white later on. Painting of facing colours took much longer as these had pipings of different colours. Apparently contrary what you usually see painted on figures most of the webbing Portuguese had at least during the early stages wasn’t white but black, hence most of webbing was painted black (Osprey MAA343 p. 22).

Artillerymen differ very little from line infantry and light infantry or cazadores have mid-brown uniform. Light dragoons’ uniform colours are very similar to their British counterparts.

Portuguese Flags

Most are from but a couple are from AB. Unfortunately their range of Portuguese flags isn’t as extensive as their British range probably because there might not be as much material available on these as is on British flags. Perhaps for this reason each set also has one flag that is most likely of later issue.

Books and guides

Portuguese are not as well covered in English as British troops but at least the Osprey’s new three volume Men-at-Arms -series is very good.

Wellington’s Peninsular Army (Men-at-arms)

Wellington’s Infantry: v.2: Vol 2 (Men-at-arms)

The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic Wars: 1806-15 Pt. 1 (Men-at-arms)

The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic Wars: 1806-1815 Pt.2 (Men-at-arms)

The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic Wars (3).

Spanish Army of the Napoleonic Wars: 1808-12 v. 2 (Men-at-arms)

Uniforms of the Peninsular War, 1807-14

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