As denoted several times before: For me starting a new gaming project is always an affair of getting in touch with the background - by reading books, watching films or listening to music. However, this approach was somehow reversed by the latest addition to my miniatures' collection. Since my early years I'm a great fan of baroque music, architecture and art. Therefore Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, an icon of this period, has always intrigued me. In consequence one of my first steps into historical wargaming was the search for appropriate miniatures representing Louis' famous army. Back then there were a few ranges, but all of them not my cup of tea. Imagine my joy (respectively swearing) when Mark Copplestone announced his "Glory of the Sun"-range! Immediately after the selling started, I ordered my first packs. And here's the result:
It's a kind of sample. I just wanted to try if I can handle Copplestone's style. I love most of what he did for Foundry and especially his adventure stuff. Anyway, the variation within his rank & file troops is a bit limited, and he tends to overdraw his figures quite a bit. On the other hand, that makes for expressive characters and clearly visible details. To get an idea take a look at the detail photos.
The miniatures are meant for the period between 1660 and 1680, the time of Louis' wars against the Spanish & German Habsburg and the Netherlands. It's a time of transition: Pikes become obsolete by the introduction of bayonets; battles are won by firepower, the more as the cumbersome matchlocks are substituted for reliable flintlocks; the army is reorganised by state officials, and as such uniforms (famous French grey-white) become common etc.
Unfortunately, other than for the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) there's little evidence what the French army actually looked like at this earlier time. As said above, uniforms were already in use, but not clearly recorded. Therefore my version of the La Reine regiment is rather an interpretation based on the troopers' appearance a hundred years later.
La Reine fought in almost all field battles of the period - which aren't many since warfare was dominated by rather static sieges. But I'm not after trench raiding anyway, so I guess I'll start with some 'what if'-scenarios.
I didn't follow any special basing convention, just my usual 40x40mm bases (with a nice North-West European lawn as can be found in Flanders, Holland or the Rhine area). To date I'm not sure which rules to use for these guys. I've taken a look at Barry Hilton's Beneath the Lily Banners and Crusader's Rank & File, both have their strenghts and weaknesses. Perhaps decision comes when - if ever - my collection will have reached a 'critical mass'...
Some final thoughts about the miniatures:
1) You should be able to cope with Copplestone's style. Skirmish gamers might complain about the lack of variety. Indeed, the miniatures are a bit static, and I avoided boredom only by painting them in groups of 2 musketeers, 1 pikeman and 1 officer. Also the sculpts constrained me to omit painting the eyes, because it just didn't look right (not necessarily a downside).
2) A few miniatures are plagued by heavy flash, quite often in unreachable areas or, even worse, in the face.
3) A minor flaw: Splitting the command groups into separate packs of drummers and officers is quite strange. Furthermore the lack of appropriate weapons for the captains/sergeants (say partisans or halberds) is bothersome.
4) For all its shortcomings Copplestone's range is worth a closer look for everybody interested in this period. Clearly it's a labour of love from a very talented sculptor with attention to details. And, in general, you aren't spoilt for choice, especially for the pre-Marlburian period.
So from me it gets a wholehearted recommendation.
I don't actually know whereto this project is going. Please don't expect any additions too soon - there's also the AWI at hand that calls for another battalion.
Painted in May/June 2009. Additional stuff by GMB (flags) and Front Rank (tassels & scarfs). Film scene from Le Roi Danse (engl. The King Is Dancing), France 2000.