My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cleanup Time

Well, my blog was starting to get spammed with advertising in the comments and I just don't like that. Still a few, but I got a lot of them. Now everyone will have to log in (which most people do), plus use the verification image in order to make a comment.

Hoe that doesn't irritate anyone. I have so few comments as it is! :D

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Working on Paper Sumerian and Akkadian Armies

I was feeling a little creative last weekend. I spent a lot of it writing for some new solo rules for DBA being developed, so I needed a break. I want a pike army, so I can practice both with and against them, but I have so many unpainted miniatures that I was reluctant to buy more.

I did work on a list of all the pike armies in DBA (must be able to select 4 or more pike elements to qualify as a "pike army") so I could see what my choices were. On a recent trip to Albuquerque, NM I was able to pick up an old copy of the WAB Supplement Chariots Wars and it had a section on the Sumerians, who in DBA are a pike army. So, as I am focusing on Biblicals/Chariot Wars of late (finished painting and basing my Philistine army and finished basing my New Kingdom Egyptians that I had painted for me), getting a Biblicals pike army seemed more interesting than the typical Macedonian/Successor or Swiss armies.

As this army, at least for now, I was going to use for solo play, and as I say I have a pile of lead, I decided to take a page from my old playbook and create a set of paper armies for this project. One of the reasons for that is because I am getting interested in trying my hand at Warhammer Ancient Battles, and those armies can get large (and thus expensive to build). I've always advocated for paper armies to experiment with, so here goes.

First up is the classic Sumerian pikeman with cape armor (to the right). I started with Patrick Crusiau's Swiss Pikeman and just started chopping bits here and there. The legs are from Patrick's Romans and the chest from Patrick's Gauls. I use Fireworks, so grafting it all together and filling in the blank spots is easy.

From there I was able to build a second pikeman (to the left), for the enemy army (they will probably Akkadians to start with). I took off the cape and thus had to draw more of the chest in, plus add the straps and large bronze boss on the chest.

One of the things that makes this easy with Fireworks is that I can work with both vectors and bitmaps. So the capes, shields, bosses, etc. are all separate objects, each on a different layer. So making variations of the same figure is much easier.

Next up is the two-handed axemen (to the right), the Blades element in DBA and the Guardsman in WAB. Basically I took the Pikeman, chopped off most of the pike, rotated it over the figure's shoulder, rotated the hand, then added an axe head to the end of it.

As you can see, you simply start building up a catalog of pieces to add and subtract as necessary and you can get a whole, well, army of variations in a short time. And you don't have to paint each figure! You only make the model once. (There I go again, advocating for paper armies...)

Last up is the first of the light infantry (to the right). It represents the Auxilia element in DBA and the non-skirmishing light infantry in WAB. It is an unarmored infantry with a hand axe and some javelins. (They really should be throwing sticks, but they did not look right without the spear points.) I used a throwing spear from Patrick's Gauls, chopped it down, resized them (so they were thinner), then made the heads even smaller. Also, I changed the colors from iron to bronze.

So, as you can see, the start of an army with not a whole lot of effort (less than 1/2 of a day). Of course they still need to be printed, glued, and based before they are an army.

Next to make are the archers. Also, I may go back and make variations of the above, adding beards, to distinguish the Sumerians from the Akkadians. The final piece will be the four-ass battlecarts (Heavy Chariots in DBA and WAB - although the latter has "ornery" rules for the asses).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Citadel Washes, cont'd

Now for a few pictures of the results. (Please ignore the unpainted parts and glue. These are works in progress.)

First up is the color I like the best. This is Citadel Gryphonne Sepia (Sepia) over Citadel Skull White (White). I used two coats of wash and I think it turned out very well. Still a little blotchy - still practicing my technique - but the coloring is just what I want for the flesh. The armor is an olive green wash over White. I made the olive green wash by mixing Citadel Thraka Green (Green) wash with Citadel Devlan Mud (Mud) wash. The bronze (sword and helmet) is Ceramcoat Expresso (Expresso) with highlights using Citadel Foundation Iyanden Darksun (Darksun) , then washed with Mud. Finally, the tunic was painted in White, washed in Vallejo Flesh Wash ink, then highlighted in White. I think the contrast between the Flesh Wash and the White is too stark to work.

Next up is a Citadel Ogyrn Flesh (Flesh) wash over Mud wash over White. When the first coat of Mud went down, I thought it was turning out too dark - at least for Sea Peoples. So I used Flesh for the second coat and I like the effect. The armor is Sepia wash over Privateer Press Yellow ink over White. The Yellow ink was downright fluorescent initially, so I had to tone it down with a wash in addition to picking out armor details. The tunic is a White highlight over Sepia wash over White.

Third on the block is Flesh wash over White. This is good for your bronzed warriors. The olive green wash for the armor can be seen a little better here. The tunic is also White highlight over Sepia wash over White.

Finally, for the sun-burned warrior set, we have a Flesh wash over Citadel Dwarf Flesh. This really turned out bad. Although you can see the wash did a nice job of shading the Dwarf Flesh color, it is really too subtle for anything other than a camera on magnification. The armor was Mud wash over White and the tunic White highlights over Mud wash over White. Again, the contrast between Mud and White is too great to use that combination again without layering in other colors.

Don't be put off by the close-ups and the apparent sloppiness of the paint jobs. With a naked eye these figures look quite good.

So, is it worth it? I suppose it depends upon what you are looking for? Me, I wanted:
  • A better looking flesh color for Caucasians. That means a little bit of very light skin patches, here and there.
  • Shading for well-defined figures, but not too subtle, nor too stark a contrast between light and dark.
  • An easy painting method, but not necessarily quick. (Although quick would be nice.)
  • A method for picking out details in armor and clothing. Again, not too subtle nor too stark a contrast.
Painting with Citadel washes - at least for bronze and textile armor and flesh - produces the results I want. If you paint in batches, having to wait for the first coat of wash to dry before starting on the second is not a problem. By the time you've washed a few figures the first is dry enough to apply another coat.

Again, I think you cannot be sloppy and apply large amounts of wash using a large brush. You need to use smaller brushes in order to push the pools of wash into the proper spots or disperse them where you don't want pooling. This is not dipping by any stretch of the imagination.

Painting with Citadel Washes

Lately I've been experimenting with painting using Citadel washes. By "painting with washes" I mean painting a figure, generally white, and then using the washes to color the figure. Initially I was painting a figure with colors in block styles and then washing, but I found the washes too subtle, unless I used a very light color.

So, I decided to start with the lightest color of all, white, and wash it, seeing what the effects were. As flesh color is something I paint a lot of lately (I am painting ancients at the moment, so there is a lot of flesh to be painted). For painting flesh, Citadel offers three basic colors: Flesh, Sepia, and Mud. Over white, Flesh gives a reddish, sun-burnt hue, Sepia fives a orange-brown hue, and Mud a darker-brown hue. By the way, the Black wash gives a gray hue over white.

The good thing about Citadel washes (or bad, depending upon your point of view) is that one coat will not do. Like painting with watercolors, that means you wash with one color and then wash with a different to get a different shade. You can also mix them together. For example I mixed Green and Mud and made a nice Olive color. By using Privateer Press' Yellow ink and putting Mud as the second coat, I got a good Dark Mustard color.

For some figures that are deeply cut, it may take more than two coats. I use small brushes to apply the washes, that way I can move pools of wash, lightening or darkening areas, as necessary. If I do a third coat, it is usually only to specific problem areas (shin, elbows, noses, and ankles) so I don't darken the other areas too much. For figures that are not cut at all, for example old Scruby miniatures or some of the simpler Irregular Miniatures sculpts, washing won't work at all as the figure would be uniformly the same color.

Ultimately, that is the point of washing: darken the recesses while keeping the highlights lighter, effectively shading the figure without a lot of effort. Washing does that for you, but it is not as simple as dipping. On the other hand, washing produces better results, in my opinion.

Pictures to follow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Using Flexible Magnets with Bases

So, I started down the road of using Wargames Accessories steel bases [1] with the thought of using flexible magnet sheets in the transport box. I hated it for two reasons:

1. The steel bases are not thick enough for gripping with my fat fingers (and I do not have fingernails extending beyond the tips of my fingers).

2. The large magnetic sheets seem to attract debris which likes to embed into it (like sand, flock, rocks, etc.). It also seems to lose magnetism over time (and I don't mean years).

So, I decided to reverse the process and put magnets on the bases and steel in the transport box. At first I used rare earth magnets, but found the problems were:

1. You had to drill out holes in the basing material, which took time and created a mess, which the wife says I already make too much of.

2. You had to be careful drilling the holes so the magnet was flush with the bottom of the base. Easier said than done. Sometimes you had to fill in some of the holes as they were too deep, sometimes drill more as they were too shallow, and sometimes you just gave up.

3. You had to be careful gluing the magnets into the base. Too much glue over the top and it lowered the magnetic strength. Not enough glue and when you pulled the base off of the steel sheet the magnet stayed behind.

Finally, I decided to use magnetic strips on the bottom of the bases, as it:

1. Would be flush with the bottom of the base without fiddling.

2. Was easy to cut to size.

3. Was easy to attach (it had double-sided tape on it).

The problem, though, was that last little bit; getting the magnet to stay stuck onto the base. As the strips of flexible magnetic "tape" comes in rolls, it liked to stay curled and the ends would start to detach base (the double-sided tape was not that strong). So you were left with pulling out the super glue and carefully gluing the ends that popped up, but sometimes they would pop up before the glue hardened and then harden curled.

I finally found a solution that seems to be working ... so far. What I do is take the flexible magnetic strips and iron them onto the bottom of the base. The heat from the iron helps melt the adhesive on the double-sided tape giving it more sticking power. To help the process, I affix the tape to the bottom of the base and immediately iron it flat. (If it starts to bubble your iron is too hot or you are ironing too long. Stop if the magnet catches fire. LOL) I then put the base onto a cold, galvanized steel sheet and that helps keep the base flat while the magnet cools and the adhesive hardens.

It thought about affixing the magnets to the bases prior to gluing the figures to the base so I could put a heavy book on top of the bases while they cool, but the problem is gripping the base while trying to hold a hot iron to the other side of it. :-/

[1] I would not recommend using Wargame Accessories steel bases unless you measure each and every base prior to using it as they are not always consistently cut. Expect some losses from bad cutting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm up to my eyeballs in spears

So, I got a Spartan army (and the one thing consistent about that army is how badly it sheds little wire spears. I think I have knocked off 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the spears - any that were not going straight up and down (and even some of those) - since I obtained them. Same with the Thracian Light Horse and their javelins/throwing spears/lances.

So, I thought the answer was gluing the spears in better. Easier said than done. More like gluing my fingers to the Spartan helmets. Besides, I wasn't exactly keen on straight wire spears and how they looked. They did not look like ... well, spears. They looked like bo staffs.

I saw that Xyston made leaf-headed wire spears, and I wanted to buy some Xyston Thracians - so I went to the Warweb website to order them. Unfortunately, I got so caught up ordering Xyston's other products I forgot to buy the spears themselves! (Don't you hate when that happens?)

Next stop was TMP on how to cheaply make my own and the one that intrigued me was the buy who made them out of the plastic bristles of a broom. I was skeptical, to say the least. The advantages, he said, were that they flexed, so you could move them against other troops in combat and when you hit them accidentally with your hand, that give would mean it would not snap out. You just needed to make sure they were stored straight. Crimp the head with pliers and you have a flat spot; cut with scissors to shape to a spear head.

Well, I was intrigued, but still skeptical. So, off to the dollar store to find me some bristles. The problem there is that so many products don't really have adequate bristles for making spears.

The bristles on many brooms fray. The bristle itself is made up on tiny strands bonded together, that separate after using the broom awhile. I don't know if the dollar store is cleaning its floors with the brooms in their stock, but most of the products on the shelf were already frayed, leading me to believe that cutting the ends would start the fraying process (like yarn or twine does).

Scrub brushes were better in that they didn't fray and were the right thickness, but they are extruded in a wavy pattern or as flat strips, which doesn't make for a good spear.

Finally, I got to the bottle, dish, and toilet brushes. The bristles were a little thinner than I wanted, but they were straight and smooth and for $1, produced a LOT of spears. So, crack the plastic handle and throw it away. Untwist the metal wires holding the bristles, and be ready to put a lot of material into a ziplock bag. You can take pliers and crush the tip, cut with scissors to shape, and then glue in the hand. Once they are in their firmly and have dried, they give enough so there is no threat of snapping out of the hand.

I starting adding green stuff to the flattened head to give it more depth, but I found that putting green stuff straight to the bristle without flattening it, produces a spear head harder to shape. Definitely better to flatten the bristle then add green stuff, wood filler, caulk, or whatever to add body.

I'll try and get pictures later.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").