Tag Archives: 20mm

Zig-Zug

I’ve been painting a platoon of Panzergrenadiers for Chain of Command recently, and I’m almost there. In fact, I thought I was there, until I tallied up my forces and realized I was two MG-42s short. A slight oversight!  Actually completing a unit would be completely out of character, for me, so I’ll just put up pictures of what I do have done, but will leave the offending Zug 3 out of the photos as punishment for having left their MG teams behind.

My real reason for posting these, is I’d love to hear some comments, criticisms, and suggestions about painting Germans and having them ‘pop’ on the table. These guys don’t look too dull up close and on camera, but they totally fade into the table at 3′ or more.

Ok. The figures (all Fantassin/Warmodelling, by the way).

Zug 1 on the Move (Plus a really badly painted Stug)

Zug 1 on the Move (Plus a really badly painted Stug)

German squads are made up of two LMG teams. Team one on the left, team two on the right. I think this Stug was the second or third thing I painted when I started this mad wargaming thing. It shows.

Zug 2 assaults the farmhouse! (rather lazily on the right)

Zug 2 assaults the farmhouse! (rather lazily on the right)

There’s that pesky Stug again. Notice the squad leader (a junior leader, in Chain of Command terms) has his base outlined in sky blue. I’m still debating whether or not that’s a good idea. It definitely takes away from the diorama approach, but I think I’m ok with that.

You can have additional forces in Chain of Command. These are a few of mine. Plus a senior leader for the platoon.

You can have additional forces in Chain of Command. These are a few of mine. Plus a senior leader for the platoon.

These are mostly support forces for Chain of Command. They are added on to your base platoon in a don’t-call-it-a-points-system-points-system way. These forces can range from a jeep (if you’re cool) to a King Tiger (if you’re not). I have a PZIIL on order, which is nearly as rare as a King Tiger but almost as ineffective as a jeep. I’m not sure where that puts me on the cool scale. Probably not very high.

If you’re still reading this, the forces in the picture are, from left to right, a sniper team, a forward observer (most likely for mortars), a tripod mounted MG-42, and the fellow on the far right is the platoon lieutenant. Who isn’t a support force. And who’s supposed to have an attached Panzerschrek team. Which is why he’s hanging out with these non-standard types, for the moment. You’ll notice he has a red ring around the rosey, as all senior leader will, if I adhere to this scheme.

Any advice?

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On the Workbench

So, I’ve been ‘working’ fairly hard on my WW2 skirmish stuff. I have a baker’s dozen of Panzergrenadiers completed, and have been scratchbuilding a 2 story farmhouse.

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Construction of the house is foamcore (1/4″), basswood (for the floors), embossed plasticard for the stone wainscot, tile adhesive for the stucco, and scribed plasticard for the shutters and other details.

It's impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

It’s impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

I spent some time scribing the basswood floor with an X-acto knife and then did an ink wash, hoping it would pick up the detail. It looked great when wet, but there’s hardly a hint of the planks after everything dried.

Watch out for that MG-42...

Watch out for that MG-42…

I lament my inability to get my germans to look anything other than dull dull dull.

The little farmhouse design is from a building I found in Trimble Sketchup’s 3d warehouse, which is a repository of 3d models. I exported elevation views of the computer model, scaled them, printed them out, and used them as templates for cutting the foamcore. I’ve built it up from there.

I know a typical Normandy farmhouse would most likely be 100% native stone, but I was really in no mood for scribing that much foamcore, and the model railroad stonework I was able to find locally was not of the right scale. In fact, the stone wainscot that IS there is HO scale brick that I’ve scuffed up in hopes that it will look like stone when painted.

The building still needs another coat of stucco to conceal the foamcore edge lines, a couple of interior partition walls to help hold up the roof. And a roof. Which will be the most labor intensive part.

We’ll see how she paints up in a few days. Well, maybe weeks.

I’ve Been Busy!

Like a butterfly, I float around from project to project with no particular direction.

In this particular case, I’ve made it back to my initial 1/72 (20mm, actually) WW2 skirmish project. I started this project with Valiant plastics, which are just ridiculously huge and look like they could punch out a Sherman tank if they connected with a good solid punch. I’ve switched to 20mm metals now, and all miniatures shown are Warmodelling/Fantassin, as purchased from Scalecreep miniatures, from whom I received good service. The US jeep model is by Academy, and looks a bit weird to me. For the first time, I suffered the woes of decal silvering, so I’ve invested in some Microsol and Microset for my next effort.

A few US infantry and Jeep with .50 cal Machinegun

A few US infantry and Jeep with .50 cal Machinegun

I dig these miniatures...they have nice dynamic poses. Faces are a bit vague, and there were a few broken bits (such as the guy in the middle's Garand barrel).

I dig these miniatures…they have nice dynamic poses. That said, the faces are a bit vague, and there were a couple of broken bits (such as the guy in the middle’s Garand barrel).

Academy Jeep with a few Warmodelling US Rider figures.

Academy Jeep with a few Warmodelling US Rider figures.

Obviously I haven’t weathered the Jeep yet. You should have seen the decals before a dozen applications of MicroSol. They were really bad before. Yes, I realize they’re still really bad.

The Workbenches of August

All apologies to Barbara Tuchman, but these are the things I’m furiously working on at the end of August:

Toeing the Line

I must admit, a bit of gamer ADD has set in over the summer, but I haven’t been totally irresponsible to my stated WW2 skirmish goals! I’ve been putting together Academy’s 1/72nd “Light Vehicles of the Allies and Axis” over the past week. The kit includes a Jeep (w/.50 cal machine gun mounted), Kubelwagen (top up, or down), a funky motorcycle with treads, and a ton of 55 gallon drums, ammo boxes, and jerry cans.

Academy’s “Light Vehicles of Allied & Axis” is a beautifully made kit.

This is an inexpensive kit, but even so, you don’t get a tremendous amount for your wargaming dollar. I’m used to getting a couple of tanks with my Armourfast and Italeri quick-build kits, and even though there are three light vehicles in the Academy box, somehow they don’t measure up. I’m guessing it’s because the kit doesn’t really contribute to completing a combat unit.

I do think the kit is a good bargain for a scale modeler. You can build one jeep, one kubelwagen, the motorcycle thing, and then you’re given enough of the stated accessories to adorn the vehicles and contribute significantly to a diorama or two. The kit is extremely well done-flash is almost non-existent, instructions are clear, and everything fits together marvelously. The vehicles are maybe a little fiddly for wargaming-I don’t see the mounted .50 caliber on the jeep surviving very many games, for instance. I have my doubts about some of the lights and other bric-a-brac on the kubelwagen, as well. I typically don’t base vehicles, but I’m considering it for these guys, just to try and keep them intact.

All that said, the only real problem with this kit is that no drivers, passengers, or crew are provided. You’ll have to source them yourself and hope they fit. HaT does manufacture various sets of ‘tank riders,’ which might prove useful. I’m going to order a set of the Americans, which are my most immediate need, and see how they work. Looking at the sprue, I’m going to have to kitbash a driver, somehow, as all the figures are carrying some sort of weapon in their hands.

I could have been a bit more careful in planning the build and making painting easy on myself. For instance, I never should have mounted the seats in either of these vehicles before painting. I don’t anticipate TOO much trouble, though. It will all come out in the minwax wash. Ahem.

Waste of Time, or Time’s-a-Wasting?

So, I bought these beautiful metal 28mm Vikings nearly a decade ago. I purchased the things over E-bay from a seller in England, and I can’t, for the life of me, remember who the manufacturer was. Maybe Wargames Foundry? In any case, they were never painted (I never managed to get anything painted back then), and have been languishing in a cardboard box for the better part of this century. The recent spate of Dark Ages games like Saga and the two Dux has inspired me to dust them off. They’ve been cleaned and primed, and may actually get painted before my other projects. It would be nice to have a short break from olive drab and dunkegelb! It’s satisfyingly easy to get chainmail to look good!

I’ve had these 28mm Vikings for years, but have never painted them. The time has come.

I’ve ordered some Perry Brothers Crusaders, which will serve as Normans, and I may use Song of Blades and Heroes by Ganesha Games to do some skirmishing with these guys until (and if) I settle on a set of Dark Ages rules. I’m pretty excited to put my hands on sculpts by the vaunted Perry Brothers, though the sculpting quality may be wasted on my meager painting skills.

A Dysfunctional Relationship in the Making

Napoleonics. I don’t know much of anything about the Napoleonic era, except for what you can learn by reading the Aubrey-Maturin and Sharpe novels, but looking around the blogosphere, I find the panoply of brightly colored figures to be nearly irresistible.

Scratch the ‘nearly’ part, as I’ve bought a couple of boxes of Italeri 1/72nd Napoleonics, and I plan on doing some skirmish gaming with them using either Song of Drums and Shakos by Ganesha Games, or Sharp Practice by Too Fat Lardies. I’m sure I’ll be starting out with SoDaS, because working up to the number of figures that Sharp Practice (which I’m really really really excited to try out!) is suited for is going to take a significant amount of time. I can’t imagine how the hundreds of grognards that game at division or corps level manage it!

Lovely Italeri 1/72 Napoleonic French Dragoons

In any case, I’ve cleaned up a few 95th rifles and French Dragoons, and I have a box of Zvezda Voltigeurs winging their way towards me as I type.  Maybe I can get an opponent interested in this era with some SoDaS play.

The detail on these Italeri British 95th Rifles (1/72) is amazing.

I think it may be somewhat frustrating to do Napoleonic skirmish in 1/72. The figures don’t have a tremendous amount of personality, and I haven’t found a good source for individual figures. An immediate problem is that there are no decent dismounted French dragoons in plastic, and they’re essential for the Sharp Practice scenario book. I’m sure there are some good 1/72-20mm metal figure makers out there, though, and I’m guessing/hoping I could use them to fill in the gaps.

 

1.00 TW&T AAR

The Full 1.00

Yes, the fateful day has arrived. The blog has finally reached the 1.00 mark, signifying that I actually managed to play an historical miniatures wargame of some sort. The game in question was Too Fat Lardies, “Troops, Weapons, and Tactics” and the playing of the game took place way back before Christmas. Which should tell you a lot about how busy I’ve been with other, less interesting, things. Without further delay, here is my first attempt at an after action report for my first game.

The Setup

This intro game is an adaptation of the intro scenario from Two Hour Wargames “Nuts!.” The Nuts! scenario was a zoomed in, four-on-four skirmish action, but I upped the forces to a squad per side to conform to the TW&T rules.

An American infantry squad has been tasked with reconnoitering and taking an isolated farmhouse in the Normandy countryside. They will be passing through dense woods on their approach to the farmstead. Opposing them is a full squad of Heer soldiers, who have taken up defensive positions in the house and a copse of woods, both of which lie south of a single track sunken road.

I took the German side for the first run-through, with my buddy, Brendan, taking the part of the U.S. Army.

The starting disposition.

Cards

Rather than an I go,you go turn system, TW&T uses a card-based turn mechanic. The deck is composed of a series of cards representing various organizational elements (squads, MG sections, armor, etc), big men (NCOs and officers), national characteristics, and random events. There are also tactical initiative cards, which are the currency that big men use as a sort of action point.

The card system makes for a very swingy game with the small forces that we had under command in our game, but I think it would make for a dynamic and exciting game with more squads and leaders in the deck. Exploitation of the ‘right moment’ becomes a big factor with a random turn sequence, and one is forced to make difficult choices with the limited number of tactical initiative cards that come out of the deck in each turn. As important is that the card deck makes for a very exciting game, with moments of extreme tension interlaced with the occasional bit of elation.

The Americans push forward.

The card out on the table in the picture above is an American ‘All Blinds’ card, which, as you might imagine, allows the US commander to move all his blinds.

Movement

TW&T features random movement, which is one of the ways that Too Fat Lardies (TFL) create battlefield “friction.” While troops are on blinds, they move in good order, but once contact with the enemy and exchange  of fire occurs, various squad elements will depend on their leaders to get them moving.

The random movement can be a bit frustrating, but the randomness is somewhat mitigated by an exception which allows an element to move to a particular terrain future, without danger of running over their objective. For instance, if I rolled 9″ of movement, but my goal was to occupy a stone wall 6″ away, then I could stop at the wall. If I rolled 3″ of movement, then that would be all I was able to move, regardless of intent.

Moving onto the sunken road.

Operating by Teams
One of the cooler things about TW&T is that it encourages historical tactics. Unlike most skirmish games, the smallest element in the TFL game is the fire team. An American squad is broken down into a rifle team, a B.A.R. team, and a scout team. The scout team is forced to rejoin the rifle team once hostilities break out, and then the American is left with two teams. One team serves as a base of fire, and the second becomes a maneuver element.

As a new gamer, I really appreciate the ten or twelve pages of the rulebook that are devoted to explaining tactical doctrines of the major combatants of WW2. Not only does it help one play the game, but it’s interesting information in its own right.

A successful spot roll...

In the photo above, one of the American blinds has been spotted by my MG-34 team in the copse of woods. I can’t remember if I successfully rolled to spot, or if they were discovered by automatic spotting rules that come into effect at close range, but in any case, the unit was revealed. If this were a larger game, I would still have to be concerned about the remaining blinds as potential strong forces.

Wounds, Pinning, and Suppression
TW&T uses a d6 based combat resolution mechanic. Firepower is based on weapon type and number of men in the firing element, and superior ability or equipment results in rolling of more dice. The total rolled, minus any ill effects from earlier combat, is compared to a chart and a result is given. The results vary from ‘wounds,’ which really represent a loss of cohesion more than any physical injury, to suppressing an element, to pinning an element, to inflicting actual casualties.

Suppression (in the general sense) works very well. It’s a lot harder to kill a soldier than it is to make a unit duck and refuse to advance. The level of lethality and the difficulty of getting soldiers to advance in the face of fire feels about right to me. TFL rules emphasize leadership, and having a good leader in the right place at the right time is essential.

Units will defend themselves and hold their position, but they will not advance against the enemy without explicit orders from a leader.

Exchanging fire.

The photo above shows that the MG-42 team and American squad have both taken wounds, but no casualties, as yet.

There's a kill...

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll notice that the ammo bearer on the German side is gone and has been wounded or killed. You can’t make him out, but the German big man, Gefreiter Fritz Lieber, is directing the machine-gun fire. Lieber is beginning to wish he hadn’t deployed his MG in such a forward position.

That didn't take long...

And now we see the results of exchanging fire with a full squad at close range. The German MG team has been wiped out, though Lieber survived. He’s making his escape to the farmhouse, while his counterpart on the opposite side, Sergeant Slaughter, is leading his rifle team east down the road to prepare to assault the farmhouse.

The Germans are going to be at a severe disadvantage with no heavy weapons.

Lieber deploys men from the farmhouse.

The photo above shows Lieber with three rifleman (ignore that Panzerfaust). His card came up (the silhouette with the MP40) along with a tactical initiative card (the card with the corporal stripes). Lieber used his tactical initiative points to order a few men to the stone wall, while leaving half the team in the house to fire from doors and windows. All of the German riflemen have good cover, and all are able to bring their weapons to bear.

A preponderance of fire...

Unfortunately, my opponent is smart. He’s moved his B.A.R. team up through the copse of woods to apply a withering fire from the flank while the rifle team keeps up a suppressing fire from the sunken road. Soon enough, they’ve inflicted another casualty.

We're going to need a bigger graveyard.

The fact that I’m using a d12 to mark ‘wounds’ means that the Americans are pouring the fire to the Germans. Leaders can reduce wounds, but the Americans have caused another casualty, and there’s no way that poor Lieber can keep his men in good order.

Faced with the inevitable, Lieber throws his hands up and surrenders to the Americans, saving the lives of his three remaining men. The astute observer will notice that I caused not a single casualty on the American side! Grrr.

The Near Future

I’m a fan of this set of rules. We did some things wrong, and found some confusing spots in the text, but in the main the game we played was fast-moving, felt ‘realistic,’ and provided us with meaningful and interesting choices.

I think the TW&T rules will really shine on a larger battlefield with more maneuver elements. I’m now preparing for such a game, using the Skirmish Campaigns book, “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr,” that I’ve written about before. I’m really looking forward to giving the rules set another run.

Technical Notes—–

Adobe Illustrator does weird things to image files.

I apologize for the first few photos that are out of focus. I’d forgotten that autofocus was off on my camera during the first part of the game, and it’s a miracle that any of those early photos are of use!

 

0.12 Ah, the holidays

Sloth

It’s been a slow week for wargame preparation due to holidays and exams. Still, I managed to paint another eight American GIs, bringing me up to  a full squad. I really should have concentrated on trees and rock walls, as that’s all I lack to have a complete set of soldiers and terrain for the introductory NUTS! scenario, but I’ve been strangely reluctant to finish up. I wonder if I’m afraid that actually playing the game won’t measure up to the fun of painting and researching.

A dozen citizen-soldiers...

Ansel Von Adams
I’ve also been trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of miniatures photography. Or as much as I can without owning a macro lense. I’m using an 18″x24″ sheet of cheap watercolor paper as a backdrop. Light is provided by an overhead bar-shaped incandescent with fluorescent light as a general room ‘fill’ light. Normally I hate any light from fluorescents for pretty much anything, but the incandescent lamp seems to balance things out nicely. Correcting for white balance is also a tremendous help to getting good color.

A key step to getting more than one rank of miniatures in focus is to use a large (in number) aperture size. Large aperture numbers mean a smaller aperture, which is counter-intuitive as can be. Such is life. Unfortunately, small apertures let in less light. Even with a high ISO setting (ISO is an analogue to old film speeds), these photographs are extremely blurry. And these are the best of a dozen shots. This means I need to purchase a tripod. Joy.

18x24 Watercolor paper, white balance adjusted

For completion’s sake, here are the opposing forces: a full squad of Wermacht soldiers. Yes, I painted the shoulder-boards. No, there’s no way I’m going to attempt to paint collar insignia. The NCOs are up front. I realize no sane soldier would wear a soft cap into combat, but for skirmish gaming it’s awful handy to be able to quickly recognize a figure. Plus, it looks cool.

The opposition...would it kill Valiant to put in some action poses?

0.07 The Guys with the Cool Uniforms and Bad Attitudes

And here are my Valiant Classic German Infantry all painted up and based. After experimenting on my four American infantrymen, I pulled out all the stops and did a full squad of the Germans.

My methodology was very similar to that used on the Americans.

Full squad of 10-1

I used a Farnworth color guide to pick my paints. As you can see, German uniforms are quite dark. I did considerably more highlighting on the Germans than I did on the US troops.

A couple of NCOs and a rifleman

My only beef with the Valiant Germans (other than their overly heroic heights and girths) is that none of the poses in the box are action shots. Not that the poses are bad. Quite the opposite-they’re very naturalistic. I just wish there had been a couple of riflemen firing their weapons, and maybe someone taking a knee or lying prone.

None of these Germans are firing their weapons

The Valiant German kit, even more than the American, has lots of extra weapons, heads, arms, and legs. The guys that are wearing soft caps are head conversions. I take inordinate pleasure in decapitating them and then putting new heads on. I think it appeals to my inner Dr. Frankenstein.

0.06 What’s the Color of an Unladen M1943 Field Jacket?

American Infantry

There are dozens of guides on how to paint figures, so I’m not really going to go into much detail. Instead I’ll offer a few pointers and detail my basing methods.

You’ve Got to Have Paint

Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a well-stocked hobby shop, you’re going to be ordering paints from the internet. You’re going to need a lot of them, and they’re not cheap. The best thing to do is find a color guide that you think looks correct/good/good enough and use it to build a list of what you need. I think the Farnworth Colours US Infantry WW2 is a good guide, and I used it to build my list of paints.

I’m using acrylic paints. Water clean-up and no toxic fumes is a big selling point, to me. Vallejo paints have a good reputation, and that’s what I’ve been using. Going with another line of hobby paints isn’t such a big deal-you can use this conversion chart to mix and match.

Another possibility is going to an art supply or craft store and buying acrylic paints there. Acrylic paint tubes from the art store are full of  high quality paints, and are way less expensive per unit volume than hobby paints. You’re not going to find Summer ’44 Olive Drab Boot Lace Highlight as a color at the art store, though, so that could be a potential problem.  I’d at least recommend picking up white and black in that format, though.

From zero to hero...

Doing Stuff

Prep and Basing

The monotone guy on the left has been removed from the sprue, cleaned up with soap and water, trimmed of bits of flashing and mounted to a quarter with superglue (I recommend LocTite brand-it works well with plastics). Mounting to a quarter is nice, because they have a manly heft to them. Manly at 20mm scale, anyway. Washers might be a slightly less expensive choice, but I had a ton of quarters on hand and I didn’t feel like a run to Lowe’s.

Keep in mind that it’s best to pick one style of base and use it  with all of your figures. This will give you visual consistency and dimensional unity. Having a guy mounted on a quarter next to a guy who’s mounted on a thin piece of card would look weird.  There are some figures (mortar men, and medium machine gun operators) that won’t fit on a quarter, but luckily you can order polystyrene sheets in .07″ thickness, which is damned close to the thickness of the coin.

You don’t want your guy just sitting there on top of a shiny quarter. You’ll want to use some sort of filler, clay, or putty to build up to the smaller base that the figure is ‘cast’ onto. I’ve used Squadron Putty to build these bases. You can get a really nice mud texture with this putty, but it is quite toxic. Another option is Milliput, which is a two-part epoxy putty that’s available at most hobby stores. It’s also toxic, but you can get a very smooth finish and Milliput cures much stronger than the squadron putty. In any case, while you’re picking up your basing material, swing by the pharmacy and buy a package of surgical gloves. Your skin, bloodstream, and brain will thank you.

Priming and Blocking

Mr. Middle Man has been primed with white spray paint. I used Valspar spray primer from the local hardware store. It worked ok, but I think it might be better to pony up for a modeling brand of paint. The Valspar just doesn’t spray all that finely-there are weird areas of texture on every mini that I primed with it. That could be due to humidity or temperature problems, though.

Some people like to use white primer, some like black. I knew that I was going to be using the dip method to shade my figures, so it made a lot of sense for me to use white. White primer will help the colors to pop, while black primer will do some shading work for you.

The next step is to begin blocking in colors. Start from the ‘inside’ and work your way out. This will minimize, but not eliminate, a lot of the frustrations that come with painting things too small to see. For instance, on these American infantry, I painted skin first, then their shirts, then the jackets, then the gaiters, then the pants, then the boots, then the webbing, then their gear. Work in an assembly line fashion. Get a half-dozen to ten figures prepped, and then make your way down the line working one color across all of your figures. The first figure will be dry by the time you’re done with the last.

Shading

I’m not going to be a lot of use, here. There are some great tutorials on how to do shading by hand, but I don’t really enjoy painting that much, so I went with something easy and effective: the dip method. What’s the dip method, you ask? Well, I could duplicate a lot of effort, but instead I’m going to point you  here. Go and be enlightened.

To my knowledge there are two options when it comes to dipping your minis. You can use Army Painter products, which are expensive and not widely available, but supposedly dry much faster, or you can use MinWax wood finish, which is cheap and readily available. I used MinWax, Dark Walnut 2716, to be exact. I expect the little tin I bought for $5 to last me for years. Most guides tell you to expect to wait for 24 hours before handling your dipped miniatures, but that’s wildly optimistic in my experience. Mine have all taken 36-48 hours before I felt comfortable pawing at them.

It can be helpful to go back over your minis and do some highlighting (via drybrushing) after the MinWax has cured. You can use the base color of whatever you’re painting: Trust me, it will be plenty bright enough! Faces and the tops of cloth folds are the only areas I really put any effort into. Highlighting goes very quickly.

The last step will be to spray your figures with matt varnish. This is a magical step that will make you feel much better about all your hard work.

I wouldn't normally recommend attacking into the sun

Bases Again

There are as many ways to dress up your figure bases as there are wargamers. Here’s what you need to follow in my footsteps:

  • playground sand
  • Flat Brown, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Yellow Ochre paints. These are readily available from the art supply store-no need to pay high modeling paint prices.
  • some very fine gravel (Woodland Scenics ballast is a good choice)
  • Basil from the kitchen
  • A couple of tones of flock. You can make it yourself, but I bought Woodland Scenics.
  • PVA Glue
  • Matt varnish
  • Sisal twine

And here’s the process in easy steps:

  1. Paint your base in a flat brown
  2. When the paint is dry, liberally apply PVA glue to the base
  3. Put your sand and gravel into a container, and mix them up
  4. Dip the figure’s base, which is wet with glue, into the container.
  5. Let it dry for a couple of hours.
  6. Brush/shake/flick off the excess gravel.
  7. Mix 50/50 tap water and glue, paint this wash of glue over the base. This will seal the gravel and sand and make them strong like Conan.
  8. Let it dry for a couple of hours.
  9. Mix Burnt Umber with tap water until you get a milk-like consistency. Paint this onto your gravel. Try for a very high percentage of coverage.
  10. Do a heavy drybrush with the Burnt Sienna.
  11. Do a final light drybrush with the Yellow Ochre. it will look shocking at first, but it looks good after the paint has dried.
  12. Let everything dry for an hour or two.
  13. Time to flock: Mix your two colors of flock up in a small container.
  14. Apply PVA glue to your bases everywhere you want there to be ‘grass.’ I’d suggest mixing it up between figures. Have some of them standing on patchy ground, some in full lush grass, most somewhere in between. Variation is good.
  15. Dip the figures into your mix of flock, get good coverage. I even press the flock down into the glue with my hands. Don’t knock off the flock!
  16. Drying time. At least an hour.
  17. Now you can knock off the flock. Hold the figure over your flock container and flick the back of the base with a pen or pencil. Then take a crappy paintbrush and lightly brush any remaining excess flock from the base.
  18. Get your dried basil out. Doesn’t that smell nice? Shake a bit out. It’s going to be representing leaves and other organic detritus, and will probably be a bit too large for 1/72 scale. Either hand pick smaller pieces out, or crush your pile of basil with a spoon so that you have smaller bits. Apply the basil with small amounts of PVA.
  19. If you want to add some taller weeds, you can use Sisal twine. It’s readily available…everywhere. Just cut to length and place in a dollop of glue. It doesn’t look 100% accurate in macro photos, but it looks good at gaming distance.
  20. Take your matt varnish (I use Testor’s Dullcote) and give the figures a good going over. This will settle down the flock and basil and make them stronger.
  21. Sit back and bask in a job well done.

Ok, that doesn’t seem so simple, now that I’ve typed it out, but in reality basing goes quite quickly. You could also add small stones and twigs to your bases. Extra weapons or crates might be appropriate for some figures. Basing is a lot of fun;  you have a little freedom compared to painting figures.

An important note about basing: Use similar palettes for your basing efforts and your terrain boards. The basing color scheme I outlined above would not work for troops operating in North Africa. Those deep reds and browns would look very strange in desert terrain. Ditto for urban operations in Stalingrad, or actions in the snow during the Battle of the Bulge. If you do it right, your bases will look like they came from the terrain board.

0.03 Mustering the Troops

Disclaimer: I did not start this blog at the same time I started my quest for wargameage. There is a temporal gap of around 1 month between the two events. You’re going to see some photos later that break through the 4th dimension and mix the near-current with the old. You are forewarned.

On with the posting…

Deciding on a Period

This was the easiest part of the hobby, so far. I picked WWII because the period has sustained my interest throughout my life, in books, film, and even computer games. It’s also the period I know best (well, I know dark ages/medieval pretty well, too, but I get plenty of that flavor from playing RPGs).

I think all the equipment and fluid movement of tanks and small units of infantry makes for really interesting tactical problems, as well.

Deciding on a Scale

I did a lot of research and soul-agonizing decision waffling over the question of what scale to use. I’ll boil down my reasoning and provide you, worthy reader, the salient points.

15mm——————–

    + The small-scale allows for more realistic ranges for modern era.
    + Not as much detailed painting required at this scale.
    + Widely available (for example, Flames of War) miniatures.
    + I Ain’t Been Shot Mum seems to be aimed at this scale.
    – Difficult to paint if you do want to get a good level of detail.
    – Infantry mostly look like crap at this scale.
    – I might be tempted to play Flames of War.

28mm ——————–

    + Exquisite infantry miniatures by Artizan, Bolt Action, and Crusader.
    + Lots of opportunities for nice detail
    + Good availability of infantry models
    + Would work well for skirmish games, which is my primary interest.
    – The infantry miniatures are quite expensive.
    – Not much armor available at this scale.
    – What little armor is available is oh-my-God expensive.
    – Big! A 4’x6′ table just isn’t going to cover much territory.

20mm ——————–

    + 1/72 and 1/76 armor will work at this scale. Widely available!
    + 20mm plastic infantry have been produced for decades
    + Much less expensive than metal figures.
    + The metal miniatures (AB figures, mostly) in this scale are great.
    + Works well for skirmish gaming.
    + Could perhaps be stretched to do larger actions at 1:1.
    + Modern plastics are quite well sculpted.
    – Plastic?
    – 20mm isn’t quite large enough for distinctive facial features
    – 1/72 armor kits can be difficult to build (small parts)
    – Variety in sculpts limited within a particular manufacturer’s lineup

I eventually went with 20mm, because it best suited my primary goals: inexpensive and looks good. I’m not particularly advocating for the scale, though. The others certainly have their charms and might very well fit your needs.

Picking Troops

First, bookmark this. Done? Good.

I made my decision on what infantry to go with by looking at various threads on TMP and wandering through the immense forest of wargaming blogs (hello fellow trees). I wish I could say I made a rational choice, but I was in a hurry and was seduced by oh-so-sexy internet photographs, which, like all beautiful ephemeral things, led me astray.

Valiant

These boxes of Valiant infantry were my first two purchases. They’re beautiful models, with great variety of poses, historically accurate kit, plenty of conversion opportunities with included heads and arms, and even some heavy weapons. They were easy to clean up, responded well to superglue, and a joy to paint. A completely painless experience.

—————HOWEVER (dum, dum, dum)————–

This is no optical illusion!

These US infantrymen are next to a couple of M4A2 Shermans from an Italeri Fast Build kit (which I’ll post about eventually). They look like Shriners that just got out of their little cars while on parade. Ok, it’s not that bad, but it vexes me, nonetheless.

I’ll primarily be gaming infantry actions, so my valiant Valiant’s aren’t often going to be in danger of trampling a tank. I can and will live with it, but I’m going to get even more annoyed when I have to pick up some troop types not included in these boxes. Guys with flamethrowers, for example.

In any case, the moral of this story is that before ordering infantry miniatures, you should definitely look at and use the handy-dandy miniature size comparison section on that wonderful website that you bookmarked just a moment ago.

0.02 This Old House

My next few posts are going to cover some recent history. Back-story, if you will, getting my millions of readers up to date with current events on my odyssey into mini wargaming.

After I started getting into Wings of War, it didn’t take long for the internet to lead me astray and into the realm of historical miniature wargaming. I started frequenting nefarious locations like TMP, looking for information about rules, time frames, and scales.

I began to research rules, scales, periods of history, and manufacturers of miniatures (the search for which I’ll cover in other posts). I quickly settled on 20mm (1/72) as my scale, because my research showed that plastics were going to be the most affordable way to go, and there are an abundance of options at that scale. Though I continued obsessing over my choices in that realm, I really wanted to get started with something tangible.

The Kamloopian has a great website full of tips, tricks, and tutorials on creating wargaming terrain. I encountered some of his tutorials whilst stumbling about on YouTube, and his very detailed (and long, oh so long) series of videos on creating a little country house inspired me.

All of that is a very long-winded way of saying, “Here’s the first project I undertook: a country house.”

Everything you need to get started on a little house, and then some.

Here’s my farm house in its current state. Yes, it’s unfinished. Yes, it’s sad, seeing as how this is the first project I started. That said, I tend to work a number of projects in parallel, instead of in sequence. Theoretically, they all tie together at the end, and I have everything I need to play a game.

Materials
This building is made largely of cardboard I had laying around the house. Not that my house is full of old cardboard, or anything. The walls are of pretty high quality corrugated cardboard from a laser printer toner cartridge that I had recently bought. The roof is completely made of bits of a Cheerios box.

Tools
Assembled are all the tools that I used to get the house into its current state. The gridded black mat is a self-healing cutting mat that you can find at any drafting supply store. Most university bookstores will carry them, as well. I highly recommend that you pick one up. They’re not very expensive in this size (you can get larger), and they will save your tables from nasty nicks and cuts. I’ve had this one for about five years, so they’re pretty sturdy.

I use a #2 X-acto blade (and holder) to do my cutting. They are very sharp and you can cut quite precisely, if you get a metal ruler. The blades will wear out. If you throw them in the trash as-is you may cut yourself when taking your garbage to the curb. Even worse, you garbageman may cut himself. Put your discards in some sort of rigid container. I’m using a large (empty) box of Tic Tacs.

A note on my metal ruler. It’s not from down at the local hardware store, for a good reason. Your blade can easily jump up onto a thin metal ruler while you’re cutting, and you’ll soon find yourself pumping blood all over your cardboard. Get a ruler that has a cork backing that’s about 3/32″ thick. This backing lifts the ruler up off of the medium you’re cutting, and gives a little ledge to protect your hand. As with the self-healing mat, you can find these rulers at drafting supply stores and quite probably art supply stores. You could make your fairly inexpensively, as well.

Cheap glue that dries clear will work fine for this project. I used Elmers, because I had some in the bottom of my kitchen junk drawer.

Butt, no

This joint, she is weak.

I’m showing you the above image because I used a butt joint to join up the walls of my house. I cut fairly precisely with my fancy ruler, but this is not an ideal connection. I suspect it won’t stand up to repeated use on the gaming table, and I’ll need to develop another method. Probably some sort of thin cardboard folder to 90 degrees and put against the interior corner would do the trick.

I’ve masked the joints at the outside corner with Squadron Putty. I wouldn’t recommend that product for anything involving very much surface area, because it kills brain cells and smells like it too. Eventually this house will be stucco-covered stone. I’ll be simulating the stucco with either drywall spackle or tile adhesive, so the putty is superfluous, anyway. That’s not to say that Squadron Putty doesn’t have its uses, because it certainly does.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

This method looks really good. I wouldn't recommend it for anything less than a show piece.

Here’s a detail of the roof. These shingles are all cut from the Cheerios box and pasted individually to a backing of said Cheerios box cardboard. I chose to put the non-glossy side of the box face up. I’m not 100% sure if it was the right choice or not. I’m afraid it will warp when I begin painting it. I’ll be sure to share the carnage, when it happens.

Since starting this building project I’ve encountered another method of doing shingles that seems much faster than what I’ve done (effectively shingling the roof in miniature). I’ll definitely be trying the alternate way out on my next building, because laying down each individual shingle is a real pain in the ass. Cutting them out isn’t much fun, either.

For those that like to buy things, you can get pre-textured polystyrene sheets with shingles and bricks already cast into them. I’m not going to put up a link and encourage such cheap and easy methods, though!

I’ll be finishing this build up in the next week or so. I’ll try to do a step-by-step on applying finishes, when the time comes.