Saturday, 28 March 2020

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 7: Faces

Faces: Visible from 15" at a low angle.
When it came to adding detail to these 6mm Thirty Years War figures, I had to think long and hard about the painting sequence. After horse flesh the most prominent features are hats and other headgear, but these are easy to access and best left till later. There is, therefore, some tension between wanting to cover the most prominent features and needing to paint the more awkward areas first.

My friend Ian had already established to my satisfaction that it wasn't worth painting hands on 6mm figures. I thought I might take this a stage further and dodge painting faces. As an experiment I painted - well, dabbed - faces on a couple of blocks as as experiment and then placed these at various 'tabletop' distances to see what could actually be seen.

At a distance the faces did show as specs of lightness, but close up they didn't show because with the higher viewing angle the faces were obscured by the broad-brimmed hats. How ironic!

Anyway, I decided I would paint faces where I could. The figures fell into three categories:
  • Cuirassiers, Lobster-pot wearers, Horse trumpeters and Foot 'shooters' either didn't have faces or enough exposed face to be painted.
  • The front-rank pike-and-shot block figures got faces but the rear ranks were inaccessible. That reflected the limitation of basing before painting and cramming the figures together. Many will consider this unacceptable, but I expect the hats and other headgear will detract from the omission and that it will not be detectable at normal playing distance.
  • Other Horse, Dragoons and Artillerymen did get faces.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 6: The horses

Not Thiry Years War and not 6mm, but indicative
of what actually shows up in smaller scales.
Since last Monday 'social distancing' has restricted outdoor activity to walks with the dog and provided an unprecedented opportunity for painting. Last month was 1798, this month it's the Thirty Years War.

I've now started to paint the actual figures, but rather than show you that straight away I'd like you to look at the picture (right) of my 10mm American Civil War figures.

This photo was taken during a game and shows what figure detail is actually visible. In fact, the photo is a bit of a close-up so please sit back.

What you can see is little more than the ground around the figures and  their hats. Some other bits do show up but only if they are very light and contrast with the dark brown. For my 6mm TYW figure blocks I am taking this lesson further by committing myself to painting only the bits that will show up.

The main purpose of adding any further paint is not to indulge the individual figures as would be the case with larger scales and other approaches, but just to contrast with and lighten each figure block as a whole.

The other thing to point out is that there is no preconceived end point. I will add paint/detail only until the blocks 'look painted' from a distance. I must also keep in mind that 6mm figures require much lighter and brighter colours in any event, and this is particularly so with the dark brown background approach.

Now let's look at some 6mm TYW figures. I'm prioritising the horses because after the ground the horses represent the largest and most significant area of paint.

Swedish Horse: the chestnuts are painted with Coat d'Arms Chestnut Horse Tone brightened with Burnt Orange. The brush shown is a Number 1 size but it's too small and requires too many dabs. I subsequently switched to a Number 3.

Without making it too obvious, I thought I'd also use horse colours to further distinguish the three types of horse, i.e. Cuirassiers, (Swedish) Horsemen and Arquebusiers. The photo above shows the Swedish Horse with some Chestnuts added. This was inspired by the Swedish folk art Dala horse toys.

The Cuirassiers will have a lot of dark armour so I decided to paint them in light colours (Greys, Light Bays) for contrast. The Arquebusiers would be fairly colourful so they were to retain the basic Charred Brown coat representing Dark Bays.This plan was somewhat modified.

I had originally intended to leave most horses in the dark brown base coat but as painting proceeded I realised that the blocks looked better if all the horses were overpainted with lighter colours.

The Coat d'Arms horse tone colours are all a bit on the dark side and need lightening for this particular project. Simply adding white is not necessarily the answer. I should research this question properly but the quickest solution is to imagine what a lighter version would look like and then pick a ready-made colour that matches that perception.

All horse colours completed and the sun is shining.

All the horseflesh is now picked out but the blocks still look too dark. I am thus relying on coats, armour and headgear to add further brightness.

On the plus side I should point out that at this scale and using this overall technique, each individual horse needed only one colour. Apart from the flank figures, the front rank required only head, front legs and the top of the back to be painted. The rear rank required paint only on the head and hind-quarters.

This was very economical in terms of time and effort, though I do confess that at my age it's quite difficult to see the detail on such small figures and this has made me wonder whether I should do another 6mm army. I do have a magnifying glass...perhaps I should try to use it.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Preparing to play 'Tilly’s Very Bad Day'

I was planning to play Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the first time later this month, but that prospect has receded into the distant future thanks to the rapid spread of Covid-19 and the impending great lockdown. Most people seem to have already gone into voluntary isolation here in the UK. Ticking one of the vulnerable boxes (age) I have also begun to become more cautious.

Anyway, remaining calm and carrying on, I've made a checklist of things to take. Simon Jones has a great scheme for organising playing aids but I haven’t got round to that yet.

The 6mm figure bases are currently being painted and will need to be stripped from their painting bases if they are not finished, but what else will I actually need?

Mat. I'm planning a small game initially. A 3' mat would be ideal for 60mm base frontages but the nearest I currently have is 4' square. I have, however, ordered a 3' one and it should be here long before the end of the Coronavirus crisis.

Scenery. Little of my scenery conforms exactly to the measurements for Small, Medium (the default) and Large pieces as defined in the rules, but I think they are near enough. I have a BUA, hill, woods, an enclosed field, physically flat fields masquerading as fields in season, areas of rough ground, felt templates and trees for woods, streams, roads and, should I care to deploy it, a river.

Measures. I've made some card rulers going up to 8 TUM (240mm in my case) which cover movement and small-arms shooting. As artillery range is unlimited, tape measures don't seem to be needed.

Cardboard Markers. Artwork is very usefully provided in the rules.

Cotton Wool to show units that have fired/moved. Almost forgot that.

Dice. At least three different colours required. 6 of each for each player should cover it.

The Rules. Two printed copies.

QRS. None as yet. I'll get a better idea if one would be useful after playing.

This translates as:

3 TUFF boxes of TYW figures
1 Mat (3' x 3')
6mm Scenery
TUM Rulers
Cardboard Markers
Cotton Wool
TVBD Rules

Perhaps a 'what-you-need-to-play' section would be useful in the rules themselves.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Rebels and Patriots 1798 game: Capture the plans

This was a first outing for my part-painted 1798 Irish Rebellion forces. I improvised a variant of Scenario A: First Clash At Lament Ridge which I called Capture the Plans:

An informer has alerted Government forces that secret plans for a French invasion are buried under a cottage floor. Players gain 3 Honour if they are occupying the cottage with an infantry unit at game end. Game is at least 10 turns. Thereafter throw D6 at beginning of each turn. If D6 >= 4, that is the last turn. Use character traits for Captains. Deploy in 9" zones one unit at a time starting with the Defender. Attacker activates first in each game turn.

The scenery needed careful definition:
  • The road is aesthetic only.
  • The cottage is Hard Cover and cannot be targeted by long-range cannon fire. It is enterable only by the door and has a capacity of one foot unit. To enter a unit moves up to door with one move and takes another to go inside. Shooting only via long faces with a 45 degree arc of fire. Attacking only via the door side.
  • Stone walls are Hard Cover but do not obscure LoS.
  • Hedges are Cover and block LoS. Units next to them can see and be seen through them.
  • The Wood is Cover. Units can see into or out of them but units outside them cannot see through them, i.e. they block LOS to units outside them.
I positioned the cottage nearer to the Rebel start line because I feared they would be shot to pieces. Things turned out rather differently.

The Companies were as follows:

12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
12 Pike/Shot Line Infantry Aggressive Poor Shots Green 3
6 Shelmaliers Skirmishers Sharpshooters 6

12 Militia Line Infantry Green 3
12 Militia Line Infantry Green 3
6 Light Infantry Small 5
6 Grenadiers Shock Infantry Small 5
6 Yeomanry Light Cavalry 4
1 6pdr +4 crew Light Gun 4

I commanded the Government forces while Bernard and Chris took control of the United Irishmen. Sometimes it’s an advantage not to have a collective command, but in the event my combined opponents played much better than I did. The Rebel Captain was with one of the pike units. I placed mine with the Yeomanry.

Crown Forces: Line, Lights, Grenadiers, Gun, Line and Yeomen Cavalry. The cannon had little potential for fields of fire that would not be blocked by my own advance so I placed it on the road. Rebels: Pike-and-shot units as shown. Shelmaliers initially on road.

Very early in the game I suffered a friendly fire incident (double 1 on Activation) when my left-hand Line unit fired on my Lights inflicting a casualty (above). My opponents found this very amusing! Worse was to come...

The Rebel Sharpshooters took up position behind the wall next to the cottage. With a 24" range, and hitting on 4-6 they began an intimidating fire on my Grenadiers and Lights. Cotton-wool denotes a unit that has had its First Fire.

Galled by the Rebel sharpshooters I decided to move around the other side of the cottage. It would be a long way round but seemed the best option. On my right the Line unit lining the hedge began to take its toll of the Rebel unit lining the hedge directly opposite it.

The Light Infantry and Grenadiers, both weakened, moved into the shelter of the dead ground provided by the end wall of the cottage.

The cannon proved completely ineffective though this was partly due to forgetting that artillery reduces Hard Cover to Cover.

On seeing a friendly unit rout, the Rebel General's unit, which was occupying the objective, retreated out of it! Result! This would give the Rebels a draw rather than a win.

View from the flank. I was bringing quite a lot of fire to bear but it was a bit of a sideshow. The Rebel sharpshooters had also moved round to the flank.

Aware of the Rebel unit crossing the field to my right, I moved the gun up to the hedge to get a crack at it but the pikes charged me causing a rout! We were unsure how to resolve this. We decided to move the crew away leaving the gun in place. I'm not sure that is correct and have not been able to find any further explanation in the rules.

While the Rebel General's unit remained exposed outside the cottage I decided to commit the Yeomanry but they declined to charge three times despite being accompanied by the Captain.

Even more significantly, the Rebel Captain's unit reoccupied the cottage at which point I gave up though the game was almost over anyway and a clear win for Bernard and Chris.

I didn’t play at all well. I think the mixture of infantry, cavalry and artillery confused my options, the large amount of cover shielded the Rebels and prevented me from bringing my superior firepower to bear, and the Rebel sharpshooters were particularly decisive.

I lost the game but I was pleased with how the 1798 project looked and played. It captured period flavour and made the game sufficiently different  from other R&P games (AWI and ACW) to make the project worthwhile. I had feared the Rebels would be shot to pieces before closing but this didn't happen so indications are that the game is reasonably balanced. I had always wanted to do this war. Rampant games sizes made it possible.

Painting Pledge

All of my current projects involve basing-before-painting and playing with unfinished figures, but I have pledged myself to do more painting before a given army puts in another public appearance. However, this is the first time these 1798 forces have been used so there is no additional painting to draw your attention to. I will be adding a 'Painting Pledge' note to all battle reports until figures are finished.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Washes and Shades 1

Some textured card used to test washes.
It's been a while since I last completed an army of 28mm figures using a wash technique so it was time to think it through again. I don't have any coloured inks or dedicated colour washes. I do have a lot of different acrylic paints so that is what I’m using.

I've previously washed figures using a simple mix of acrylic paint and water. This time I wanted to get more contrast, so decided to mix the solutions more carefully and to experiment with adding detergent (dish soap) to reduce water resistance and improve flow. Isopropyl has also been mentioned as an ingredient but as it's used to strip acrylic paint I think I'll give that a miss. Another trick I wanted to try was to wet each figure with water before applying the wash.

The figures I'm working on are my 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for Rebels and Patriots. I want the Government forces to look uniform but I want the Rebels to look '40 shades of grey-brown' so they are an ideal subject for experimentation without running the risk of ruining anything. I therefore started on the Rebels.

Most historical peasant clothing was dyed grey but faded to brown. Various browns, grey-browns and greys will therefore feature as my principal wash colours.

It's a long way down the line but I will also be altering my finishing process. The provisional plan is:
  1. Spray gloss varnish.
  2. Wash with an ink stain or shade.
  3. [Highlight if necessary but hopefully not.]
  4. Add PVA builders’ sand, talus, static grass and tufts.
  5. Spray with Dullcote.
  6. Add flags.
The gloss varnish will again help the final shade to run off the raised surfaces and congregate in the crevices.

The figures had all been primed with white gesso. The washes are intended to be a one pass application of the main clothing colour, though other washes and block painting will be added for variation.

The washes were mixed in varying proportions depending on individual paints but they were basically about 1 part paint to 5 or 6 parts water and one drop of washing-up liquid.

This is what I noticed as I went along but I will be saying more in conclusion.
  1. Basically the constituency needs to be more like a watercolour than an acrylic.
  2. The detergent did break down water resistance and help the wash to spread but it took time to convince me. Use too much, however, and the wash bubbles and the paint gathers in arbitrary patches rather than running into the crevices.
  3. I tried wetting figures first as some recommend, but the effect was too extreme. It diluted the paint too much and created an overall very bland finish.
  4. Washes need to be put on pretty liberally. If you try to be sparing you end up covering the figure too evenly.

Group 1 - Coat d'arms 208 Wood Brown

Group 2 - Vallejo 160 Neutral Grey

The grey looked too neutral, so I added the remnants from the first wash.

Group 3 - Cda 501 British Khaki

Group 4 - Cda 537 Faded Khaki

Group 5 - Cda 519 Mid Stone

Group 6 - Vallejo 983 Flat Earth

Darker colours such as this provide better contrast and make the wash approach more effective. 

Group 7 - Cda 208 Grass Green

This was the first group of figures wearing uniform coats. At this stage they looked like exotic frogs…

Group 8 - Cda 110 Royal Blue

Group 9 - Cda 110 Royal Blue + Vallejo 154 Sky Grey

The gun needed finishing in a 'leaden blue' so I added some grey to the remnant of the Royal Blue.

Group 10 - Cda 238 British Scarlet replaced by CdA 146 Ruby Red

This was the most important group, the most challenging and the least satisfactory. Cda 238 British Scarlet covers poorly when block painting and made a very uneven wash so after a few figures I decided to wash it off and start again. My paint collection is quite old. I've been told that it may not be the age of the paint so much the age of the paint forumula. I then switched to Cda 146 Ruby Red but the figures still came up a sickly pink.

I was happy with the brown, grey-brown and grey washes for civilian clothes but I wasn’t confident that the final stain would make the uniform coats look right. The green was too vibrant, the blue was too grey and the red was shockingly pink.

I tried another wash of a slightly darker red on the redcoats. This reddened the pink a little but it also flattened the shade effect. Even Mrs Phalanx made a passing comment about how awful they looked.

Somewhat discouraged I put the redcoats aside and put a dark but very dilute wash of Cda 521 Army Green on the greencoats. This worked well. It toned down the luminous green but still left a lot of contrast. The figure on the left has been rewashed.

I made a similar improvement to the bluecoats using some cheap Navy Blue hobby acrylic. The figure on the left has been rewashed.

Encouraged by these successes I made a thin wash of Cda 509 Brick Red. Here the figure on the right is the one that has been rewashed. This toned down the pink and restored a shading effect, but they still don’t look quite right. Once the facings and cross straps have been painted in a lot less red will be showing. After the final staining I may have to touch up the red with a more appropriate colour. Time will tell.

These secondary washes on the figures in uniform coats pre-empt the role of the final stain but the figures do look better. Having to do a second wash is contrary to my central principle of economy of effort but it's still quicker and easier than a dark to light approach using two or three tones solidly applied.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Reflection No 1: Getting in Sync

I may yet have some 'rants' to deliver, but the idea of a rant is too  aggressive for many of my thoughts, so I'm pitching this as a 'reflection'.

Like most wargamers, I'm a serial obsessionalist. I'm happiest when concentrating on one thing and totally submerging myself in it, but then I'm also easily bored and likely to flit to something else! Finding the right balance is a perpetual challenge.

This year I've planned for a limited set of areas and a close integration between what I'm painting and what I'm playing. As I'm basing-before-painting and using-while-painting I'm well placed to do this. (I'm committed to adding more paint before an army is used again so I have to slip the figures on and off painting bases, but that's no great burden.)

I typically play two games a month so the idea is to spend the preceding fortnight working on the armies I intend to use in my next game. Devotion to theme doesn't stop at modelling or swatting up on rules, but may extend to what I read or watch or listen to.This will not only 'feel right' but give me a big incentive actually to do some painting. At the moment I'm focusing on my 1798 figures and the strategy is working.

This approach is much better than the one that involves months of painting before you can play a game with the inevitable loss of interest before an army is finished. I have the semi-painted lead mountain to prove it.

It's a little unusual to write about process rather than models or games, but it's actually fundamental to the whole pursuit.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Chain of Command: My 1944 Ardennes Platoons and Supports

These are my 28mm 1944 Ardennes Campaign German Volksgrenadier and US Army platoons for Chain of Command.

Volksgrenadiers and Supports.
The Volksgrenadier platoon consists of two Sturm (Assault Rifle) and one LMG squad. The Sturm squads have a Junior Leader and comprise a single Team. The LMG squad has a Junior Leader and two teams, one with an additional riflemen.

There is also an HQ team of three men armed with KARs and Rifle-Grenades. At this late stage of the war, following losses on the Eastern Front, there is only one Senior Leader but another can be purchased from the Supports List and looks like a must.

Other supports shown in the photo include a Pak 40 anti-tank gun (centre), a tripod-mounted HMG, Panzerschreck teams, and snipers. I also have a Black Tree Infantry Gun on order, but am having difficulties getting a response from the company.

The models are all metal apart from the Pak 40 which is a resin piece from Blitzkrieg Miniatures.

US Army and Supports.
The US platoon has three Rifle Squads. Each squad has a Junior Leader (square base), a Rifle Team and two BAR teams. The second BAR is actually a 1-point Support upgrade. I will probably field each Squad as two teams with a BAR in each.

The figures with oblong bases are Senior Leaders. To their right is a Bazooka Team. The Supports include an anti-tank gun, mortar, snipers, a 32mm Browning (needs some additional figures), some more Bazooka Teams and Medical Orderlies. I don't know how many of these extras I'll atually need. They're just the figures I bought twelve years ago.

The original figures were Artisan and Bolt Action but I've recently added a few Empress Miniatures and others. Crewed weapons in CoC typically require 4-5 crew which is more than manufactureres usually supply. I'm therefore always on the lookout for suitable extras, e.g. ammo carriers.

1/50 scale Corgi diecasts. At least I don't have to paint them.
Using 1/50 (or 1/48) vehicles instead of 1/56 vehicles is controversial. Readers will note that the figures are mounted on rather high bases. This is all to do with the AFVs, an issue I’ll be addressing in another post.

Friday, 7 February 2020

My 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for 'Rebels and Patriots'

These are my 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for Rebels and Patriots. I’ve been buying them from North Star using my monthly Wargames Illustrated discount. All the figures are Trent Miniatures. They have great character and required only minimal cleaning up.

United Irishmen. The units are a mixture of pikemen and gunmen. The skirmishers (bottom left) are Shelmaliers. The command figures (bottom centre) will be put into one of the pike units. The remaining figures (bottom right) are spares for different configurations.

There are no silly cast pikes but no open hands either, so the hands had to be drilled. I started with a pin vice but the metal was quite hard so I dug out my old modelling drill and upgraded the power unit from 9v to 12v.

It’s some time since I’ve used this so I had to decide on technique:

1. Start the hole with a pin vice hand drill which is more controllable than the electric drill. Once the hole is started you can get a purchase with the latter. If going through two hands, start each one with the pin vice.

2. Don’t just drill. It will jam. Keep pulling it out and pushing it back in again. This doesn't seem to happen with the pin vice.

3. Avoid letting the drill slip under a finger nail - it's uncomfortable and may cause delay.

The figures came with sharp wire pikes. I shortened these to 60mm to represent Irish half-pikes.

Irish Militia etc comprising two units of Line Infantry (centre row), Grenadiers (bottom left),  Light Infantry (bottom right), Yeoman Cavalry (at the back) and Artillery. The mounted Captain (next to the gun) replaces an ordinary figure in whichever unit he is put with.

The Crown troops required a lot less work. Many of the Militia (and Rebels) came with separate heads. This provides good variation for the Rebels but less so for the Militia. The Militia heads can be angled a little differently, but only up to a point.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 5: drybrushing the bases

I had to patch the basic dark brown coat twice as a result of my mistake in using a white gesso undercoat instead of a black one. I am repeating this as a penance and to sear it into my brain for next time. White undercoats are appropriate for figures that are going to be painted with washes but not for block painting.

The next step was to dry-brush the ground, avoiding the figures as far as possible. The recipe - in fact the whole base-before-painting approach - came originally from Nik Harwood and is executed with successive applications of the following Citadel colours: (1) Mournfang Brown (formerly Calthan Brown), (2) Zamesi Desert (formerly Bubonic Brown), and (3) Ushabti Bone (formerly Bleached Bone).

The Mournfang Brown barely shows but it’s probably important in achieving the overall effect. Owing to the closeness of the figures I'm applying the dry brushing only to the outer rim of these figure blocks.
I assume these names mean something in the Games Workshop universe. I was helped in tracing the name changes by this very useful colour chart.

The Zamesi Desert is a strong mustard colour up close but after applying it the bases then look sort of greenish from a distance.
Using four colours just for the ground may seem excessive but the ground is going to be the most important area after the dark brown shadow between the ranks of figures. Lightening the ground makes a major contribution towards lightening the whole figure block.

Finally, the Ushabti Bone lightens the overall effect. The Croat Light Cavalry, the Dragoons (above), the Cannons and the Commanders are looser and require some paint between the figures.
With this amount of dry brushing to do I'm not being particularly careful. I'll be adding patches of 2mm Static Grass later in the process and this will cover any unsightly 'splodges'.

With this stage done I think the bases are already beginning to suggest how economical and effective this ultra-minimal approach is going to be.