Monday, 21 July 2014

Sudan - Getting There

After a slow start, the summer painting has picked up again, though the stuffy heat plays havoc with e paint. As you may recall, I'm trying to finish off a few bits and pieces to round out each force and top of the list was a third command base for the British. I've got a late September date pencilled in to put on some Sudan games, probably with a trial run in August. Time to get everything finished up in one final push.

Obligatory sepia shot

This galloping officer didn't to seem to suit being an infantry commander (unless he's leading his men away from the Mahdist charge...). So he's going to head up my cavalry brigade, being accompanied by a trooper of the 10th Hussars.

It's clearly been an equine month (have I mentioned that I dislike painting horses?!) as I also painted a horse holder stand for my mounted infantry in the Sudan.

Camels, who needs em? 

I'm not aware of a manufacturers that makes Sudan British horse holders, only camel holders, but mounted infantry were used. These are actually ECW horses from Warlord games, but I couldn't see anything particularly anachronistic on the baggage. The gap on the base is for a guard - turns out I don't have the mini that I was going to use, so I suppose a small Perry order will be going in fairly soon. Because I don't quite have the whole range...yet!

And finally, another piece of flavour terrain or Pulpy plot point - a small camp. They are from the Perry miniatures / Renedra tent sets. 

The smoking fire came out pretty well

Friday, 18 July 2014

Basing the Phyllion Way 2 - Custom Sabot Trays

I recently wrote up how I do my basing, but I've also been working away on some customs sabot trays. I've previously just bought Warbases sabot trays to vase my uhits up , as they are well priced and do the job perfectly well. But they don't do any 'mob trays' of a standard, square size. No doubt hey could do me some custom me ones, but inspired by a Captain Blood's fine work over on LAF, I thought I could make my own up.

Captain Blood's test piece - image used without permission from his post on Lead Adventure Forum

Despite following such a tough act , I think mine came out rather well:

To save me cutting the core bases, I turned back to Warbases and the largest size of their round cornered bases. For the holes, I turned to Jimbibbly of LAF (fine proprietor of Oshiro Modelterrain). He was only too happy to cut me some custom Perspex holes. Until I told him I wanted 120. But like a trooper, he delivered me these:

Then a flash of inspiration - My Mahdists are all bases on 2ps, many* of which are magnetic. With great foresight, I had also pilfered the spare 'save the date' fridge magnets that we sent out for my wedding last year. Magnetised trays it would be!

Cut to size:

Then just superglue the Perspex rings on: 10 to a base in as random a formation as I could make with the space. The white bits are off cuts of card, just to make the filler less thick on larger areas.

After that I just followed the same process as for basing my troops, starting with wood filler to smooth it all out.

Then slather with pva and sprinkle sand, allow to dry and repeat. To avoid the warping the thinner wooden bases warping as the pva dries, I clipped two back to back while drying - theory being the force on each should be pretty much the same so neither should wrap significantly. It seems to work (at other times I use the 'pile of books on too' technique - usually the wife's cookbooks!)

Coming along nicely

The first batch of nine after a good coating of scenic cement.

I'll explain the blank ones later. 

I've still got to paint them up, but I've run out of may 'terraining' emulsion colour of choice. They are perfectly useable for now.

All told, these took no longer than the work I already did on improving the standard Warbases sabots trays - sanding off the harsh edges, pva and sand, paint them up and flock/tuft. They are to my own specification, look a little less obtrusive being just a single layer of mdf and are magnetised to boot! Not a bad for few evenings of work over the World Cup, if I do say so myself. 

*only 2 pence pieces from the early 90s onwards are magnetic. It turns out a fair of my Mahdists are actually based on older ones - ah well! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Now for Something a Little Different: 15mm WWII

Are you sick of deserts yet? Yes, a brief interlude to normal service here as I've spent the last couple of weeks ploughing through a WWII platoon for Chain of Command.

I settled on US paras, finding a Flames of War box of Greatcoated paras at a ridiculous price on eBay - something like £8 with postage.

They were prepped months ago in time for the challenge last winter but the sat, undercoated and based on my painting table for months.  I undercoated them Army Painter Leather brown, serving as the colour of the greatcoats, intending to pick out details in the appropriate colour then given them a good wash of strong tone ink and a few highlights. Every so often I'd pick them up and start to pick out the details, but with 15mm being an unfamiliar scale I too often found that I'd just shove them away with barely any progress and return to the mound of  28mm minis. But I've had so much fun playing Chain of Command up at Wyvern Wargamers that i was gripped by the enthusiasm of pushing through and getting them finished.

This is the core US Parachute infantry platoon, assembled according to the CoC list:

Two infantry squads of junior leader, an M191A4 MG with three crew and a rifle squad of eight riflemen. While I've multi-based on FoW medium bases, junior leaders are mounted on UK pennies. They are well-led with two senior leaders, mounted on UK 2ps.

The platoon comes well supported with a 60mm mortar squad and a bazooka team. 

They are Elite, with 6 Command dice and are Aggressive troops - both very handy. They lack numbers though with just two squads (albeit of a fair size at 12 men), so will need to be carefully used. For elite troops, their platoon rating (which will help determine what support elements are available to an opponent) is surprisingly low at +1.

As I'm using multi-basing, I've made up some combined shock and casualty markers using Minibits dice holders.

Naturally, having a selection of support elements will come in handy. With a few small add-on purchases I've added two sniper teams, a Forward Observer and a third squad, this time of regular infantry with a BAR. This gives me a fair choice from lists three and four.

I think the third squad may be the basic 'go to' option as bulking out the platoon will come in very handy to have enough troops to seize and hold objectives.

And finally, armoured support. I settled on an M8 Greyhound armoured car. I had a lot of fun painting it, inspired by a recent trip to Bovington Tank Museum (where I took a few too many photos of tanks). I'm unfamiliar with painting vehicles, but enjoyed trying some weathering with sponge, powders and a gooey mud-paste, though that doesn't come out so well in these photos.

The markings are water slide transfers, I've not used these for years but found some appropriately sized ones that I think were meant for a 1:72 scale half track.

This is perhaps a first for me - an entire project done in one fell swoop! Here's hoping I can get them on to the table soon. With one project finished, might this open up enough space in the painting queue for another...?

Monday, 30 June 2014

Sudan Stocktake: The British

Like many of you, the summer has been playing havoc with hobby time, with the current football World Cup having me assembling minis in front of the choice games on TV. No bad thing really, I can do with a break every so often. I've been particularly enjoying building up some Perry Afrikakorps plastics, a lovely lovely boxed set that go together so well. I've also just finished a fairly sizeable project that have been cluttering the painting table for months - more to show on that once I've taken the camera out later in the week.

So, after a short interlude from this series to paint up a few more odds and ends, I can bring you Her Majesty's forces. The field force assembles:

The Artillery Park - screw gun and rocket trough

King's Royal Rifle Corps and Indian Infantry

The Naval brigade, Gardner gun and Royal Marine Light Infantry

The cavalry wing: 10th Hussars and Mounted Infantry

Miscellaneous civilians and hangers on. 

Not a bad force all in all - really pleased with how each and every unit has come out so far, these have definitely been some of my best painting for years. There are just two things I really must finish off: a third Command stand and a vignette of standing horses for the Mounted Infantry. The command stand is on the painting table now. Both being small bits, they should be done in no time (relatively), so I'm comfortable picking one of the next club nights to take it all up to Wyvern and put a game of Black Powder on. All this work and I'll finally get get it all out, full painted and based. Yay!

Of course, the lead mountain isn't empty: in the box to be assembled are another unit of British Infantry and one of Highlanders and a 7lb artillery piece. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the steamer - I've fun plans for that.

Plenty to be getting on with, though I might take a break from the Sudan soon to attend to some other projects. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Basing the Phyllion way - a Step by Step

A couple of people have commented on my basing for my Sudan collection and Belgian over on LAF asked if I could whip up a tutorial. I claim absolutely no expertise in the myriad ways that one might base miniatures - my method has evolved from very basic goblin green and flock of the 1990s into a rather  time-consuming process. But it works for me. 

First things, I always paint the bases first. I just cannot get on with doing things the other way around - I inevitably splatter the painted miniature in sand/glue/paint and get frustrated that they need a touch-up. I do acknowledge that others do wonderful things painting minis first and then basing them, particularly multi-based figures, vignettes or Impetus stands. I'll do it for gun crews or anything else where painting the miniatures unbased is a no-brainer, but not for the rank and file. This is one of the main reasons I use single basing and sabot trays for most of my forces.

This is my process, using some bases of animals to illustrate. Optional steps are marked with a '*'. 

Step 1 - Stick mini to the base

A bit of an obvious one. I use pva glue rather than superglue now, partly on Simon Miller's 'recommendation' and partly as my base sizes and shapes have evolved over the years, so the chances of me wanting to re-base things is fairly high. Superglue is the bane of rebasing. In fact, this chap is being requisitioned as a goatherd so is being re-based with his flock.

Wait a good few hours for the white glue to dry. 

Step 2 - A bit of filler*

I often lay down some filler to make a smoother gradient between the plastic/mdf base and miniatures' integral base. I've found this is particularly important when:
-the miniature has a particularly thick integral base
-I'm using a finer grade of sand, which I do for desert bases
-I've made a scenic or multi-layered base

This doesn't take long and if the miniature isn't painted, you don't need to worry too much about neatness - errors can just be nudged off with a scalpel. 
Leave to dry a few hours. 

Step 3 - Choose your sand

As well as using different base colours and foliage for different forces/collections and to represent different regions, I don't always use the same grade of sand. My current repertoire has two main mixed grades: 
-sieved sharp sand, dried out in the oven, with some small rocks from the sieved sand added (lower left)
-a medium hobby talus with some of the same small rocks added

My Sudan miniatures use a sprinkling of the medium talus but mostly the fine sand. For a temperate climate, I usually use the talus with just a little sand. 

I've also got a box of small rocks and a box of small pieces of washed garden slate, so I can manually add different kinds of rocks. 

Step 4 - Rocks and sprinkled talus 

Slather the base in white glue. Place rocks small or larger as  appropriate - I try to make sure 1 in 3 infantrymen and most larger bases have some on to add interest. Then take a pinch of the talus and sprinkle it on. I find this adds greater texture than just using sand and doing it in two stages ensures a good distribution. Just mixing the grades of sand would make the tub settle into layers and you wouldn't get the same end result.

Step 5 - Give it a dunk

Immediately after and while the white glue is still wet, dunk the base into the sand. Leave it in the tub for a few minutes so the glue can set a little. Then fish the base out and brush off any offending sand from the miniatures' feet and legs (the back of a scalpel is good for this) and run a finger around the base edge to give a nice even finish. Leave to dry fully.

Step 6 - Dunk it again*

Repeat step 5, particularly if here are any bare areas, or you skipped step 2 and the integral base is noticeable. Leave to dry.

Step 7 - Scenic cement*

This stuff has its critics, but I quite like it. I drop it on using a pipette to seal the sand together. I've found it works wonders at minimising the amount lost while painting. What I found infuriating before I added this stage was that if I was basing and painting something at the same time, my work area would get covered in loose sand. Using scenic cement means almost none comes off.

I've marked it optional as  you could just hide any bare areas with flock or tufts. 

Step 8 - Basecoat

The edges get a coat of white (an old GW Basecoat paint that I use for almost nothing else), particularly for minis based on 2ps. Then I do two coats of watered Vallejo Earth. Watering it down is essential to let it run into the crevices and two coats means you get a more consistent colour. These take a while to dry out fully

Step 9 - Highlights

After two highlights

Fully highlighted - alas the feet!

Highlights are Vallejo Earth mixed with Vallejo Buff - about 3 highlights all the way to buff. Dry brush these on, being sure to highlight between the minis' legs (no worries about mistakes - they usually aren't painted yet). I keep the lightest highlights around the edge of the base, to give a shadow effect under the miniatures. The grade of sand will be significant for the result - with finer sand you get a much lighter effect as the highlights are more prominent.

The final highlight, usually done last after the miniature is painted is buff with a touch of white added - doing it last tidies up any mistakes from painting the miniature.

Step 10 - Paint the miniature

Not covered by this tutorial!

Step 11 - Flock and Tufts

This is the go-to selection for my Sudan miniatures - three MiniNatur tufts in two sizes and three colours, plus some 'African grass' static grass from an eBay seller. The latter is a bit more savannah than dead grass that I wanted but adds a bit of colour so I've stuck with it.

Sudan being quite arid, I probably use too much static grass and tufts on the bases. But I find each minis needs something to set the base off. I tend to put 1-2 patches on each base, using a mixture of the above. I quite like adding tufts beside or on top of the static grass areas to soften them or use pairs of tufts together. Placement-wise, look for areas where there are mistakes (not enough sand or over-heavy highlights), or where plants might naturally grow - coming out beside rocks and crevices etc. Cavalry and other larger bases usually get 3 larger areas, each made up of multiple tufts or tufts on the static grass.

The Final Result

Here we are - a native goatherd and his flock:

Hopefully some of you have found this useful!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Operation Market Larden 2 (Part 2 - Verdun)

For my afternoon game at Operation Market Larden on Saturday, I had the opportunity to play Sidney Roundwood's outstanding Verdun 1916: Operation Gericht, its second outing after its debut at Partizan. I suspect I was quite fortunate to have responded to the survey quick enough to take one of the commands. I took on the role of Fahrnich Joachim Vogel, of the 157th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Fellow Wyvern regular Bob took Leutenant Ulrich Bek, with our Strosstruppen assaulting the French poilu commanded by Ralph and Paul.

Our briefing material contained an aerial reconnaissance image of the terrain facing us:

Our objective: capture the ruined village of Fleury at all costs, to open up the route to Fort Souville and shatter French resistance at Verdun. Clearing the forest of Le Bois de Guise was a minor objective. We settled on an unconventional plan to surge past Le Bois de Guise, hoping to make quicker time by circumventing any French defenders there. Sidney described this as 'bold', but I suspect he was being polite.

With two support options to choose, Bob and I took some German pioneers, concerned about French wire teams disrupting our rapid advance, and after much debate we settled on an inspiring speech to improve morale from the incessant privations of Verdun. This gave our troops a small advantage in close assault, until we lost an assault.

The daunting view from the German lines - surely our men would be too exposed?

The tense strosstruppen assemble in the cratered fields of Verdun.

As they surge forwards, French defenders pick out targets, the entrenched machine guns spitting fire. German gunners and granatenwerfer respond.

Our elite troops take no pause and surge forwards - to falter means death...

Right on time, the German artillery bombardment rains down...

...while our troops pass unscathed over the cratered landscape, relieved that the German gunners' aim is true. Could anything survive such a barrage?

As the lead infantry approach the French trenches, they pause. Men fall. Where are their commanders? While the German fire support has managed to neutralise one machinegun, SOS fire from the French soixante-quinze guns rains down over their heads. It is mercifully ineffective. Still, our brave Strosstruppen are taking murderous fire and the assault risks faltering at a critical moment.

Poilu pour forwards to reinforce the village - surely seizing this is too much to ask?

Relief! The pre-arranged German barrage recommences, with French gunners taking the best shelter they can from the savage bombardment.

This was our chance chance - Forwards! Forwards! Pioneers take the lead, with Ulrich Bek urging them on. Joachim Vogel follows, allowing no man to linger over this briefest opportunity.

The barrage lifts, dazed Poilu lifting themselves from the landscape - new craters piled on top of old. Are the assault troops close enough to engage the French can open up on them again?

Almost there - charge! The French counter-attack, hoping to fling the handful of surviving Strosstruppen back before they reach their objective. German stick grenades rain down and a fierce melee ensues.

Joachim Vogel rallies his men, desperately mustering a second wave, but is it too late in the day?

The brave Poilu waver and are flung back, pioneers surging forwards in their wake

Victory! Fleury is taken!

We gambled it all on taking the village and with (literally) the last turn of the card, by the skin of our teeth, the strosstruppen pulled it off. With dusk falling (and the pub calling), there is no time for a French counter-attack. They fall back and the route to Fort Souville is open.

All in all, one of the most exciting wargames I've played in many years, Sidney put on a stonking game. The visuals were made by his exceptionally painted collection of miniatures and oh so fittingly bleak terrain (with comment of the day being "grey on grey, a bit difficult to photograph really")

But what really made the day was the steady build-up of background information over the preceding week, the propaganda of the Zuricher Zeitung with the latest news from the front lines. Though it was a one-off game, Sidney managed to make it feel like the culmination of a campaign, with our pre-game decisions influenced by the propaganda he fed us. Those decisions of when to time the bombardment and how best to support our ragged troops directly influenced the outcome of the game. I could only have wished for more time to play through a French counter-attack - it seemed to cruel to have to end the French resistance so abruptly. Bravo Sidney anmd thanks once again to you and the Bob, Paul and Ralph who made the afternoon such an experience.

As for Fahnrich Joachim Vogel, survival and a modicum of fame in Weimar Berlin. Memories of those days in Verdun providing ample inspiration for bleak impressionistic works. At least something good came of his war, for a few years, at least...

Rolling your post-war years, one last neat touch