Remembering the Alamo

Okay, so putting the Road Warrior aside for now (for finished pictures of games go to Flikr.com and search for Trialbyfiregames) I’m revisiting a period that I’ve enjoyed a lot: the war of Texan Independence, Alamo, etc. I got into this period using plastic HO scale figures b/c they are inexpensive, but look great. I found an article online that suggested that if you prime them in model-quality spray paint (such as Model Master’s Flat Black) they will not lose any detail, but the paint will also not flake off them (both true!). After playing with my army some I found that bayonets would lose paint and I began finishing my figures using Liquitex Matte Varnish (brushed on) to seal the paint. After that the plastic figures are as tough — or tougher — than metal figures.

Anyhow, the new project is to create mounted Texian volunteers (yes, “Texian”, this is how they were referred to back in the day). Also, I am planning to make Mexican Presidial troopers. Both these VERY common troop types are not yet available in plastics, so I’m going to make some of my own. To start with I got Civil War cavalry as the base, and both the new Imex American Infantry and HaT’s Spanish Guerillas for heads. I also got another set of the Texan infantry for heads, but didn’t need them as much. While the Civil War cavalry have mostly shell jackets, I’m hoping that if I paint them in civilian colors, or as vests and shirts, they will still work fine as Texan Militia. As U.S. Army Dragoons (another spoke in the wheel of conversion that I’m planning) they are ideal. The same uniform, except w/o the riding boots. Hopefully when this is done I can do the battle of San Pasqual, which is THE local battlefield out here in San Diego.

The American Infantry cap is perfect on the Imex figures and the heads are easily chopped off with an Xacto. Same for the “top hats” in the HaT set. They came with some badges and plumes on them, but those were easily cut off.

Road Warrior play test

I just wanted to include this shot b/c it allows me to talk a bit about using your gaming space. The two roads are not meant to be parallel, but are two lengths of the same road, the top road in the picture leading to the bottom road. There is a crease in the felt table-cloth (invisible in this picture) that was the dividing line. The objective is the the town of shanties and tire walls at the end of the bottom road.

Actually, the first scenario we did had the cars going along each road to “encounter points” that generated encounters using playing cards (a black card = a road block; a face card an ambush by raiders; etc), and the survivalists were on the road until they encountered a safe town in which to trade and find a haven. It worked surprisingly well with a little suspension of disbelief, and a lot of moving of terrain as a bridge spanning a rocky gorge appeared and disappeared as the protagonists traveled down the road. That is a great feature of setting this in the desert b/c there is so little distinctive terrain to lay out or pick up. A few cacti and tumble weeds flesh out the desert, and when a rocky outcropping appears it’s quickly laid out, or picked up. This is as opposed to doing a road-trip scenario in Germany with forests giving way to farmland, industrial centers to theme parks. Each of those would be one scenario in itself!

Oh, a quick note on the car wrecks along the highway. If you want to work off some frustration by just breaking some stuff and having it serve your needs, buy some hotwheelz or matchbox cars and squash them in a vice, and whack them with a ballpeen hammer! Great fun, and you can get some really authentic looking automobile wrecks from them. Oh, and don’t be squeamish, when they say “die cast metal” they are NOT messing around. They are hard to hammer into! To finish, dash them with a dusting of black spray paint for fire-scorch marks, and a layer of Flat Varnish to take the new-car shine off the toy cars.

The Escort Car holding off the bikers

You can see the escort car, a modified Hotwheelz Dune buggy, trying to hold off the bikers shooting the gap between the buggy and the roadblock. Three bikes ultimately made it by, but you can see the cop sidecar (Stan Johanson figures) down, and the biker on the yellow chopper sliding out of control.

By the way, the buggy wind-shield cage was scratch built using plastic sheeting used for Yarn needle-point (it’s labeled “Darce number 7″ if that means anything to anyone out there…), but you can get a 12″ by 14″ sheet for 69 cents at Joannes and Michaels type arts & crafts stores. I’ve done some pretty good chain-link fences using that stuff too by the way.

Desert, long view

This pic shows a longer shot of the road, and you can see the burning roadblock set up to channel the escaping survivalists. This worked against the raiders, though, as the escort car backed its way to block the only open piece of road, leaving a gap only big enough for a motorcycle.

Desert Road

This is from a playtest of the first Road Warrior scenario I’ve been working on. You can see the roads have their traffic lines but no flocking yet.

The scenario is a survivalist convoy returning along the highway and being ambushed by a gang of raiders laying in wait. The raiders are delayed moving over the desert, giving the survivalists on the highway a head start. As I had just finished some motorcycles you can see that the raiders are bike-heavy. Not a great choice for an attack vehicle, but the best way to make up ground on an opponent with a head start. At the end of the scenario when my raiders had finally passed the escort car (with a pair of MGs on the hood), only three motorcycles challenged the survivalist van on the last leg of its escape.

More shanties

These buildings are more examples of how I painted the Shanty town. One thing I’ll add about a painting project like this is that I prefer to build and paint everything more or less at once, b/c it lends a symmetry to the look of the town when you lay it out for a game. That may sound ridiculous when you’re talking about a town of random shanties, but if all the buildings are painted with the same theme — same paint schemes and colors, and the same washes — then  they look like they belong together and they don’t distract from the figures fighting amongst them. After all, the figures are where we put the majority of our efforts, and we want our terrain to accentuate them, not take our eyes off them.

Let me also put in a “shout out” for the game FALLOUT 3, which is the most visually inspiring resource for post-apocalyptic ideas I’ve ever seen. One of the next projects I hope to tackle is a collapsed freeway overpass. There are some stunners in the game, and they seem like they’d be fairly easy to replicate… we’ll see.

Shanty Town

This picture shows more of the Shanty buildings mostly painted, and the variety you can get out of mixing up the colors for the pieces of “corrugated metal scrap”. I see in this picture that I forgot to add in my earlier post that a fourth color I used to paint the shanties was a light gray, sort of a primer gray.

Also, for the tarps I have a mixture of basic brown (tan with a dark brown wash) for dirty blankets, and the classic Blue plastic tarps you see everywhere. Also, notice in the back to the right, I have a red blanket covering the door. I used Ceramcoat Moroccan Red, which is my favorite red for blanket rolls and shirts for Civil War figs, just to add a little colorful ‘pop’ to the look of things. Sometimes I’ll put a gray wash over the red and then highlight it if I’m feeling generous, but these are terrain, they are supposed to remain in the background.

Painting the town

These are some pictures of the Shanty buildings mostly painted. I posed them on sheets I printed out with photos of “inspiration” that is part of my process whenever I do a project now-a-days. It seems that reference books for general topics are a thing of the past, replaced by Google Images which I didn’t even know existed until three years ago. You type in an Image search and up pop hundred of photos to choose from to help you paint everything from State Trooper uniforms to rusted third world shanty towns. Matching colors and getting the overall visual theme down are now only a few key-strokes away.

But I digress. The first thing I did to paint these models was paint them all thoroughly black. I always use simple Flat Black from Home Depot (the 99 cent can is fine). I wouldn’t use it 0n model figures as the paint covers up some detail, but for this works it’s ideal. And when I say “thoroughly black” I mean I paint the bottoms, then each side, and finally the top. You see some people that don’t really do a complete job when they prime a figure sometimes, and that’s just a pet-peeve of mine. Also, nothing is more distracting than doing a high-light job and finding a patch that was supposed to be black (in the background, invisible in shadow) suddenly glaring at you in its original color.

Once the black layers are done, I did a light misting of a metallic paint from Home Depot called “hammered gray”. All their metallics are amazing and I highly recommend them. That’s the base iron color I used for the starting point. BTW, I  noticed in many of the real world Shanty town pictures they can be downright colorful, but I assumed that was b/c they were from new scrap materials. I based mine on a future where much of the scraps’ paint will have eroded off.

That brings us to step three: some color. I used Timber Green, Blue Gray, and Oxide Red (all Ceramcoat paints) to give the separate corrugated plates some flare. I let plenty of the iron color show through. I went with what are essentially the post-apocalyptic “primary colors” (green is pretty close to yellow) b/c for some reason that sort of pattern reads very well. The last big layer was the rust wash.

I must give credit to Weta and their Doctor Grordbort line of Steampunk ray guns. The miniature versions are hand painted beautifully, and after staring at them for some time I deduced how to replicate their rust wash. I had always made rust far too dark — using Brown Iron Oxide Ceramcoat as the base — but for these I used equal parts Autumn Brown and Copper metallic, with just a hint of Brown Oxide, then watered it down with a Water/ Floor Wax mix (a formula that was popular before paint “dipping” came into vogue). I streaked the rust wash down most of the contours of the corrugated iron and like magic, they are weathered. I intend to throw a layer of dry-brush “dust” over the tarps and tires (Mudstone Ceramcoat, my favorite all-round dirt color) to complete them, but they are essentially done. Except for the signage and some graffiti, which I hope to include soon.

Lean-to under construction

This is a lean-to I partially finished on a 3″ oval base, then painted before adding the corrugation and kleenex “tarps”. I added it after painting to simplify painting the interior (which I don’t normally do) and I liked the result. Now I just have to be careful not to paint over the original parts. You can see how the kleenex looks while wet in this picture, as I had just applied the watered down glue.

The barrels and boxes hiding in the shadows are by Model Scenics (I believe). They supply HO scale model railroading background bits that I really like to incorporate. They have great “trackside rubbish” and “junkyard scraps” that I’ve used in the past when modeling factory buildings for Stalingrad, and it seems they’d be ideal for the current Road Warrior project (that was more a ‘note to self’ reminder ;)

Maximum Force Patrol

Here’s a sample of some of the figs I’m going to use for the Road Warrior game. These guys are really well armed, of course, but that’s b/c they’re from GWs ancient Dark Future game system. So I’m going to make them a gang called “Wheels of Justice”, self appointed vigilantes that bring law & order to their stretch of the road.

I based their uniforms on a combination of Pennsylvania and New Jersey state troopers. Great looking neo-fascist unis with a broad yellow stripe down the pant-leg. I made their badges Brass rather than silver so they pop more. The pair of Detectives in trench coats to the right are from Stan Johanson minis, so you can see they are pretty close to the same 20mm scale as the GW figs. The patrol car is a converted Hotwheels with a machine gun on the roof, and smoke-screen pipes down each side of the car. There’s also an armored plate over the rear window with bullet holes in it. The red dragster to the left is meant to go with the wasteland clans.