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.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

More Painting, More Thoughts on Downsizing, Goodbye My Friend

I have been doing a lot of painting of late, as part of my trying to figure out which scales to keep and which to shed.

Wooden Warriors – French (Napoleonic) Marine of the Imperial Guard

One only my Wooden Warriors blog I finally made two posts. The first was about how to use my laser cutter for something other than making paint racks and wooden bases; I decided to take a different approach to making Napoleonics shakos. I did a test and then painted up this French Marine of the Imperial Old Guard.


6mm Napoleonics Painted with Citadel Contrast Paint

Someone on one of the Facebook groups had asked about whether anyone had tried painting 6mm miniatures with Citadel Contrast Paint. As I had done some 15mm in the past, I decided to give it a go and report on the results. I decided to try a harder subject that the standard Space Marines or Space Elves; I went with Napoleonic-era Bavarian troops.

First a couple of notes. Firstly, 6mm closeups always look horrible; they just do. You really find out how shaky your hands are when you photograph 6mm troops. You can actually see details, flaws really, that you just don't see when you are looking at them about 1' away (or farther).

I started by priming the miniatures white with Pro-Acryl white primer. It is a nice, thin white that does not clog the detail, which is important with 6mm, especially if you are going to use Contrast Paints or Speedpaint. As there are older Baccus sculpts, they are very rough and thus will take these types of paints well.

Here is what they look like, fully painted. (I later took a little more white to the trousers and cross belts to make them more solid.)


Overall I was good with the results, but I really need to look at the results of figures that are more crisp. The older Baccus sculpts are very 'rough' and I was not keen on them. But I love the newer sculpts. Also, using the gray Contrast Paint as a replacement for metallic paint is not really a good idea, so I would change that and go back to a gunmetal color.

Next up are Xyston 15mm Later Achmaemenid Persians. I bought a ton of Xyston 15mm ancients when Brookhurst Hobbies had a clearance sale and I have had them heaped in a pile of shame every since. (Greek Hoplite and Thracians are two of the armies that I vowed I would have a large collection on, one day. They would practically all be Xyston miniatures too.)

I started off airbrushing on a Zenithal primer. I started with Pro-Acryl black and fully covered the miniature. Then I swapped in Pro-Acryl white primer without cleaning the pot, knowing that it would come out gray. I liberally covered the figures, leaving only the undersides untouched. Finally I drybrushed white on top to pick up the highlights. 

Next I started carefully laying down the contrast colors, doing white touchups for areas where a darker color was laid down over an area where a lighter color was intended.


Here are the final results. For the most part I had to use light, opaque highlights over the areas with Contrast Paints to remove the 'tide pools' and 'coffee stains'. The newer Contrast Paints that have less contrast, such as the bright yellow on the purple and yellow figures, as opposed to the yellow-brown on the other figures. The former did not require yellow highlights (I actually shaded with Shade Paints), while the latter definitely did.


Overall I think the older Contrast Paints are too 'brutal' for 15mm. It is better to go with a base color and use Shade Paint or a wash to collect in the recesses. If you want three colors go with a base color as a mid-tone, highlight with a lighter color (use more contrast between the base and the highlight than you would with 28mm figures), and then wash with a darker color. The tint from the wash will tone down the mid-tone and highlight, bringing down the contrast, and match well with the shadow color it gives the recesses. For me, Contrast Paints do not seem to be the solution for 15mm. It flows too well for the scale.

The last experiment came from watching a video by Bunker6. He paints a lot of Games Workshop Epic Warhammer 40,000 figures – roughly 6mm – and he puts a lot of detail into them. I decided to see if I still had my eye and hand (because if not, the unpainted 6mm were going to be on the chopping block).

I started with the new Imperial Fist Yellow Contrast Paint because: 1) these are meant to be Imperial Fists; 2) I don't have any other yellow that is that exact hue; and 3) these are supposed to be one of the new single pigment colors that cover well and are low contrast (which is ironic for a 'contrast paint'). First off, it does cover well and the flow characteristics are generally nice, but the smaller the scale the less you want your paints to flow. As this was my base coat for the model, and nothing was going to be a lighter color, I did not care that it flowed off of the areas where I put the brush. If anything, it ensured that I did not miss a spot.

Personally I think I put in a little too much detail, but nonetheless I went forward with the exercise because I wanted to see whether the effort was wasted or not. I already consider this picture too zoomed in for tabletop view, but not so close that it looks closer than bent arm's length (the range most people generally use when they pick up a stand to look at it). I can still see the attempt at details, like the grey behind the knees (rubber parts in the armor), the black stripe on the helmet, the red glowing eyes, and the black and silver bolt gun. I can also see one other detail that you probably don't see and that is only because I intentionally painted it: I painted a yellow highlight color and a yellow shade color. Is it worth it? Not sure. But I answered my question: I can still paint 6mm troops to an acceptable table standard with my eyes and hand.

A Note About Army Painter Speedpaint

My experiments with Army Painter Speedpaint has been disappointing. Largely because they are not really acrylic paints, but some form of 'resin' paint. Water causes them to reactivate, so adding acrylic highlights over them causes them to partially blend with the color being painted on while also popping the color off of the primer, exposing the white (or whatever the primer color was) below. Not a good effect because you cannot really control it. Dana Howl (YouTuber miniature painter) was the first that I saw that suggested the way to deal with this was to mix your acrylic paint with either Speedpaint Medium or another Speedpaint color, effectively turning it into a custom Speedpaint color. A lot of people must be doing this because Speedpaint Medium is very hard to find right now and where you can find it, it is double its normal price.

One thing I have found out for sure is to not mix Speedpaint with acrylic mediums like matte medium, glaze medium, metallic medium, etc. It makes it into a gloppy mess that spreads even worse than Speedpaint, that Flow Aid or water does not seem to fix.

At this point I see Speedpaint as an 'all or nothing' solution.

Sad News

More than 15 years ago, while still trying to build a gaming club in Sierra Vista, Arizona, I was searching The Miniatures Page for players who might be within driving range, but were to the east (i.e. we were closer than Tucson, Arizona) and thus underserved, gaming-wise. I found Marv and Betsy Schmid and despite them being five hours away (in Deming, New Mexico) they said that they would be happy to hop in their camper and come to Sierra Vista and teach us this game called De Bellis Antiquitatus (a.k.a. DBA). They had numerous armies and all the terrain we would need. It was a smashing success, such that many of us started collecting DBA armies. It also led to the discovery of HOTT, me creating American War of Independence version of DBA (DB-AWI 2008) and HOTT (HOTR 2009), and even a blog (now inactive) about my DBA games.

Over the years my wife Rita and I have alternated visiting with Marv and Betsy, us going to their house or they coming to ours. Gaming buddy Don and I once dropped by on the way to a DBA tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico for inspiration and last minute tips. We even went to a state park with a lake together to swim, camp, and game.

Part of what I have been doing of late is re-connecting with people that I haven't spoken to during the lockdowns, especially those that are not in my immediate area. That has led to some great conversations with people across the country and around the world, but sometimes it leads to sad news. It took finding an old mobile phone, recharging it, and retrieving the phone number I failed to transfer over to my new phone to finally reconnect to Marv and Betsy, only to find out that Marv had died last May of brain cancer.

Needless to say, Betsy is still trying to cope with the loss, but Marv had a large wargaming collection and she was trying to get a hold of me in hopes that I would take it off her hands. Right when I am trying to downsize my own collection… So, right after I retire next month I am going to head to Deming to inventory his collection, see what I think I can "move to a good home", i.e. what is sellable, and work with her on managing the sale of his collection. Hopefully I can sell things off on Facebook, The Miniatures Page, Fanaticus, and eBay and send her checks periodically. I know it will be a lot of work, but it is a bit of repayment to a couple that showed us a part of this great, fragmented hobby that ended up being a big part of my wargaming experience (and this blog), plus it will show me how to reduce my own collection.

In a way this is something I have been considering, and although it is a bit morbid, it is something we need to consider. What will happen to your collection when you pass? Are you sure the kids will take it? Are you sure your friends will? Do they know they are going to be tagged to disposed of your collection? Is your wife expecting to recover some of the costs of your hobby? Does she know that you "invested" in a depreciating asset? Does she know who to contact about your collection? Does she know how to sell it? Does she know a reasonable price? (Do you? When was the last time you sold?)

I posted a message on a DBA forum on Facebook to try and get a sense of what the market for painted 15mm DBA armies is. Ten years ago I used to scour eBay, Fanaticus, and TMP for painted DBA armies and paid what I felt was a premium buying them. But I stopped playing DBA after 3.0 fragmented the player base. Like Flames of War 3rd and 4th Editions, I just couldn't get into the next edition, despite buying the new rules. I was done. And with that exit went my knowledge of how viable the market was.

Fortunately, it appears that the market is still good. Not only are people still playing DBA 2.2, 2.2+, and 3.0, there is a new derivative called Triumph, but it appears that Art de la Guerra (ADLG) using the standard DBA basing. So I feel better about taking on his DBA collection to sell for her. His WW II and Arab-Israeli micro armor, however, jet age Check Your 6 aircraft collection, however, are a different story. But just like the old joke about how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time), so to with how to move someone's lifelong collection. Enough whining!

Here's to you Marv. You will be missed.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Personal News, Wargaming Thoughts, and Some Painting

 Personal News

Let's get this one out of the way. First off, I am retiring in about six weeks. I am 60 years old (and I turn 61 in October) and although I planned on retiring October 2023, circumstances force me to retire early.

I am a computer programmer by trade (in the U.S. home mortgage software market – talk about niche) and I have always said that I could probably continue on even if my hands went, because there is such good voice recognition technology out there, but if my mind ever went, I was done for. I used to be known for my attention to detail, but lately I have not been able to focus. I am easily distracted. Worse, I don't just forget where I left off at, I forget that I was not finished with a task and my mind tells me I was.

This apparently happened pretty quickly. My company awarded me a huge bonus and raise last January for being a top performer in the company (Zillow); now I can't remember to complete a task.

I knew it last Tuesday when I was in a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) meeting – otherwise known as a "who screwed up" meeting – and someone was showing a result from my application and I knew it could not "have happened". The previous day I had changed the code at their request and there were three dates in the change. My documentation (rare for a programmer) noted all three changes. The comments in the code noted all three changes and the change number that ordered it. And the code was changed … in two places. I must have gotten an email, chat message, or phone call and by the time I was done, did not remember that I had not finished. But it was not just forgetting; it was my mind being sure that I was done. Not a single thought of "oh, I have to check to ensure I finished that".

Lest you think I give up easily you have to understand that this was simply the last event in a long line of them that I was not admitting to. In fact, I was started to even hide them. I would blame this or that for why things went wrong, but the reality is that it was me.

I called my brother (four years older) because I remember him saying about six months ago that he had been diagnosed with something, and I wanted to be sure what it was. He has Parkinson's. We talked about it and I am pretty sure I do not have that. I have none of the motor skill symptoms. Also, mine is not a feeling of forgetfulness. I am not one of those people always saying "now what was that I was trying to remember?" It does happen on occasion, but my problem is more an arrogant assurance that I have remembered something – like finishing a task – or not even thinking to do something.

So, I decided that I did not want to go from 2021's top performer to 2022's guy that we want to get rid of. I want to be able to leave with a little dignity rather than milk the job for every last dollar until they feel like they have to fire me.

Fortunately, I have been a lifelong saver and I married a woman more frugal than I am, so I can afford to drift the remainder of this year and all of next year. I can pull sufficient money out next year from my retirement fund (we call it a 401(k) in the U.S.) and draw on Social Security at 62, if I want.

So What is Next?

I decided to give my company four weeks, so that I could transition my work and archive of code to a new person on the team. If they get someone in to replace me, all the better, but I have pretty specialized skills. It took them nearly a year to find me.

My manager reminded me that Zillow pays out its bonuses partially every quarter and that if I wait an additional two weeks that means I accrue about 500 more shares of Zillow stock (which declines in value every day), so I decided to wait for that. I am already leaving a lot of money on the table, but no need to rush out that quickly.

After that I need to head to a neurologist and figure out what is going on. My brother, who is a research scientist (his specialty is mosquitoes and pesticides) thinks we were poisoned as kids (Florida was famous for spraying residential neighborhoods with "safe" pesticides in the 1960s and 1970s), so hopefully it is something treatable for me.

If not, well that I why I want to leave the workforce now. I want to spend the rest of my time doing all of those things that I always told myself I would do "when I finally retire". I am going to paint and game, of course, continue doing more blogging, but also travel more. The wife and I are looking at using AirBnB to visit various places in Panama, for example.

Another project is to get rid of old games and junk that have accumulated that I just know I will never get to again. We all go sometime and the last thing I want to do is burden my wife or the kids with having to get rid of "the crazy old man's toys". Not that I think I will get any money back for it. More that I would like to see it go into someone's hands that would us it. (One of my gaming buddies did the same to me about three years ago, giving me all his Spanish Civil War 15mm troops that he knew he would never get to. I never got to it either.)

Multiple Scales and Multiple Genres

Which leads me to this topic. I have long been pondering getting rid of some miniature collections. But which ones? I rarely considered, when looking at shiny new figures to buy, whether I had all of the necessary accessories to go with those figures. Largely I mean terrain. Sure, there are some things that work across periods, like hills and trees, but building, other structures, even roads can very much be period specific. (It is funny how many times I use roads with 15mm scale tank treads showing for roads in my 15mm Ancients and AWI games, and as foot paths in my 42mm Dark Ages games.)

What scales should I keep? (I have collections in 6-8mm, 15-18mm, 25-28mm, 32mm, and 42mm, with a few, rare pieces in 2mm, 3mm, 10mm, 20mm, 1/72nd, and 54mm.) What genres should I keep? (I have collections in … uh, never mind.)

I always thought about having one (smaller) scale for mass battles and one (larger) scale for skirmish games. But that is still potentially two sets of terrain. Here are the conclusions I came to so far.

6-8mm: I like this scale for one reason, and that is because I now have a tendency to play games on smaller areas, like 20" x 30", 2' x 2' and 3' x 3'. Figures that are 6-8mm work great for this size table. There are just two problems: 1) my eyes are failing so painting them is hard; and 2) I find it very hard to identify what the troops are, especially if I try and use 'realistic' basing with flocking, sand, etc. Some of the best terrain I have for this scale are old Monopoly houses and hotels, which you can buy very cheaply on eBay.

15-18mm: I have a lot of troops and terrain in this scale. The largest collection is probably Ancients/Dark Ages/Medieval, but they are in DBA-army size groups, i.e. about 12 stands per 'army'. Second is AWI and third is WWII. Terrain is largely for WWII. (My terrain for DBA was always flat felt or foam rubber because no one used realistic terrain, as it got in the way of game play.) The ability to paint this is better than 6mm and I can recognize troops better. I keep telling myself that this is what I will focus on.

25-28mm: For me this is the nostalgia scale. I started miniature gaming with 25mm Napoleonics. I still have miniatures that I painted back in the 1970s and 1980s, plus too many old (valuable) Citadel miniatures from the 1980s and 1990s. What I do not have anymore, is terrain. Further, the little terrain I do have is Space Gothic. (You know what I am talking about.) This scale is very paintable, vision-wise, but due to their larger surface area it takes more time. Also, manufacturers are cramming the details on these things. Finally, if you decide to go with this scale, storage of miniatures, and especially terrain, starts to become an issue. On the positive side, other people are more likely to be using this scale. (But I generally provide both sides anyway.) Also, there is the question of whether I can play anything other than skirmish games at this scale if I do not have a 6' x 4' board.

On a side note, Marvel United is basically somewhere around this scale (or 32mm), but I consider it an exception to the 'keep or dump' decision. Unlike traditional miniatures, the figures in Marvel United are very much tokens for a board game and thus the idea that you need terrain for them isn't true. So, I will keep these as they neither fall in the skirmish or mass category for tabletop wargaming. One might include all miniatures from board games, in which the terrain issue doesn't exist, in this same sort of category. That would mean my Star Wars figures from Imperial Assault could be kept.

32mm: Although the new figures from Games Workshop might fall into this category, for me it was Star Wars: Legions. As a rule set it is definitely something I no longer play, nor will pick back up, so these are a definite candidate of figures to clear out.

42mm: The only miniatures that fall into this category are my wooden soldiers that I make. I have a Napoleonic and Dark Ages collection, along with appropriately scaled trees, but not much else in the way of terrain. Felt always works for roads, rivers, plowed fields, etc. As long as I stay away from structures, I am good. Ironically, I have found it easy to play skirmish games with these figures, but mass battles require a 6' x 4' table. I tend to use smaller unit sizes (6 figures or so) anyway I tend not to put a lot of figures on the table. The largest hassle with this scale is the larger surface area requires more paint and time, with a tendency to want to add detail as it is so visible.

I know one of the first tasks once I retire will be to get rid of all my 32mm Star Wars Legion troops, followed by the 28mm Bolt Action, Warhammer, and Warhammer 40,000 figures, both painted and unpainted. If I get rid of all of those, I may not have to make the decision between 15mm and 6mm. The 6mm collection is actually pretty small, physically. Also, there are some incomplete line in my 15mm collection to get rid of like the Marlburians, Polish 17th Century, Renaissance WoFun figures (experiment that failed), and even Napoleonics (my 6mm Napoleonics collection is far larger and more consistent).

My goal is truly not to buy any more.

Recent Painting Videos

As part of my resolve to move away from 25mm to 32mm figures strengthens I realize that I need to either paint or sell all of the 15mm figures that I already have. I have a number of random AWI figures that need treatment, plus have a number of WWII troops from the Flames of War days to be painted, but by far the largest collection is unpainted Ancients. I remember Brookhurst Hobbies had a 50+% sale on Xyston Miniatures – and I love those sculpts – and I purchased a couple hundred dollars worth at sale prices. Maybe 100+ packs? Some insane amount. I have a whole 33 liter/35 quart storage tub filled with these packs. (I admit temporary insanity.)

Nonetheless, I saw a painting video using Army Painter's Speedpaint – which I bought as soon as it became available, in order to give it a try – for historical miniatures and I decided to give them another try.

My initial complaint with Speedpaints is that it was too blotchy, like Citadel's contrast paints. Added to that the paint reactivation issue that Youtubers talked about and it seemed like it was off to a bad start. I gave them another shot anyway and I must say that I think they work better for 15mm because there are no large, flat surface areas (unless you are paining vehicles), so you just don't see the problems. As for reactivation, well I just make sure I seal them with a spray varnish rather than a brush-on one. The one thing I do know is that they do not like traditional acrylic mediums and flow improvers. I would also use a separate set of paint brushes with them (as I do with Citadel contrast paint, India inks, acrylic inks, varnishes, and gesso).

Recently I have been watching more painting videos about all kinds of subjects. One came in my feed from an artist named Warhipster, whom I had never watched before, and he talked about why Citadel contrast paints produce blotches, pools, and stains, and how to use them properly. I swear, if all you do is watch the opening sequence you will see someone paint the smoothest finish with contrast paint I have ever seen, all without dilution or mediums.

It was this video that had me break out the contrast paints once again. Of course, just when I do that Citadel decides to increase the size of their line of contrast paints and have changed their Shades line to use contrast paint formulation, so they are weaker (wash) versions of contrast paint. It makes sense because washes and contrast basically do the same thing, which is appear stronger in the cracks and crevices and weaker everywhere else. With washes (Shade) we just want that tint to be as weak as possible while still maintaining sufficient color strength in the cracks. The bad part about the new line: I hear it will cost $195 to buy all of the new contrast paints. (I am not even sure that includes the new shades.)

I have lots of Arcadia Quest chibi-style figures to paint (in addition to my Marvel United figures). I painted this monk up with contrast paints and shades in very short order.

I started by priming him bright white rather than the typical black then white zenithal. I spent some time inking him with a black micron pen before sealing it with varnish (so the ink would not reactivate from the solvents in the contrast paints). At that point I was ready to color the figure, much like the process in old school comic books (draw, ink, then color). You can see the blotchiness of the colors – I clearly need to watch the video above again, and practice more – but I think the overall effect is acceptable, especially given the time it took to get the figures on the table.

In addition to all of this I reconnected with Matt, my co-author on the Wooden Warriors blog, to see how things are faring with him. (Things are fine, but he finally caught Covid after dodging it for more than a year of teaching classes.) Neither of us have made a post there (I hope to rectify that soon), so I wondered whether he dropped out of the hobby or whether he was simply not making figures anymore. It turns out he has revived his interest in old board games, like Heroquest, and had obtained a set and was merrily painting away. He told me about a Spanish YouTuber living in Malaysia and his channel Rush the Wash. His technique to is zenithal prime and then use contrast paints to get his figures out on the table quickly. (Previously he white primed and used Citadel shades, glazes, and inks – the latter two some very old products – to paint his figures.) Ironically, this was a style I had been trying to accomplish for a long time. A long time ago – we are talking late 1980s here – I used to paint a number of things with Higgins, Windsor & Newton, and Bombay India inks. These days it seems like few places, other than online art supply stores, carry a decent range of colors, so I drifted away from it. However, I purchased a DBA army or three from Timurilank in the Netherlands and I saw that he had a transparent color glaze look to his figures – you can see an example in the first picture of this post on his blog – that I have been trying to replicate for awhile. Rush the Wash was all about that style. Also, you can find videos from a few others on the "slap chop" painting style, but I think that is less distinct. I think my 15mm ancients, above, reflect that style, only without the gloss varnish.

More Marvel United

We have been playing a lot more of this board game, both as a group, face-to-face, and virtually using Tabletop Simulator. The former games give me more incentive to paint my miniatures while the latter allows me to play a campaign with other people around the country.

Here is what I completed on my painting table. First up is Silver Surfer. We played him once and he was powerful, almost too powerful to play against anything but the strongest villains (like Thanos).

Because he comes pre-paint in this chrome silver, all I did was add black ink lines to define him further, and paint the space-y base.

I decided that the first set from the Marvel United X-Men series that I wanted to paint was the Fantastic Four expansion. So I started with the Human Torch. He comes cast in an ugly transparent orange plastic, so I primed him white and used Pro-Acryl transparent red acrylic paint and Bombay crimson India ink for the body, and Pro-Acryl transparent yellow and orange acrylic paints and Bombay yellow and orange India inks for the flames. The base is contrast paint and Pro-Acryl acrylic paints for the highlights and base rim. The only thing I might add is thickening the black to outline the eyes.

In order to try and keep my "one new figure painted a week" schedule I decided to tackle The Thing next. He is contrast paint for the body with acrylic paint highlights. The shorts are Pro-Acryl blue transparent acrylic paints with acrylic paint highlights and the belt is all acrylic paints.

Last up is the villain Killmonger. On one hand I wanted to try a new technique, but on the other I was reluctant to use a different technique than I used for all of my other heroes and villains. This was a black prime with white zenithal and heavy use of contrast paints, shades, and transparent acrylic paints. There is very little opaque acrylic paint used, and it was only used for the highlights.

One of my gaming buddies is the person behind Smooth Blend Studio and is the one who painted many of my Warhammer Underworlds figures, plus the Guardians of the Galaxy expansion for Marvel United. He has opened up his schedule to paint 30 more figures for Marvel United, so expect to see more in the coming three months.

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About Me

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. 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").