Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Painting Totals

This month saw me painting a few little units toward finishing some larger projects.

15mm Napoleonic Austrians, 88 infantry
28mm Gauls, 3 infantry
28mm El Cid Spanish, 8 infantry
28mm Marian Romans, 44 infantry

That makes for a total of 352 Scott Painting Points.

Next month I have a painting commission, and I'll probably dust off my 28mm Scots Covenanters.  I'll continue painting Marian Romans and Napoleonic Austrians.

It's nice not to have any real deadlines to paint to.  I'm enjoying a more eclectic painting mix.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Polished Bronze

I've received a few emails over the past year taking me to task for using gold paint on bronze metalwork, especially on the bronze helmets of my Roman legionaries and the bronze gun barrels on my Napoleonic artillery.

I'm no expert on ancient metallurgy, but I can do a google search as well as the next man.  A quick search for "polished bronze helmet" brought up this reproduction Roman helmet:

The image is from a German site that sells reproduction metal bits from Caesar's time.  That color looks pretty golden to me.  Just as a modern soldier spends time each day cleaning and oiling his weapon, I figure that any legionary worth his salt would keep his metal gear polished and oiled.

And here is a replica British cannon from the Napoleonic Wars.  This is a half sized replica sold by a company in Argentina.  Again, this polished bronze looks pretty gold in hue to me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HäT Industrie 28mm El Cid Spanish Heavy Infantry

I've been painting HaT's 1/72 figures as long as the company has existed.  I had a website devoted to reviews of plastic figures (it's still out there), and I was even one of the hemi-demi-semi-official painters for HaT.  If you look at the figures they released between 2000 and 2002, the sample painted figures are very often mine.

Eventually I gravitated to 15mm metals, then to 28s.  Still, I have boxes and boxes of the old plastic figures, and I sometimes paint up a few as a change of pace.  There are many things that I like about 1/72 plastics: the low cost, the easy availability, and above all the realistic proportions.  I dislike that the figures rarely rank up well into units, and as I started building armies rather than vignettes, the plastic figure boxes started collecting dust.

So it was with some curiosity, mixed with nostalgia, that I heard HaT was releasing hard plastic 28mm figures.  When Harris from HaT emailed and asked if I would like to paint some test shots, I jumped at the chance.

The first two 28mm sets HaT is releasing are El Cid's Spanish infantry.  I don't know the period well, but a quick visit to Gripping Beast's website gave me some painting inspiration.

Spanish Heavy Infantry

Here they are, based on 60mm x 20mm bases for WAB/FoG.  The sprue has one figure each of eight different poses.  Most of the figures have seperate weapons, and they all have seperate shields, but this is pretty common for 28mm figures.  These are not multipart kits like the Wargames Factory Romans I painted.  I ended up spending almost as much time building the WF figures as I did painting them, which was a bit of a pain.  I commend HaT for making attractive one piece figures.  You can see the sprue here.

If you remember my review of Wargames Factory's Romans, you'll recall that the figures did not fit well on the standard DBx/WAB/FoG base.  The HaT figures do just fit, although I had to shuffle them around a bit to keep them within 60mm.  You'll notice some overlaps in the photos above.

The HaT figures have some beautiful raised detail in their clothes, which makes the folds very easy to paint.  I just did a two tone paint job on the figures above, but the colors really jump out because of the strong relief.  The chain mail, on the other hand, was a little too shallow to take a drybrush well.  The sculptor could accentuate the mail a bit more and make a drybrush much easier.

The figures have all the strengths of their 1/72 counterparts.  They're inexpensive.  They should be readily available in hobby stores.  And their proportions are very good.  To most wargamers, especially those who game in 28mm, these HaT figures will look undersize.  But wargamers are used to 28mm figures with strangely thick anatomy.

Old Glory Roman and HaT Spaniard

The figure on the left (one of Old Glory's prepaints) is a pretty standard 28mm figure.  The HaT figure looks much smaller, doesn't it?  But look at the heights of the two figures. Go ahead and scroll down so that the tops of the heads just touch the top of your computer screen.  You'll see that they're almost exactly the same height.  Both figures are on Litko 1.8mm bases, but the Old Glory figure has a slightly higher metal bottom, so the HaT figure is even slightly taller than the Old Glory.

The ruler's measurement begins right at the top of the Litko base.  Again you can see that the figures are roughly the same height.

My first impression on viewing the HaT 28mm sprue was that the HaT figures were not much bigger than their earlier 1/72 figures.  A side by side comparison quickly shows that's not the case, however.

The Carthaginian spearman measures 22mm from toe to eye, while the spanish infantryman measures 29mm.

I'm interested to see where HaT goes with this new line.  Their 28mm figures will not match any existing 28mm range.  The HaT proportions are clearly superior, but they're also clearly different.  Will wargamers like these new figures enough to build whole armies from HaT figures?  Will HaT release enough troop types to make that feasible?  Remember that the reason I moved to metal figures was because the metals ranked up to look like units.  Harris wrote that HaT's 28mm Napoleonic sets will consist mainly of marching poses.

If HaT can release 28mm plastic figures with all the strengths of their 1/72 sets and none of the weaknesses, I can easily see myself building large armies from those figures.  So this set may foreshadow great things.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Last of the 15mm AWI British

Having covered the infantry in three posts, I'll wrap up the cavalry, artillery, and generals in this last.

Minifigs Light Dragoons

The Minifigs riders are very nice, but the horse poses are a little odd.

Minifigs Artillery

I really like the Minifigs crew.  The poses are animated and varied, just the opposite of their infantry poses.

Old Glory Burgoyne and staff

These are from the "AWI Personalities" pack.  The standard bearer is a Minifigs grenadier.

Minifigs British Officers

Again we get beautiful figures and odd horses.  The mounted officers do have a nice variety of pose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Austrian Infantry

1st Division, III Corps

Here's the latest from the painting bench, 88 Autrian line infantrymen. I finished these about a week and a half ago.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Historical Gaming Club: Caesar in Gaul

The historical gaming club met on Saturday for another Warhammer Ancient Battles game, this time pitting 1000 points of Marian Romans against the same strength of Gauls.  Seven students came to the game, but we only had room for four commanders, so we ended up playing two seperate games.  I provided the figures.

1st Game Gallic Commanders: Matt and Josh

1st Game Roman Commanders: Sam and Caleb

Romans Advance the Skirmishers

Gallic Cavalry Charges the Numidian Horse

Gallic Battle Line Advances

Roman Battle Line Moves to Engage

Gallic Cavalry Destroys the Numidians

Roman Infantry Try to Shore up the Flank

Gallic Cavalry Break and Run

Gallic Infantry Charge Roman Skirmishers!

Gauls Destroy the Roman Right, Sweep into Roman Rear

Gallic Veterans Lap around Roman Legionaries

Gallic Infantry Break the Roman Left

The first game resulted in a resounding Gallic victory.  The Gauls used their weight of numbers to crush the Roman left flank.  Some astonishingly unlucky Roman dice rolls resulted in the complete destruction of their line.

Game 2 Gallic Commanders: Jonah and Parker

Clash of Infantry in the Center

Roman Legionaries v. Gallic Warriors

The Romans Start to Break

The Roman Line Collapses

I often read how hard it is to win with barbarian armies.  That hasn't been our experience.

The individual barbarian warrior has the exact same combat stats as a Roman legionary.  He has a saving roll of 6, while the Roman saves on a 4, 5, or 6.  The Romans fight their first two ranks if they're charging, but since the barbarian warrior's charge range is 10" and the Roman legionary's only 8", the barbarians should be able to negate that advantage every time.  The warrior costs 5 points; the legionary costs 16!  The legionary just is not three times as effective as his counterpart.  They're very nearly equal.

The result is that a 1000 point Roman army has 48 legionaries.  A 1000 point barbarian army has 100 warriors.  The Romans don't stand much of a chance.

Now consider that the Roman skirmishers, armed with javelins with an effective range of 4", cost 6 points each.  The barbarian slingers, with an effective range of 9", cost only 5 points each.  In both our games, the barbarians won the skirmish battle rather easily and inflicted real damage on the Roman main line.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Painting Gaming Miniatures with Craft Paints

I've received about a dozen emails asking for a post that details my painting technique, and four of those have specifically asked me to address the use of craft paints.  I'm happy to lift the curtain and show you how the trick is done.

Before I start, I have a disclaimer to make.  I know my limitations as a painter better than anyone.  I've never had any success--any--with using washes.  I tend to use the paint straight out of the bottle, not thinning it a bit, so that my figures can look a little puffy in areas.  So I'm no Kevin Dallimore.  I've won painting awards, but I understand that I did not win those for the excellence of any individual figure.  I won those awards because of the quality of the army paint job.  And that's my strength.  I can do a pretty good paint job, and I can crank it out over and over again in very little time.  If you're looking for the very best painting technique, look elsewhere.

Of course, if you're looking for the very best painting technique, you should probably be painting 200mm figures or 1/4 busts, not wargaming armies.  My technique will let you field large, well painted armies.

I don't have a hobby store nearby, and I don't fancy ordering hobby paints through the mail.  I've had bad experiences doing so, where the shade I got wasn't even close to what I thought I was getting.  And at $4 a pop, a few of those mistakes each order add up.  I buy all my paints and brushes at two stores: Michael's and The Creative Element (a local art supply store).  For those of you outside the US, Michaels is a craft store, and it carries a wide variety of items: scrapbook supplies, artificial flowers, art supplies, woodworking supplies, home decor, art prints, and fabrics.  It's not a hobby store at all.  They have a couple shelves of cheap models, and that's about it.  But they do have an entire aisle of craft paints.

I try to buy Delta Ceramcoats whenever I can.  The other brands are cheaper, but in general the paints don't have as much pigment in them.  Some of their shades, however, are very nice.  I included the paint bottle I used for each step in the photographs below.

The figure we'll use as our exemplar is a Foundry Marian Roman legionary.  Romans are one of the easiest figures for me to paint, and one of the quickest.  This entire paint job, including breaks at each step to photograph the miniature, took only 40 minutes.  Without photo breaks, and using an assembly line approach, I can cut that time in half.

Step 1: Priming

I base the cleaned figure on a popsicle stick, three figures to each stick.  I prime the figures with Rustoleum's flat black enamel spray paint.  I've tried Gesso, but it leaves too much bare metal in recessed areas.

Step 2: Silver Drybrush

I haven't ever found a good acrylic silver or gold paint, so I use the little $.99 Testor's enamels.  You might remember these from the models you built when you were a kid.  I use a broad, flat brush for the drybrushing, and I don't keep it very neat.  Anything that gets mistakenly painted silver will be covered by other paint soon enough.

Step 3: Brown Basecoat

The sandals, pilum shaft, sword grip, and helmet get an undercoat in Brown Iron Oxide, a very useful paint.  All of these will get highlights in other colors, but the brown undercoat provides a nice base.  I've switched over to a 000 fine point paintbrush for most of the work that follows.

Step 3: Red Basecoat

The tunic gets a Cinnamon undercoat.  Again, this is a very useful color.  I use it for all my reds.  Cinnamon is a sort of reddish brown or browninsh red.

Step 4: Leatherwork

I use Autumn Brown as my main leather color most of the time.  I used my broad, flat brush to drybrush the sandals, and I used the 000 fine point brush to pick out the leather bands on the chainmail and the leather bits on the sword scabbard.  Autumn Brown is not as well pigmented as some other colors and goes on a bit translucent, so I tend to use a large amount of it.

Step 5: Wood Grain and Sword Grip Highlights

I paint the fiddly details with a 10/0 fine point brush.  This particular brush is almost at the end of its life, but it still has some use left.  I use Territorial Biege (a tough color to find) to paint the grain of the wood and to pick out the leather grips on the sword.

Step 6: Gold Drybrush

I go back to Testors enamel paint for the bronze helmet.  Sometimes I paint the detail with a fine brush, which gives the helmet a nice gleam.  I want my legionaries to look a little more worn by active campaigning, so I used my broad, flat brush to drybrush the gold.  Here I am very careful not to get gold on the shoudlers or pilum head, but I don't mind getting some on the face.

Step 7: Flesh Basecoat

There are three different shades I use for the flesh basecoat: Dark Flesh, Cayenne, or a shade I mix myself from Dark Brown, Territorial Beige, and Medium Flesh.  None of these shades covers the black very well, so I really glop the paint on.  It takes a while to dry, but it does cover the primer pretty well.

Step 8: Tunic Medium Coat

The Cinnamon tunic now gets its first highlight.  I use Red Iron Oxide for my Romans, leaving Cinnamon showing only in the crevices of the tunic folds.

Step 9: Flesh Medium Coat

I use Medium Flesh as my main flesh tone.  It's quite a bit darker than the Fleshtone paint, and it works very well for wargame figures.  I start with the face, then do hands and arms, then paint the legs, then pick out the toes.  By the time this step is done, the figure really is ready for the wargame table.  But for this demonstration, I'm going to add three more shades to really make the figure pop.

Step 10: Leather Helmet Strap

This figure has a strap extending from his cheek guards to the back of the helmet.  I paint the strap with Brown Iron Oxide and highlight it with Territorial Biege.

Step 11: Flesh Highlights

This is really an optional step, but I'm starting to use it more and more on my figures.  It doesn't take much time, and it helps the flesh to pop.  For this Roman, who is showing quite a bit of flesh, it's an easy way to improve the figure's appearance.  I use my 10/0 brush and dab a little Fleshtone on the tip of the nose, the chin, the knuckles, the toenails, and the centers of my Medium Flesh.

Step 12: Mixing the Tunic Highlight

As I wrote earlier, Romans are prett easy for me to paint.  One reason is that their uniforms are not very ornate.  Another is that they acutually have uniforms.  I can set up my assembly line and crank them out without changing paints too often.  But a third reason is that I have all the shades I need ready at hand.  This isn't the case with every army.  Often I have to mix my own colors by adding a little black or white to another color.  For Romans, I only have to do this with the tunic highlight.

I take the dab of Red Iron Oxide left from the tunic midshade and add a tiny drop of white.  I want the tunic to look faded, not pink!  I use a toothpick to stir the paints together.

Step 13: Tunic Highlights

Using my 10/0 brush, I pick out the very top areas of the tunic folds.  I use this color very sparingly.  It's easy to overdo this, and the result is a pastel tunic.  We want to avoid that.  It makes the warlike Romans look strangely effeminate, and we don't want the ghosts of legionaries past to haunt our die rolls.

Step 14: Painting the Base

I'm going to flock the bases, so I don't need to do too much here.  I slap on a little Dark Brown and call it good.

Finished Figure

So here is the result of 40 minutes' work.  Again, without photography breaks, and by painting 60-100 figures at once, I can average about three of these per hour.  That doesn't include prep time, of course, nor flocking and texturing the bases, but I can field a well painted army very quickly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

15mm Revolutionary War British Line Infantry

The line infantry make up the bulk of my AWI British army, with ten of the fifteen close order infantry units.  Eight of my line infantry regiments are Minifigs.  The other two are Jeff Valent.

Minifigs British Line

The Minifigs are very attractive figures, although I would have prefered a marching pose.  The muskets are held far in front of the body and at a slight angle, making the figures difficult to rank up.  Each figure wears a backpack, and I carefully painted the regiment numbers in Roman numerals.

Jeff Valent British Line Advancing

Jeff Valent British Line Firing

The Jeff Valent British infantry come in two poses, and both are good.  The advancing figures hold their muskets more across their bodies, making them easier to rank up.  I really like the firing poses.  Something about the soldiers' stances make them seem very realistic to me.

The only thing I don't like about the Jeff Valent line are the cast flags.  They're a bear to paint, and I don't think they look as good as the paper flags.