Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Painting Totals

It was another busy month for me. I started and finished a complete 15mm Carthaginian army, and I worked on a few other figures without finishing them. Here's what I painted:

15mm Carthaginians, 137 foot, 43 mounted, 2 elephants, and 6 elephant crew
28mm Greeks, 2 infantrymen

That's a total of 388 SPPs. Not a bad month, but not back to my old pace.

October 08, 368 SPPs
September 08, 299 SPPs
August 08, 654 SPPs
July 08, 362 SPPs

Figures painted so far in 2008 (1,675):
28mm Foot: 526
28mm Mounted: 59
28mm Elephants: 2
15mm Foot: 815
15mm Mounted: 150
15mm Limbers and Teams: 12
15mm Guns: 1
15mm Gunners: 2
15mm Elephants: 2
15mm Elephant Crew: 6
10mm Foot: 100
10mm Mounted: 39

Friday, November 28, 2008

15mm Carthaginian FoG Army

I took advantage of the Old Glory 15s prepacked sets and bought some Field of Glory armies. This is the "Later Carthaginian" army from the "Rise of Rome" book, suitable for the Punic Wars. The army contains:

3 generals
2 BGs of Libyan spearmen (6 bases each)
1 BG of elephants (2 bases)
1 BG of Spanish scutari (6 bases)
1 BG of Spanish cavalry (4 bases)
1 BG of Gallic swordsmen (8 bases)
1 BG of Gallic cavalry (4 bases)
2 BGs of Numidian light horse (4 bases each)
1 BG of Numidian javelinmen (6 bases)
1 BG of Balearic slingers (6 bases)

First up are the army's three generals. Field of Glory calls for these to be cavalry bases, but Old Glory gives you three foot command and one mounted general per base. I've found that the cavalry general bases tend to blend in with the army during a game, so I really like Old Glory's approach to generals. These command bases stand out, making your generals easy to spot.

Here are the African heavy infantry, the solid core of Hannibal's army. I gave these men a pretty uniform look, going with simple white linothorax armor and blood red tunics. The shields really make these units pop. I went with a wide variety of designs.

I had never painted 15mm elephants before, but I have painted a few elephants for my 28mm army. Old Glory provides two different heads, which really make the elephants come alive. This might be my favorite unit in the army.

FoG classes Spanish scutari as medium foot. I didn't want these men to look as uniform as the African infantry, so I varied their tunic colors and helmet crests quite a bit. Their shields got a uniform design to make them look semi-professional. I was careful to paint the bands on the sinew helmets.

The Spanish heavy cavalry got a mix of shield designs, but uniform tunics and horsehair plumes. I painted the horse tackle in the famous Spanish crimson. The cloaks on these figures had a lot of deep relief, which made it very easy to paint good looking folds.

The Gallic contingent provides the most color to Hannibal's army. I painted checked and striped designs for the clothing, and I really mixed it up so no two soldiers are alike. The shields got a wide variety of colors and ornamentation. No two shields are alike either. These swordsmen are heavy infantry. Between their dress and their shields, they look like an undisciplined, but savage, body of warriors.

The Gallic cavalry got the same treatment as the infantry. I painted the horse tackle in a natural leather color. The only quibble I have with Old Glory's packaging is that I got four copies of the same pose (the fellow stretching his sword forward).

I have to admit, I love painting Numidian cavalry. I used the exact same technique on these 15mm figures that I did on my 25mm Numidians, and it worked just as well. The 15mm packs came with quite a few poses, which really makes the Numidians look like a swarm of undisciplined light horse.

The Numidian javelinmen are plain figures, so I went all out on shading the unbleached linen tunics. The shield designs help make the figures more visually attractive.

The Balearic slingers also got the full treatment on their unbleached linen tunics. I painted slightly different shades for the Numdians and Balearic islanders. Even though the figures don't have a lot of ornamentation, these are two of the best looking figures in the army.

All bases are Litko. I spent a pretty penny on bases for the 15mm FoG armies, but I think Litko bases are always worth the extra money.

To flock the bases, I used Woodland Scenics light brown fine ballast, which I secured to the bases with a white glue wash. I then drybrushed the ballast with Delta's "latte" to make the dirt really pop. I glued tallus and clump foliage to break up the dirt a bit and add some color.

All told, the army has 137 foot, 43 mounted, and two elephants with six crew. I'm painting these for sale, so if these catch your fancy, email me and we'll negotiate a price. I usually get between $4-$5 per foot figure and between $8-$10 per cavalryman when selling on eBay, so I figure this army is worth somewhere between $900-$1,150. But I am willing to budge a bit on that number.

The Old Glory figures were a joy to paint. These are proper 15s, exactly 15mm from bottom of foot to eye level, so they can't carry the amount of detail of Xyston figures, but they come very close.

I'm very impressed with the army packaging. It lets me build a FoG army without having to worry about excess figures, and it actually costs less than buying the figures in their normal bags. Now I have four more armies to paint: Punic Wars Romans, Marian Romans, Gauls, and Alexandrian Macedonian.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Crusader Greek Hoplites

Matt, one of my students, is building a Greek army for Warhammer Ancient Battles. These are his figures. He used Little Big Men transfers for the shields, Litko bases, and North Star spears. Click on the pictures for larger images.

20 man hoplite unit

20 man hoplite unit from the rear; check out that linothorax armor!

Command. You can really see Matt's technique for shading the tunics.

Rankers. It's tough to shade the faces inside those helmets.

Matt has been painting miniatures for just over a year. He's 14 years old. If he keep progressing at this rate, he'll embarrass me within the next year or so.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Old Glory 15mm Field of Glory Armies

It has been a while since I updated the blog, but I have been painting like mad. I took advantage of 19th Century Miniatures' sale to buy some of their prepackaged Field of Glory armies. I plan to paint these for sale. I saw a company advertising painted FOG armies on TMP for $800 or so, and I think I can paint them better.

I bought five armies: Late Carthaginians, Polybian Romans, Marian Romans, Gauls, and Alexandrian Macedonians. 19th Century sells Old Glory ancients in packs of two elephants, nine cavalry or 24 infantry for $9.00. That works out to $.375 apiece for infantry, $4.50 apiece for elephants, and $1 apiece for cavalry. In the army packs, we actually get a better deal than that. The Carthaginians, for example, come with 140 foot, 43 mounted, and two elephants. At regular prices, that would run $104.50. The army pack sells for $95. Until the end of November, you can get them even cheaper than that by taking advantage of the 30-40% off sale.

I've broken the seal on this box to examine the figures, but this is how the armies are packed. It's a nice, solid box, very handy for storing the army until I get around to painting it.

Here's what's inside. Each battlegroup comes in its own labelled ziploc bag. The figure counts are exact. I counted through every single bag in all four armies to make sure I didn't get shorted any figures. 19th Century even gives you four figures per base for medium infantry, which the rules list as optional (three figures per base is standard).

The only thing I didn't like about their figure choice was the general packs. Instead of all mounted officers, which the rules call for, you get a standard OG15s command pack: 3 mounted officers and 12 foot command. Still, there's no reason you can't mount your generals stands as one mounted officer and three foot command. That's what I plan to do.

The figures themselves are very nice. Old Glory can be hit and miss, especially in the 15mm line. I bought a huge lot of ACW figures when I first started gaming in metal, and they almost sent me scurrying back to plastics. Fortunately, I bought some samples from other ranges and found that OG does make some nice 15mm figures. You've seen some of their Napoleonics on this blog, I'm sure.

The OG ancients I got are universally good. Xyston probably makes the best 15mm ancients, but they have their own issues, namely the scale creep that makes figures within Xyston's own range incompatable with each other. These OG figures all work well together, and they look the part. The only other ancients range of OG's scope is Essex, and I just don't like the gnomish look of Essex figures.

I've been painting Carthaginians this week. I painted 48 Libyan spearmen, 24 Spanish scutari, 12 Numidian javelinmen, and 12 Balearic slingers. I'm working on 32 Gallic infantry right now. Once I'm done with them, I'll move on to the cavalry, elephants, and generals. I've been having fun detailing the shields and painting highlights on tunics and armor. This should be a great looking army.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Wargames Factory Romans Table of Contents

Just over a month ago, Tony Reidy of Wargames Factory emailed and asked me if I'd like to paint up some of his new hard plastic Marian Romans. Of course I jumped at the chance. Although there has been a lot of interest in these figures, I haven't seen any detailed reviews yet. So I'll go into some detail here, and hopefully I'll give you a good idea of what you get for your $30. The next five posts all deal with these Wargames Factory figures.

Part I: Building the Legionaries

Part II: Advancing with Gladius

Part III: Advancing with Pila

Part IV: Throwing Pila

Part V: Making Units

Wargames Factory Romans I Building the Legionaries

Box Contents

Here are all the pieces, cut off their sprues. You get three cornicens, three signifers, six optio/centurion torsos, and 12 each of three different legionary torsoes. You also get three heads with transverse crests, three heads with front-to-back crests, 18 heads with plume laying on the helmet, and 18 heads with plume just off the helmet. You get three arms with vine staffs, three arms with sword for the optio (or centurion), three arms with cornicen, three arms to support the cornicen, three arms with totem-style standard, three arms with a legion's eagle, 45 shield arms, 12 arms holding an upright gladius, 12 arms stabbing with gladius, 12 arms holding an upright pilum, and 12 arms throwing pila. Finally, you get 48 shields and 72 transfers for the shields.


Here are the two legionary heads with plumes. The head on the right will be useful for anyone wishing to cut the plume off, but the plume on the left head isn't going anywhere. At least half your legionaries must wear plumes.

Head with plume, head without plume

This is the same head style. The plumes were easy to cut off, and the clean cut made it hard to tell the helmets had ever had a plume. I made one unit of plumeless legionaries, which you'll see soon if you keep reading the review.


The legionary torsoes come in three flavors. This was my least favorite of the three, since the legionary appears to be squatting. I've read on TMP that some people don't like the look of the Wargames Factory figures, thinking them too squat. Honestly, this is the only pose that criticism applies to, and there are only twelve of these in the box.

Here you can see that I cut away the gladius handle on these torsoes, since these figures are for my unit with drawn gladius.

The figures took glue very well, and I only had one slight breakage during painting (which was easily fixed). Still, constructing the figures took a long time. I would suggest that Wargames Factory consider making the shield arm part of the figure on future sets, which would save time building the figures, make the pose more natural, and allow the figures to rank up more easily (more on that later).

The Finished Product

So here's what you get for your $30. These are all 48 of the box's figures.

Part II: Advancing with Gladius

Wargames Factory Romans II Advancing with Gladius


Before I get too far into reviewing the different poses, I want to write about the command figures and the shield transfers.

Each of the three units gets an optio, a centurion, a cornicen, and a signifer. The signifer gets a choice of two standards: totem (seen here) or eagle. The centurion and optio can get either a vine stick or gladius. I chose to give all my centurions vine sticks and optios swords, but you could certainly mix it up. My only real disappointment with the command figures was the wolfskin on the signifer and cornicen. The hair just didn't have enough relief to take a drybrush very well, and the result is a very flat looking wolfskin.

The shield transfers, designed by Stephen Hales of Little Big Men Studios, are very attractive. Unlike his waterslide transfers, they're completely opaque, so you don't have to paint the shield white before using them. I primed the shields black, drybrushed silver on the bosses, painted the backs brown, and rubbed the transfers on.

The rub-on process was very tough to get the hang of. I tried keeping the transfer right on the sheet, but I could never get it to line up correctly with the shield boss and spine. I settled on a very laborious process, cutting a hole for the spine and boss with a hobby knife, then cutting the entire transfer off the sheet with a pair of scissors. It took me three hours to complete this process for all 45 shields.

My next step was to paint the shield spine a dark red and pick out the spine itself with a straight red. Then I glued the shields to the painted figures and painted the sides of the shields red. I tried to match the color of the transfer, but I just couldn't do it. Each transfer is slightly different, as Stephen gave the shields a realistic weathered result. Unfortunately, that means that the 36 different transfers are 36 different shades of red.

Unit I: Advancing with Gladius

Now, back to the figures. This is the first unit, and it's the unit that required the most work to construct. I cut the plumes off each of these helmets, and I cut the gladius handle off of each torso. All the completed figures in this review are mounted on 60mm x 20mm Litko bases, four figures to a stand. That's the Field of Glory standard for heavy infantry.

Unfortunately, that's not enough depth for these figures, and you can see why from this photo. Those shields stick out in front of the bases, sometimes quite a bit. I tried those shield arms in various positions, but nothing could keep them from projecting too far in front. That's not a problem in a single rank (although it will be when they contact the enemy), but it's a huge problem when forming a supported line.

Still, the figures paint up well. Here are a few closeups:

You can see that I mixed up the gladius arm a bit, using some stabbing and some just holding them aloft. The stabbing arms were a good idea, but porrly executed, as the legionaries just end up stabbing into their shields.

So again, in a single line, this looks like a great unit. But I have a few Field of Glory games under my belt, and I know that most units will fight in double line. Here's the best I could do with a double line:

They just don't rank up. You can see from this top view how many different hand positions I tried. The second ranker on the far right comes the closest to fitting, but even he can't quite make it. I mentioned it before, but the seperate arms really should be part of the torso. This would let the legionaries bend their elbows and keep the shields close to their bodies.

For the next two poses, I'll keep the commentary short and mostly let the pictures speak for themselves.

Part III: Advancing with Pila

Wargames Factory Romans III Advancing with Pila

Unit II: Advancing with Pila

Although I cut the crests off the gladius armed troops, I kept them on these other two units. This unit got red plumes, the other unit black.

Here are some closeups of this unit.

Those pila look very nice, maybe the best I've seen on 28mm troops. This is where the hard plastic really shows at its best. The detail is crisp, and while the pila are a little thicker than in life, they aren't the telephone poles I've seen some metal figures carry. And unlike metal, hard plastic won't bend. You'll never see a droopy pilum head in this unit.

Again, the figures just don't rank up well.

Part IV: Throwing Pila

Wargames Factory Romans IV Throwing Pila

Unit III: Throwing Pila

This is my favorite pose of the bunch. If I could buy separate arms, I would have all my units throwing pila. Unfortunately, the sprue design doesn't allow for that. Tony Reidy has explained on his website that Wargames Factory will try to design sprues that allow for more customization of troop poses in the future. With this first set, they were just focused on producing a good quality box, and they didn't focus on custom poses.

Here are some closeups of this unit.

I varied the arm angles so that the unit really looks like they're in the act of throwing.

But here's the price I paid. If the pilum is angled too high, the butt of it pokes into the rear rank's shield. This is my favorite pose asthetically, but it doesn't work well as a wargaming pose.

Part V: Making Units

Wargames Factory Romans V Making Units

I tinkered a bit with the bases, moving bases from unit to unit to see if I could get the figures to rank up. I can't quite get the bases to touch, but I can get them closer with some creative shuffling.

Keeping the throwing poses in the rear rank is a must. Their shields still touch the front rank's elbows, but the butt ends of their pila just project into space.

From the front, you can't even tell there is a gap between ranks. Looking at all three units from wargaming distance, you can see the gaps a little, but they still look pretty nice.

So what's the final verdict? You've seen enough to form your own opinion, honestly, but for whatever it's worth, here's mine.

This is an impressive first effort from Wargames Factory. All summer long, TMPers were calling these "vaporware." Tony had posted computer renderings of the figures, but Wargames Factory hadn't actually produced any yet. They've produced them now, and the figures are very attractive.

I read the naysayers writing that the figures would have huge seams on their shoulders and under their arms. You can see here that they have small seams, as all figures do, but they're not very noticable. The shoulders look good, and the area under arms is covered by, well, arms.

There were concerns that the plastic would prove brittle. It hasn't. These are durable figures that will survive rough treatment.

But these figures do have some unanticipated drawbacks.

1. The construction time was a killer. Wargames Factory could reduce it by making the heads and shield arms part of the body, but that will only reduce it, not eliminate it.

2. The figures have pretty shallow detail. It was most obvious on the wolfskins and chain mail, but it also made the faces, plumes, and sandals more difficult to paint. In fact, I had to change my approach to painting sandals. Usually I just drybrush a light brown over black primer, but with these figures I actually had to paint each sandal strap.

3. The shield transfers don't cover the entire shield face. I had to try to match colors for the shield edge, and the different shades of red proved too much for me. Wargames Factory could produce shields with metal edges, or they could produce transfers just for the design rather than the whole shield face. I would prefer the latter. Then I could paint the whole shield in a reddish brown, rub on the wings, and paint around them with bright red, leaving a small gap of red-brown between the wings and the bright red.

4. The figures don't work well as a unit. For me, this is the set's biggest flaw. As I wrote in the previous piece, you can get the figures to rank up, sort of, as long as you don't want the bases to actually touch. You could use bases with a 30mm depth instead of 20mm. That's probably the best solution. But it does seem odd that figures marketed under the Field of Glory name don't fit well on Field of Glory standard bases.

So overall, these figures are what they are, which is a good first set from a company still working out some of the kinks in their process. The consumer pays only $0.62 apiece for these, which is about the same price as Old Glory, as long as you pay $50 a year to join the Old Glory army. And the Wargames Factory figures are higher quality. I like Old Glory. I've painted an entire WAB Marian Roman army from Old Glory figures. But if I were starting all over again, I would find a way to make the Wargames Factory Romans work and use them.