Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December Painting Totals, 2008 Retrospective

Even with all the holiday activities, I still finished quite a few figures this month.  Here are the totals:

15mm Republican Romans, 137 foot, 27 mounted
28mm Republican Romans, 18 foot
28mm Macedonians, 20 foot
15mm Napoleonic French, 24 foot

That's 437 Scott Painting Points worth of figures.

And so 2008 ends.  I got a lot of gaming in this year, much more than in previous years.  My regular gaming group has stuck pretty closely to our schedule of one game a month.  We started adding smaller games to our painting nights as well, so that we probably played about 15 games this year.  My school club plays once a month.  I hosted two games at our local convention and played in two more.  All told, I probably played in or hosted 40 games this year, which makes it my busiest gaming year yet.

But my painting pace fell way off this year.  I had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands in February, and it kept me from painting for two months.  Even after my casts came off, I still struggled to hold a brush for long periods of time.  I have not yet regained my former speed.  The birth of my first child, while a source of personal joy, definitely cuts into my painting time!

It has been a good year for gaming friendships.  Our little gaming group of me, Jon, and Austin has added some occassional players in Don and Scott R.  My school club added two new members who are busy painting armies.  I played a great World War I game this summer in Lewiston, Idaho, with the Singletons.  My friend Wally, who helped introduce me to the hobby, died in April, but he modeling club he started is still going strong.  I met a lot of local players at Tactical Solutions in October.

Oh, and I started a little blog to keep me busy when I only had the use of one hand at a time.  I set myself a personal goal of making 100 posts this year, which I acheived.  I hope you've enjoyed reading the blog.  I enjoy writing it, providing reviews of figures, and showing off my latest painting.

All things considered, it was a good year.  Here are my 2008 painting totals.

28mm Foot: 564
28mm Mounted: 59
28mm Elephants: 2
15mm Foot: 976
15mm Mounted: 153
15mm Limbers and Teams: 12
15mm Guns: 1
15mm Gunners: 2
15mm Elephants: 2
10mm Foot: 100
10mm Mounted: 39

2008 Total: 1910 figures

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Old Glory Italian Allies

I've played enough Field of Glory by now to know that I'll be playing it for a while. Up until now, I've used my Warhammer Ancient Battles 25mm Romans and Carthaginians, which are individually based, and I've glued them to 60mm movement trays. The movement trays are fiddly in action, and they don't really look that good. I've had to make compromises with the basing rather than using the FoG basing conventions.

So I'm building a new republican Roman army from scratch to use with FoG. I know, it seems a little crazy to have the same army in the same scale for two different rules sets, but maybe I am a little crazy.

I already built a unit of Roman cavalry for FoG. Now I've just finished a unit of Italian allies. Most of the allies would have been equipped and organized just like Roman legions, but some contigents would have fought in the old style. FoG classes these as medium infantry, with a 30mm base depth.

I used Old Glory pack PPR-07 "Italian Infantry" for these figures. As you can see here, Old Glory depicts the Italians as skirmishers, using javelins. In that photo you can see five different poses, but only three of those poses would work with my conversion. I cut the javelins off the shield hands of my figures, and I bent the shield arms up and in so the shields would protect the body. Once I had drilled out the hands and glued in some True North spears, I bent the spear hand so the figures would be stabbing to the front. It's a small conversion, but it gave the figures an entirely different look, one more appropriate to the Italians' status as medium spearmen in FoG.

Italian Allies Unit

Here are all six bases of the unit. I painted the figures in a simple undyed tunic, and I did very simple shield designs. I had thought to reproduce the more ornate shields from the Osprey book, but Osprey shows men from an earlier era.

These Litko bases did something I'd never seen them do before now. They actually warped! It might be because of the greater surface area, but even my elephant bases didn't warp. Maybe they had a bad batch of wood or something.


The command figures are from PPR-01 "Command." The standard bearer is a converted officer. He had been holding a sword, which I cut off. I then drilled out his hand and put an inverted North Star spear in it. I drilled out the standard's pole (which was very tricky, since the pole had only a slightly wider diameter than the spear shaft) and glued it to the butt of the spear. The "APV" indicates that these are Apulians.

Pose 1

This was my favorite of the three infantry poses. He obviously means business.

Pose 2

This was my least favorite of the poses, and I used as few of these as I could get away with. This man has an obvious death wish, opening his body like that.

Pose 3

I like this pose, since you can see more of the face.

The Old Glory figures weren't bad. Still, I consider Old Glory's republican Roman line to be one of their best, and these aren't as good as the rest. It took a lot of work to make them look like soldiers. I might have been better off using some Hastati and replacing the pila with spears.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Foundry Macedonian Phalangites

Last year I picked up some Foundry Macedonian blisters cheap on eBay. I planned to paint them for sale, but I didn't get any interest in my hypaspists, so I decided to start a 2000 point Warhammer Ancient Battles army. By hunting around eBay and Bartertown, I was able to assemble about half the castings I needed. A quick order to Foundry tonight (taking advantage of the Christmas 20% off sale), and I'm ready to start mustering the troops.

I've always been interested in the campaigns of Alexander, but I haven't fancied painting a huge Persian army to face him. Fortunately one of my students is painting a classical Greek hoplite army, so I'll have an opponent for my Macedonians.

When I painted the hypaspists, I used the bright colors common on Macedonian wargaming figures. To be honest, I've always considered those pastel color schemes suspect. I think that the Osprey Warrior volume on Macedonian infantry is more correct: plain red tunics, natural bronze armor, and white linothorax armor. I've decided to paint my Macedonian army in what I consider to be their most likely historical appearance. I presume that the shields with raised detail were stamped bronze, similar to the Successor shield found in Egypt.

These figures, then, are my first phalangites.

All 20 Phalangites

Unarmored Phalangites

Unarmored Phalangites Command

Unarmored Phalangites Detail

Armored Phalangites

Armored Phalangites Command

Armored Phalangites Detail

I like the Foundry figures well enough that I've spent enough time and money to build my whole army from Foundry figures. Usually I would have used Old Glory and Crusader, which are both excellent ranges, but Alexander's army may have been the best in history. I wanted to do these troops full justice. If I decide to expand the army to 3,000 or 4,000 points, I'll start adding troops from other manufacturers.

Here's my WAB roster. I'll be posting pictures of these units as I finish painting them. I hope to finish the entire project by the summer.

9 Companion Cavalry
10 Thessalian Cavalry
10 Light Greek Cavalry
10 Royal Hypaspists with leader and musician
20 Phalangites with leader and musician
20 Phalangites with leader and musician
20 Phalangites with leader and musician
15 Mercenary Hoplites
10 Javelinmen
10 Javelinmen
10 Archers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

15mm Roman FoG Army

Readers of this blog will remember that I bought five Old Glory 15mm Field of Glory armies last month. Since they arrived, they're all I've painted. This is the second army I've finished, the Roman army of the Second Punic War. Now I have a matched set of painted armies, and I can fight out Hannibal's battles in Italy.

I painted my Romans to look very uniform. Each unit has a distinct color scheme, and each figure in the unit matches that scheme. The only exception are the Italian allies, who I gave a more motley appearance. Roman skirmishers wear unbleached linen, but the rest of the Romans wear a madder red military tunic. Those Romans who have capes are wearing the mustard brown cloak of the soldier. The generals, of course, get their distinctive red cloaks. I took special care with the shields in this army, trying to capture that Roman look.

Roman Generals
The Field of Glory rules suggest representing generals with cavalry stands, but I rather prefer Old Glory's approach, giving me three foot command and one mounted general per stand. The two stands on the left are my troop commanders, each with a legionary eagle. The stand on the right is my army general.

The Roman starter army has two battlegroups of velites, each of four stands. These can't accomplish much on the battlefield, but they'll look sharp before they die. The velites come equipped with a mix of plain helmet and wolfskin.

Italian Allies
My Italians got several different shades of unbleached linen tunics. I painted the shields in a wide variety of styles and colors; no two are alike.

The Roman cavalry comes in three poses which fit well on the bases. I decided on a plain white shield for these figures, since they already look so striking with their white plumes and mustard brown cloaks.

The hastati wear a bronze pectoral and red tunics. These men also get a plain white shield, but their tunics keep the unit looking interesting.


The principes are very nice figures, and with their eagle shield designs, they have that classic "Roman soldier" look.


The army's elite infantry, the triari get purple plumes and blue shields. Old Glory includes enough wire for spears. Indeed, they include enough to make these spears half as long again. I cut the spears to an 8' scale height.

I've really enjoyed painting these two armies. The Old Glory figures are well designed and detailed enough to reward careful painting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Austin's AB Napoleonic French in Greatcoat

Fresh from Austin's painting station come these AB French in greatcoats.  Austin has definitely come to enjoy painting greatcoats, and you can see why.  He takes advantage of the coats' folds and recesses to get a good texture on them.

The greatcoats on the 1805 Russians had a bit more relief sculpted on, which gives the figures greater "pop" than these Frenchies, but both units turned out well.

I'm glad that most manufacturers have released units in greatcoats.  This was probably very common fighting kit on a number of battlefields.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I've had a number of people write, either in comments or through email, asking me to describe my basing process. That's tough to do, because I haven't ever followed just one method for all periods. I use many of the techniques throughout, though, so this example is pretty typical of my basing methods. Here, then, is my most recent basing project, a Field of Glory republican Roman army.

I took these pictures in my work space. The lighting is ideal for painting but poor for photography. Still, I think these pictures can give you a good idea of what I'm doing.

Initial Basing Supplies

I paint my figures on popsicle sticks, six 15mm figures to a stick. I leave the figures on there until I'm ready to base. The wood cutting board cost me $3 at Wal-Mart. I use it for most of my basing projects. Any sloppy paint or glue that gets on the bottom of the stands won't cause them to adhere to wood, but it would cause them to adhere to paper. The bases are all from Litko. I used to cut my own bases from basswood, but once I tried Litko bases, I gave that up. I could never get the measurements exact enough, and my corners were never quite square. I use wood glue to attach the figures to the bases.

Litko Bases

Litko stains the sides of their bases, I guess so you can leave them unpainted, but I like to paint the base sides to match my basing scheme. Unfortunately, the stain makes paint smear right off. To remove the stain, I just rub the sides with a damp paper towel. You can see the stained bases on the left and the wiped bases on the right.

Applying the Wood Glue

Wood Glue Applied

I put quite a bit of glue on each base, but I'm very careful not to let the glue drip down the sides. Any buildup of glue will keep the bases from laying together properly, and after all, I bought Litko bases just so the bases will line up.

The reason for all that glue? I like the individual figure bases to blend into the base, and a healthy amount of wood glue will help them do that. We've got to be careful, though, that the glue doesn't get on the figures' feet and obscure their detail. Smoothing out the glue ensures that it will keep the right level. This technique won't eliminate the little pedestal under each figure, but it will give it smooth sides and less height.

Smoothing out the Glue

Wood Glue Pillows

I use a toothpick to carefully spread out the wood glue. The idea is to get little pillows covering each base. The glue should go nearly to the sides without going over them.

Basing the Figures

Based Triarii

Whole Army Based

I base by unit, taking all the figures off their sticks at once, organizing them by pose, and then arranging them on the wood glue. Usually I use a hobby knife and press down on each figure's base to ensure a tight fit with the wooden base. Once the whole army is glued to its bases, I set the project aside for a day and allow the wood glue to cure. It took me just over an hour to prep the bases and get all the figures off their sticks and on their bases.

Delta Ceramcoat "Brown Velvet"

Wiping the Base Bottom

Army's Base Sides Painted

Once the glue has cured, I move on to flocking the bases. First I paint the base sides to match my basing scheme. These Romans are destined for service in the Second Punic War. I want bases that will look right for Italy, Spain, and North Africa, so I'll be using a light dirt flock. Delta's "Brown Velvet" is a great paint, tacky and opaque. I paint the sides of each base, wipe the bottom of the base on paper to remove any excess paint, and set the base aside to dry. I usually try to overlap the top of the base a little, just to be sure that I'm covering the entire side. It took me twelve minutes to paint the base sides and wipe the bottoms clean.

Woodland Scenics' Fine Brown Ballast

I have a few different flocking materials that I use. My 28mm ancients get Noch Brown Ballast. My 15mm Napoleonics get Woodland Scenics Earth Blend ground foam rubber. For these 15mm Romans, I'm using WS's fine brown ballast.

Painting the Base Surface

Here's where my approach differs from everyone else's. I don't paint the base then use white glue to attach my ballast. Instead I skip a step and use the paint itself to attach the ballast. Delta paints are tacky enough to get a good grip on the ballast. I really slop the paint on each base, making sure that the paint is still wet when I finish.

Swirling in the Flock

With the paint still wet, I swirl the stand in my bowl of flocking material.

Flocked Army

This method lets me flock my army very quickly. I finished all these bases in 25 minutes. The Delta Ceramcoat paint adheres the flock to the bases just as well as white glue.

Elmer's Glue-All Wash

The paint gets the ballast on the bases, but it can't make it stay. It won't stay with white glue alone, either. To seal the ballast on the base, I make a wash from four parts water and one part Elmer's Glue-All. The wash is thin enough to fill the crevices in the ballast, but thick enough to seal the ballast very well.

Applying the Glue Wash

I load a broad brush with the glue wash and hold it to the ballast, letting the flock soak up the glue. If I get some of the wash on the figure or the base side, I just leave it. The wash dries so thin and clear that it won't even show up.

Glue Washed Base

As you can see here, I get quite a bit of wash on each base. It looks awful now, but you won't even see it once it dries.

Entire Army, Glue Washed

Click on the picture for a larger image.  The bases have dried, and you can't see even a trace of the glue. But that ballast is now sealed on the bases fairly firmly. If you try to rub it off, you can (with difficulty), but it won't come off just from being handled. It took me ten minutes to apply the wash to the entire army. Once again I let the army dry overnight.

Drybrush Shade: Delta's "Latte"

The glue wash leaves the brown ballast a little darker than its natural color. Essentially, the ballast still looks wet, even though it isn't. I like to drybrush a very light color over the brown to bring out the ballast's relief and really make it look like dirt or sand.

Drybrushed General Stand

The base on the left has been drybrushed. The base on the right has not. It's tough to see a big difference from this photograph, but it's very striking. If you look at the stands in my 15mm Carthaginian army, you'll be able to see the effect under better lighting.

Drybrushed Army

Drybrushing the entire army took 15 minutes, time that really pays off by making the dirt look more realistic. You can skip this step if you like, but I think the effect is a good return on the time invested.  Click on the picture to get a larger image in which you can see the drybrushing effect.

Scatter Supplies

The last step in basing is to spruce up the plain dirt with some vegetation. Again, I want these figures to look right for a Mediterranean battlefield, so I won't be using any lush green static grass. Instead I'll add some scrub brush and rocks. I'm using Woodland Scenics' clump foliage in three different colors (light green, medium green, and burnt grass) and talus. I'll affix the scatter with tacky glue.

Clumped Foliage

Here's the clump foliage as it comes out of the bag. Woodland Scenics makes this stuff as leaves for trees, but each clump is nearly as large as my bases.

Unclumped Foliage

I carefully shred the clump into much smaller little balls. Each of these will make a convincing looking bush.

Prepared to Attach Scatter

I use tweezers to attach the scatter. Each piece is too tiny to pick up with my fingers.

Dipping Bush in Tacky Glue

Attaching Bush to Base

Finished Base

I carefully arrange the scatter on each base. It's easy to overdo it and add too much scatter; a small amount is all you need. We're just trying to accent the dirt, not overpower it. You can see the white tacky glue here, but it dries clear. The clear glue has a slight sheen, but the Dullcote spray (see last step) will get rid of that. Prepping and attaching the scatter took 45 minutes. It's time consuming, but I think it's worth it.

Finished Army

Actually, it's not quite finished. The bases themselves are done, but to protect the figures I like to apply a spray gloss lacquer. It goes on pretty thick, but it doesn't obscure any of the figures' detail. I don't like glossy figures, so once the lacquer dries, I spray the stands with Testors' Dullcote. It's too cold today to spray paint (19F and falling), so I'll set these aside until we have some warmer weather.

So that's my basing process. If it seems complex and time consuming, well, I guess it is. But the bases really contribute to the army's appearance on the table. I spent over two weeks painting these figures, putting in about 60 hours of brush work. Basing this army took me two hours and 50 minutes. Would it have been quicker just to stick the figures on painted plasticard? Sure. But if I were just concerned with speed, I wouldn't bother to paint the figures so well. I'd just slop on the paint and call it good. Miniatures wargaming is primarily a visual hobby. And yet I see far too many beautifully painted figures let down by plain bases.

Making decent looking bases took 5% of the total painting time and cost about $20 in bases and materials. That's the best hobby use of time and money I can think of.