Hills and Rivers part 4 – Paint it Black

Stage 4 then..

Everything got a black undercoat from a big tin of ordinary black paint (which I kep well away from the beer to avoid an unnecessary, but inevitable, mistake). Yes, it looks awful, but it’s all uphill from here.

Brown patches added, these will get highlighted later on.

Green basecoat next, hopefully one evening this week.

A 15mm Diversion

I recently fancied a dabble in a smaller scale, after all the 28mms I’ve been doing lately. I was given some very nice Khurasan 15mm Goth cavalry and command, and already had some Baueda Dark Age (Lombard?) foot command figures to go with them. These are intended as an extra command base, and some ‘heroes’ for my Goth army, which are inserted in the middle of a unit to provide some additional characterisation and battlefield punch when playing more ‘heroic’-style historical games. When I get round to certain future Armies of the Month this will make more sense!

In the meantime, while the Khurasan figures are very nice, the basic heavy cavalrymen lacked a bit of drama – specifically a lack of cloaks and some very short, insignificant looking swords. An upgrade was in order, so out came the green stuff for 4 cloaks and a couple of sword extensions. Much better. Quick pic below. I just need to squeeze them into the painting schedule somewhere now and they can join the army.

And that reminds me, after my earlier announcement, I’ve only got 5 days left to post January’s Army of the Month. Better get cracking on that!

Hills and Rivers part 3

I’ve now reached the stage where, once the glue is dry, I can give all the boards their black basecoat. I have applied the second (partial/patchy) layer of sand to create a bit of depth, while still retaining a mostly flat surface. I have also added some patches of rougher, but still faitly low-profile, vegetation using loose leaf tea (as I do on my figure bases) and some small scenic rocks. These will add a bit a variety when painted and break up the otherwise featureless terrain.

Painting everything with a wash of black is going to be tedious and messy, but it’ll be progress!

Second layer of sand

Patches of vegetation and rocks. I could stop now and call it North Africa!  🙂

Hills Part 2 – and Rivers

With the hills cut and shaped, I decided to plough on this weekend with getting them onto their boards, and making a start on the other terrain I’ve been planning for a while – rivers. As with the hills, there are always compromises when it comes to adding rivers to a wargames table. By their nature they look best with a bit of depth, and that’s the challenge of course. In an ideal world these are carved into thick sheets of high density foam board, providing the opportunity for deep banks, as well as sunken roads and realistic undulations everywhere else. With my terrain built from 9mm marine plywood that’s not a possibility, and with the rough texturing I use nor are ‘place on’ rivers.

So the choice comes down to painting rivers onto the boards and texturing flat ground up to the water’s edge (which I’ve done before) or cutting right through the boards to create river banks and placing everything on an underlying ‘water’ layer. I’ve gone for the latter, for a couple of reasons. The deeper banks work better for me aesthetically, especially with larger scale figures. Also, the ply boards I use have a grain on their surface, making smooth-ish water a difficult effect to achieve.

So I enlisted the help of a good friend who assisted with some quality timber cutting to ensure that the river bank sections all match up, both in terms of positioning and angle (45 degrees, thanks to an angled jigsaw setting). The rivers were measured at 10cm/4 inches across, so represented the removal of about a third from the middle of each board. Of course, they then have the potential to be broadened by moving the 2 river banks apart either by a full board width (making a 16 inch wide river) or by any other incremental amount. Some of the cut-outs were rounded off to provide islands which can be placed in the river, and used in naval games too. With this batch I’ll have 6 feet of straight/meandering river and 2 x 90 degree bends. Plenty to start with considering the biggest table I can manage is 6 x 4 feet.

On Saturday I kept warm outside by sanding all the board edges smooth, and rounding the river bank tops off a little. Then I stuck down the hills with PVA and a bit of tape, before moving onto covering the polystyrene with a layer of quick-dry plaster for protection and smoothness. The afternoon was then spent making a right old mess applying the first layer of sand – sticking it down with black masonry paint. I’ve decided to add some small raised areas on a few of the river banks so I have a bit more hot-wire cutting to perform, and then once all the boards are up to the same stage with a basic layer of sand I can move on to the remaining texturing before undercoating and painting. As the dining room table is now a sandy, messy work area, I better get my skates on this week!

Some pics of the various stages described:

Hills added to boards

Plaster coat

Plaster done, including some filling on a older board

River banks added to the workload

First layer of sand goes on

Sand done

New Hills – Stage 1

I have a terrain expansion project planned, with which I hope to make good progress over the next few weeks (well, we’ll see eh?)

This will mean more 1 foot square boards to join the existing collection, to accommodate some additional features in order to provide me with more scenario and tabletop options. One priority is for some more hills, especially some slightly bigger ones than I currently have. The ones I’ve done previously are fairly small and low – one of the natural drawbacks of 1 foot boards I guess.

I have (like all sensible wargamers) collected a variety of polystyrene pieces from packaging over the years, and I recently dug out a few promising candidates to take the good old hot wire cutter to. Pic below, black undercoated 28mm figures in the centre background give a sense of scale..

In order to completely integrate them into the small size of the terrain boards, I need to get them ‘up and down’ in under a foot of space. Inevitably there are compromises, but they are reasonable gaming compromises and I can live with them. On the larger hills I have been happy to leave a flat top as there is a practical need to be able to place figures and scenery on them without having trees and building leaning over. The smaller ones are really more for providing some undulations to otherwise flat boards and should work OK. The thickest sheet of polystyrene I had was big enough to provide 2 hill ‘halves’ which can be placed back to back for a large hill, or separately on the table edge. I’d like to perhaps do more of this type, perhaps something much bigger with 4 ‘quarter’ hills.

None of these ‘hills’ are more than 25mm tall, but for the variety of scales I will use them with (6mm-28mm) they’ll give a decent impression and break up the general flatness a bit. I’m hoping to have a crack at stage 2 (sticking them to the boards and applying a layer of plaster) at the weekend and will post an update when I’ve managed this. I will also then be able to dig out the raw materials for the other part of this terrain expansion exercise and get to work on everything from there..

Cuirassiers join the army

Finished at last! I painted a sample figure for this unit in September 2012 and have finally gotten round to completing them as my first heavy cavalry regiment (Montanelli’s Cuirassiers) for the Medetians of the 18th century. These are Minden Miniatures and they were a pleasure to paint. They’re actually British Heavy Cavalry figures which I admit I chose due to their lighter equipment load (ie. easier painting) compared to the ones from Prussia, Austria and France.

The flag has a clipart griffon and was printed out from MS Excel and highlighted with paint. The uniform is basically buff coats with Medetian pale blue trimmings, which work well together I think.

Although these are now done I admit to thinking about increasing the size of my regular cavalry units, from 12s to 18s – basically to be more in proportion with my infantry battalions (36s). I think 2 squadrons of 6 figures each might look, and be, a little weak compared to their footslogger compatriots so a 3rd squadron may need to be added. Oh well, more painting…!

 

 

 

New regiment based and flagged

A Sunday evening painting session finally allowed me to finish the bases and add the standard to the newly raised Vantua Infantry Regiment. I’m very pleased to have made this progress and can now look to finish fairly quickly the other unit I’m working on.

As mentioned last time the bases were first undercoated black with slightly thinned matt ink, then painted with Sandtex Chocolate Brown and dry-brushed with Vallejo Iraqi Sand. The foliage and rocks each had two shades, to match my terrain boards.

The flag was designed in Microsoft Excel, using a clipart eagle in grey/black and adding the letters A (for Duke Amadeus) and M (for Medetia) as text boxes. The flag is yellow to match the regimental facings so I printed it with a yellowy-brown background to highlight up with brighter paint. I’ve previously done some standards in 15mm using this method and it works pretty well, allowing me to have flags with much better artistry on them than I could ever hope to paint freehand!

Looking ropey part-way through

The finished unit

 

The Gritty Bits

A bit delayed but I’ve moved the new battalion on to the next basing step. A full covering of sand, stuck down with more wood glue, added to with some cork rocks and.. loose leaf dried tea straight from the packet. This is a hardy basing material with a coarser granularity than sand, and I find it works very well for generic grass/vegetation. I guess the only tip is to avoid immersing your bases in boiling water at any point in the future!

Next up, once the glue has dried, a coat of black to seal it all in.
In the meantime though, it’s back to the cuirassiers I’ve been painting, and which will get a post of their own soon..

Two basing stages done

The Vantua Regiment have now been formed up and are going through the phases to match the basing style I use for my 18th century forces. First up they go onto 50x50mm (sorry Iain!) laser cut mdf bases from Warbases. This might seem the easiest part but actually it’s a a challenge getting them lined up perfectly both within a single base and as a unit overall. This involves a lot of squinting and minute adjustments – which has to be done before the glue dries! With Old School style Lace Wars units I think it’s important to achieve a formal regimented look where possible and these Huzzah! figures look their best when neatly aligned. Frederick would approve 🙂

Actually, as a pre-stage 1 activity I sealed the bases first with a slightly watered-down coat of wood glue (I believe PVA shrinks a little as it dries so I avoid it now for basing) so that the bases wouldn’t warp later. You never know if this will be 100% successful until a bit of time has passed, but hopefully they’ll stand up to the rest of the basing and painting process.

Once the figures were in place I (carefully!) applied a layer of ready-mixed filler all around the figure bases to bring the ground level up to a consistent height. While they are drying I’ve taken some quick pics (below). Next up comes the really messy bit – applying a layer of sand. I used to stick this down with nice thick black masonry paint (and still do on the odd ocassion where I’m basing unpainted figures) but as you can imagine, one accidental swipe of the brush and that’s a lot of re-painting to do! Nowadays it’s clear PVA or wood glue as a damage limitation tactic. I hope to get this stage done tomorrow.

In the meantime:

At last..

.. I’ve finally finished the next battalion of 28mm musketeers for my mid-18th Medetian century army. Why is this a big deal? Because I started them in July and frustratingly ground to a halt a few weeks ago, despite being within sight of the end. This created something of a self-induced painter’s block as I was determined to finish them before painting anything else.

Although these Huzzah! Miniatures figures (from Fighting15s) don’t perhaps have as much detail as some, the uniforms of the day still make them a challenge to paint en-masse. 30 figures is a lot for me in one go, and I’m not the quickest, so units of this size require a fairly big investment of time. Seeing them ready for the table is, of course, the reward – so I need to crack on and get them based now (and add a standard). In truth, I’m also intending to add a battalion gun and a grenadier company, but psychologically it’s important to tell myself the unit is ‘done’!

In the meantime, here are the newly raised Vantua Regiment who will soon be formed up in close order ready to march off to join their comrades in the (slowly) growing Medetian army.

 

 

The lighting isn’t great today as one of my spotlights has failed and it’s very dull outside!