Finishing first batch of miniatures for the Battle of Laguna Salada. Here are some samples. I took the pictures in my backyard as I have heard that natural lighting is supposed to be the best. I like the results quite a bit!

This first picture shows a company of Venezuelan Llanero Lancers charging a line of the Cundinamarca Light Infantry of the Irish Legion. The next picture shows a Royalist Cazadore company (in white) with two companies of Royalist Militia Dragoons to their left. They are backed up by another company of Llaneros (perhaps their lances are prodding them forward?).

From another angle, the Cundinamarca battalion has one company in square to face off against the Dragoons, while the second company faces the Llaneros in Line, supported by a column of the British Legion in their distinctive blue uniforms.

This last picture shows the Cazadores from the front. I really like the NCO and Officer figures created by Grenadier Productions. They are well animated with a nice variety of poses. I had at least four officers in bicornes to choose from, and as many NCOs with muskets directing fire. And now that I have the Llanero figures painted, I think they are the best in the line. Reminded me of old Freikorps figures which were the first I ever remember seeing way back in the 80’s to mold the rider and the horse as one piece. I mean the first to  do it well,  of course. There was the Heritage Napoleonic  line that preceded Freikorps’, but those minis don’t stand the test of time, sadly. Stay tuned for part 2 of this project as more figures are flocked for action!

Here are some pix of the completed war machines. As you can see I painted them with a bronze base metallic, then dry-brushed gold to highlight the rivets and legs. I finished them with a glossy lacquer to make them look more like metal than wood, but they sort of look too clean now. I’m considered applying a greenish stain to some areas to make the bronze look more aged.

I based them using red aquarium rocks over reddish-brown thick grade sand to give the bases a Martian landscape look. I intend to build terrain pieces to match this look in case anyone is foolish enough to invade a conquered world of the Trigon Triarchy in the Alien Squad Leader campaign. As of last week we are 1-0 against an Alien Imperial army (he brought too many melee troops and my wide beams did a number on his closely grouped troops… I imagine I won’t get that lucky again).

This is a project I’m doing for my buddy John, creator of Liberators! and Grenadier Productions miniatures. We’re planning on attending Cold Wars this year (2011) and putting on a battle using these new figs.

As a quick review for Grenadier Productions, these are really nice miniatures. I haven’t painted 15mm figs in years, but have collected hundreds of Napoleonics from old school Minifigs, to Battle Honors and Frei corp (SYW mostly). Anyhow, these figures are beautifully sculpted with perfect proportions. They paint up really nicely and have all kinds of great touches of detail, such as bare legs with sandals, straw hats and peasant troops  with spears! The Llanero lancer cavalry is particularly nice (but I haven’t painted them up yet).

These fellows with the green jackets are the Irish Legion. Again great figs, with covered shakos and short jackets like very late period French Napoleonics.

Here is a new project I’ve been having some fun with. Our gaming group is starting an Alien Squad Leader campaign and I got kinda geeked by the “Tripod” Army list. There are only three vehicle types on the list, so I figured it would be easy to remember the rules for them as a first time player. Thus I set off to find some 15mm models for the campaign. After finding some very nice, but really pricey models on line, my inner cheap-bastard kicked in and I resolved to build some myself from toothpicks and wooden shapes from Michaels and Value Craft. I’ve built warships from balsa in the past, so I figured it should be doable.

I settled on half-egg shapes for the main body b/c they look rather beetle-like. I selected some beading pieces from the jewelry area of Michaels as the idea started to come to me to make them look like they would be from the Victorian era (a la Jules Verne). I used a porcelain paint with a pointed applicator to make the tiny rivets. The paint is pretty much like acrylic, so it sets really fast and dries hard like plastic.

The tentacles are beading needles (.5 mm) I found at Beverly’s Crafts. They come with a ring on one end, and I snipped out the middle with a wire cutter to make them look like tiny claws (the more to scoop delicious humans into their holding pen!).

The gun turrets under the nose of the Machines I made from small rounded shapes, drilled a hole and inserted the end of a toothpick. These make great tapered barrels for miniature Ironclads and the like.

I used two types of toothpicks for the legs, sandwiching the ‘foot’ of the leg with two pieces for the ‘thigh’. I suppose bug anatomy terms would be more apropos, but an entomologist I am not…

Any rate. This is them nearly ready to paint. Tune in next time when they will (hopefully) be all painted up!

Here’s a new project: Super Mutants! I wanted to start putting on some Fallout 3 inspired scenarios and all my post-apocalyptic figs are in 20mm. What to do? I used 28mm orc figs from the bits bin at Game Empire, modified them with random wheels and model scraps as shields and weapons, then added goggles using green stuff, and cut off heads from plastic zombies from the ZOMBIES game (the female zed holding a man’s head is particularly useful, as the single fig has two heads) to glue on as trophies to their belts. I also added random weapons, some 20mm scale, to add to the illusion that they belong next to the 20mm figs, and are big brutes.

For the fig in the back holding a whip, I used shipping wire that I still have scraps of from 20 years ago when my friend Rene scored this stuff from where he worked. It makes great barbed wire, and here makes for a pretty good “shock whip”. I intend to use him as the Super Mutant Behemoth wrangler (sort of like a commissar, but inflicts pain to direct the Behemoth).

Speaking of the Behemoths, since I used two of the same fig (why make one when two are just as easy?!) I really wanted to make them unique looking. Green stuff was great for that, giving one brute a mohawk, while the other has lost an eye (but its on his shield side, so he should be useful still). I used the packing wire as strapping, and the HO scale diamond plate makes a great greave and shoulder paldron for our post-apocalyptic abomination. Since I couldn’t find a scale door to use as a shield (as in the game), I found an old roco 1/87 scale flat faced truck and took the front off. This pic is a bad angle, but it’s pretty close to car door.

The final step is in the painting. Here’s a pic of the first batch. I figured that the best way to make all the diverse figures look like they belong together as a group was to match their painting schemes as closely as possible. I took pix from Fallout 3 and the super mutants are pretty uniformly equipped in gunmetal and black, while their skin is a hard to match greenish-yellow with blood-like blotches. I also added a layer of rust as a wash to make their gear look unmaintained. Note the two figs in the back of this last picture, I used zombie dogs from the ZOMBIES game, cutting off their heads down to their tails to make these feral-dog pelts for the mutants to wear. That’s not in the game, but I thought it looked cool.

This project has been a real hoot, and I’ve enjoyed the process of finding scrap figs to use, then adding random bits to make each mutant unique. They make a good presence on the table top and in our one playtest last week (Nov 2010 — see photos in the link from the website) they did a real number on the Outcast Brotherhood in their combat and power armor. More on them later… ;)

Painting Britons, part 2

Partially finished Celts

Roman uniformity makes the assembly-line painting process easy, and I generally paint ten at a time (a Century in the new scale I’ve been working on) and they come out pretty quickly. I tried that with the Celts and it took two weeks to finish them all. Not very assembly-line. So, I applied an old trick I figured out when I was painting Confederate infantry years back (funny how analogous Romans v. Celts is to Yankees v. Rebels…?).

For purposes of clarity I will define what I mean by “assembly-line” here: painting figures in such a manner that whenever you open a color, you apply that color to all the figures down the line, and that color is usually always in the same place on each figure (sort of paint by numbers). Example: Roman chainmail is gun-metal silver; their shields base dark red, bright red highlights; helmets are bronze, etc. Celts aren’t uniform enough to do this. In fact it is their individuality that makes them look like a Celtic army. What I had to figure out what that just because a mob looks diverse, you can select out any dozen people that are probably wearing the same jacket and pants color. That’s how I do the Celts.

I pull out a small number, say five figures, and I mix their types: two heavy infantry, two light infantry, and a skirmisher (or two). These figures all get the same two colors for pants and shirt, but I switch that up as I go down the line (blue pants here, blue shirt there). Then, when I go back to do the plaid designs, I don’t need to keep swapping colors every time I come to a different base color. The plaids go faster, so the assembly-line begins to work.

Finished Celtic Warriors

The next step along these lines was doing the same thing for the shields. I selected a base color for all the shields in the little group, yellow is in the example to the right. I broke up the pattern into quartered and halved shields, using black in this example, then did the reverse pattern in the yellow. For the chief I used a red swirl pattern to make him even more unique. I also did his plaid in red over blue (not sure if the pic shows this) to single him out a bit more. Contrarily, for the skirmishers, less is more, and I don’t always even do a plaid pattern on them (since they are the poorest members of Celtic society). You can see that the blue-on-blue plaid was much easier, because I was able to get into a rhythm by doing the same design more than once. Also, something else, on an aesthetic note: I used to do a single line grid for plaid, but that was not terribly satisfying, now I use a double-line (clearly shown in the blue plaid I think), that isn’t much harder to apply, and looks much better overall.

The final step when deploying your army of Celts it to make sure too many of the same figs from one assembly line do not deploy next to their brothers.

Celtic Warband, no two figs painted the same, at least not standing next to each other...

Painting Britons, part 1

Woad Patterns on Naked Britons

I like these Old Glory Gaesatae (naked warriors) because they anatomically correct… and they are easy to paint. They pose a different challenge than normal Celts because as you can see they have no plaid pants to paint. While you could simply paint them in flesh tones, I think, particularly for Britons, woad tattoos are appropriate, and they really dress up your figs.

Most of the patterns I’ve found on line show simple swirls, the most extreme examples being in the Osprey Celtic Warrior book where the spirals are so tight they would be impossible to paint with a normal brush. Therefore, I opened a book I have on Viking animal designs and tried to layer some of these in for variety. Viking designs are good because, 1) they are much more simplified than what we take as “celtic zoomorphic” styles which are only really in the Book of Kells, not likely painted on a primitive warrior; and, 2) Viking designs are heavily influenced by Irish and Caledonian celts, so they are not at all unlikely to find on Britons.

I put the bigger animal designs on the backs of the warriors, while on one I did a Viking serpent wrapped around the warrior’s leg, across his back, and ending on his chest. Long story short, they took a bit of time, and I’m glad I only had eight figs to paint in the first place!

More Woad designs

On a fig-conversion note, you might have noticed that I used the extra shield w/ spear pieces from Wargames Factory, rather than the plain shields supplied by Old Glory. I’ve only built half the figures in the Celtic Warband box, but I’ve already used so many of the extra shields for these figs (see my Celtic Cavalry too), as well as the extra heads that they supply to hang from the cavalry’s saddles, that I cannot recommend this line enough. Wargames Factory is very generous with their extra ‘bits’ and I hope they keep this up for their upcoming Viking line.

Why Do Romans?

Second Scenario in the Campaign

Romans Storm a Bridge on their fight back to their marching fort

I’ve recently gotten back into Roman history (I blame the movie CENTURION!), and my favorite implacable foe, the Celts. Fortunately, I still had a mess of figures left over from last years’ “recruitment”, that I could start painting immediately. I even found a dozen primed auxilia in a box ready to go. Add that to some reading material, particularly Stephen Dando-Collins’ Roman Legions series, and I was off.

On a side note, the two of his books I’ve read so far, CAESAR’S LEGION and NERO’S KILLING MACHINE (about the 10th and 14th legions respectively) are what I sort of call ‘ripping yarn’ history… full of great details and action, and just enough citation of the source material to be taken as history. Anyhow, I can’t recommend them enough if you’re looking for some great scenario suggestions.

Which brings me to my subject heading: why do Romans? Unless you’re playing in a game very loosely based on reality, the Romans should always win a stand up fight against barbarians. Paulinus’ defeat of Boudicca (outnumbered 2o to one or so) is an extreme example of this rule, but it proves the point. There is an inherent force multiplier in the Roman’s training, that the more of them they have on the field, the more deadly they become as an overall force. So why game them?

When I got into wargaming 25 odd years ago, I was only interested in the “big picture” battles. The movements of Battalions and larger were all I was interested in because otherwise what are you simulating? Just some side show? Then as I got older, and read more battle accounts, I became far more interested in the private soldier’s combat experience, and small unit actions drew my attention because more often than not, the larger movement of troops were more predictable. You could see what was about to happen two turns in advance.

This lead me to the skirmish game, and small unit actions, roughly the size of platoons or companies. The details of those ugly face-to-face battles are grim and unpredictable stuff, and that’s where the Guerrilla/ Barbarian tactics of certain armies can find an equal footing with their more disciplined, professional foes. This is where Varus is defeated by Herman, where Cerialis’ 9th legion cohorts are broken by Boudicca. Not multiple legions lined up in proper battle lines, but isolated cohorts fighting for their lives.

I think this is where some interesting gaming can be found between the mighty Romans and the brave but woefully disorganized Gauls and Britons. To this end I’ve devised a new mini-Campaign concept that I will blog on about next time.

Texian Mounted Rifles

Here’s a photo of the painted Texian Mounted Rifles. Actually they are simply mounted infantry, but for the Battle of San Jacinto they were used to represent mounted riflemen.

I did encounter some problems with super-glued heads popping off during painting. So, my earlier claim to rely completely on “Quick Set” isn’t totally perfect. It has worked well in the past, so I suspect that mixing heads from different lines (HaT, Revell, Imex) also caused a mixing of types-of-plastics used to mold their figures. In the past I’ve done like-on-like and they don’t come off. So, to solve this problem I used a small hand drill (from MicroMark — get their catalog, they got great toys in there) and drilled out their necks, then pinned it using a strand from a nylon broom bristle. Glued in place, I drilled out the base of the head and slipped it into place. I still used Quick-Set to act as a gap filler, but I’m pretty sure these guys will never be losing their heads again!

By the way, this was a lot easier than it sounds. I got big shaky hands and still managed to do this on the first try.

Texian Volunteer Cavalry

Here’s the first batch of Texian Volunteer cavalry. You can see that the “top hats” from the Spanish Guerilla set are perfect. Big and distinct, and easy to grip with my jittery-fat-fingers. I used a drop of Super Glue on the body, and I dipped the head into a small puddle of INSTA-SET (which I’ve found at both local hobby shops as well as game stores). Hold the head in place for the count of ‘five’ and it is set. Seems to hold permanently, as I’ve yet to have a transplanted head come off from handling/ gaming. I’ve added some cactus from the Pegasus models terrain set (a great addition for any desert gaming, as the box has every variety of south western desert cactus I’ve ever seen, both large and small). I’ve used this on some of my Mexican infantry stands and it adds a lot of flavor.

You’ll notice I based my cavalry one figure to a stand, mostly for ease of painting, but also for skirmish gaming. It’s easier to group them together as a unit when necessary, particularly b/c cavalry units in this period are pretty small. At five-to-one scale you can put six to ten cavalry figures together and call it a squadron, and that’s a large turn out for any of the battles of this period. Sure, the Mexicans did mass more cavalry as a whole, but they were so spread out as skirmishers and reconnaissance, having a few figures goes a long way. Currently I’m planning to make about ten Texian mounted figures, including a couple of them as leaders, since Sam Houstan famously got shot off a couple horses at San Jacinto (so I know he was mounted at least).

Ideally I would like to represent Juan Seguin and his Tejano cavalry (about 30 men total, or six figures), but I’m not sure what cavalry figures to use as a starting point. They most likely had serapes like Mexican civilians, so that’ll have to wait I guess.