54mm New France Skirmish Project

A new project? Really? Well, consider these points:

  1. I am of Osage Native American heritage and proud to be a tribal member.
  2. One of my favorite movies, since I was a kid, is 1992’s Last of the Mohicans.
  3. I know live in the St. Louis, Missouri, area – steeped in the history of the French colonial period.
  4. 54mm, or 1:32 scale, figures are big and hopefully easy to paint to a reasonable tabletop standard.

So there you go. Time for a new project. It took a while to source and order figures for my three small skirmish bands, where represent the French regular soldiery, the native Osages, and the coureurs des bois or voyageurs who would trade and travel between both.

Compagnies Franches de la Marine

The Compagnies de la Marine were the only regular soldiers in New France from 1688 to the start of the Fench and Indian Wars. By 1750, there were 1,300 of these men across the Louisiana Territory.

  • Manufacturer: Armies in Plastic
  • Material: Soft plastic
  • Price: VERY CHEAP at ≈62¢/figure ($9.95 for 16 figures)
  • Quality: Moderate; for the price I paid, I’m pleased. But if I could have found a higher-quality set of French in resin, I would have gone that route.

The Osage, or the Wazhazhe (𐓏𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟)

The Osage first made contact with the French in 1673. Over the next century they became the dominant power in the region, forcing trade on their terms and keeping other native nations at bay.

  • Manufacturer: Publius of Russia (via eBay)
  • Material: Soft, very rubbery plastic (different from Armies in Plastic)
  • Price: Moderate; $9.50/figure (nothing compared to Games Workshop, so keep that in mind)
  • Quality: Exceptional. The figures have details you can only get in 54mm, and the poses are wonderfully dynamic! If only these figures were in resin!

The Coureurs des Bois

Various Frenchmen tried their hand at trade in the New World. The coureurs des boi, or woods-runners, were the unlicensed, independent men, while the voyageurs and their indentured servants, the engagés, worked for larger, official operations.

  • Manufacturer: Petite Guerre Toy Soldiers
  • Material: Resin (a welcome change from all this soft plastic!)
  • Price: Reasonable; EUR 5.00/figure
  • Quality: Good. They are something of a middle ground between Publius and Armies in Plastic. They look good in person. Would have preferred different, more dynamic poses, but I am pleased to have found figures in this scale.

Figure Preparation

Working with soft plastic figures is new to me, and advice from other wargamers seems to be wildly mixed and conflicting about how to keep the plastic adhered to this very difficult, bendy surface.

Like any crazy miniatures gamers, I wanted consistent basing – with enough room for cool details (i.e. distractions from my mediocre paint jobs). I based all the figures on 50mm bases and used small aquarium tank gravel for cover. I then painted with a 50/50 mix of craft paint and Elmer’s PVA glue.

I primed the soft plastic French and Osage with Rust-Oleum Specialty White Oil-Based Alkyd Plastic Primer. This Plastic Primer is supposedly designed for plastic and vinyl surfaces (e.g. touted for car and boat seats), so my hope is that it works well with these figures.

But good luck finding any. I went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, True Value, and Ace Hardware. My local Ace tried ordering from the warehouse, but never decided to call to tell me that the warehouse was out of stock. Fortunately, an Ace on the other side of town had three cans in the clearance bin. I bought two.

We’ll see how it holds up. Seems to be working so far.

After the primer had dried, I made my first attempt at the “dip method” of shading with Army Painter Strong Shade in a can. I usually shade by brush, but was interested in the potential time savings.

It was a mess. Sticky. Uneven. Had to spray with matte varnish after the figures were still sticky a few days on. I’ll stick with taking the time to do brush shading in the future.

Painting will come. We’ll see if I’m okay with tabletop standard or want to take my time. It’ll probably be the former!

French and Indian War or Black Powder-era Rules?

I’ve no idea what rules to run this project with.

Would prefer something very, very “beer and pretzels” with little complexity. Something I could introduce to friends in five minutes and start to play.

I’m compiled a list of rule sets to check out, but most of what I’m seeing is designed for skirmishes of a larger size: fifteen, twenty, or more figures per side. Given the large scale, I’m sticking with six a piece.

It’s a fairly popular period, so I’ve got options – even if I have to tweak them for the smaller sized forces. The following rules are ones I’m aware of:

  • Muskets and Tomahawks
  • Rebels and Patriots
  • Song of Drums and Tomahawks
  • Sharp Practice
  • This Very Ground

Should be fun!

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