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Wednesday 24 December 2014

Santa Clause is here

I had the pleasure to participate in the Santa Clause event run by Chris from Wargamer's Odds and Ends  - had I known quite a few other participants were either professional painters or professional-level, I might have thought twice, but it is a fun idea to be given a random participating blog and paint a figure for the owner. Santa selected Ben of Little Tin Men to be my painting target - as most of you are probably aware, most of his stuff is truly inspirational so bar was more than high enough. I paint mostly 15mm and he of course games in larger scales, so selecting the right miniature was somewhat challenging. In the end I decided to try my hand at vikings - found a suitably imposing Gripping Beast miniature to be a modified standard bearer and painted him to stand with the dread raven standard. (The story usually goes so that the banner brings victory to the army, but certain death to the champion who dares to unfurl it.) I drilled a hole into the right hand so that a banner pole would fit, but otherwise it is not modified. Also, I noticed only after painting that figure is truly imposing, standing head and shoulders taller than Perry foot knights. I am reasonably happy with the results, as I had to relearn many techniques for painting larger miniatures.


On the return, Ken of Blue Moose Arts was to be my Santa. I got a box few days before Christmas and after receiving it, my gaming buddies have been badgering me with regular SMSs to hear if I have already opened it. Santa finally visited tonight, so I got to open the box. Inside I found gorgeously painted Russian 45mm anti-tank gun (I think, I am bit hazy on details of different atgs)  and Panzer III, perfect stuff for early war games! Thank you so much, Ken! And apologies for poor quality picture, I have nothing but camera on phone and very dim lights available - particularly the infantry looks lovely.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Saturday 13 December 2014

TFL 2014 Christmas Special is here!

TFL Christmas Special has arrived again. Chain of Command is being expanded to both WW1 and ultramodern periods, lots of scenarios for various TFL systems and an overview of Lardom 2014. What is there not to like? African Bushwars miniatures were mostly painted anyway, now it is just a choice between WW1 and modern stuff..

Monday 29 September 2014

Church of Stonne

Most of the village of Stonne was completely levelled in the battles of May 1940.  Some pictures of pre-war village were floating around the internets, so it was quite easy to see that buildings were quite average for the area. So the water tower and church remained - water tower is shown on the background in one of the period pictures and looks to be like others in the area - size is hard to guess from a blurry picture, but the village is not that big. Of the church, on the other hand, I had no picture, apart from the top of the spire - but yesterday I managed to find a good picture!

Most 15mm churches are of the Norman stone variant and this one is clearly different - and surprisingly big for a smallish village. The surviving churches in the area are either of red brick or yellowish gray stone, both of which look pretty same in b&w picture. So it looks like I need to do bit more scratch building - shape of the roof promises some interesting times..

Saturday 30 August 2014

From the ministry of gardening and sand

The amount of buildings and terrain is slowly reaching an acceptable level, but I have been very busy looking for a good terrain mat. There are several good products available in UK/USA, but the shipping costs are usually prohibitive. So we have been experiementing with several things. Kallistra Hexon's are nice lego'ish solution and terrain mats made from either faux-fur or acrylic caulc plus flock produce very nice effect.

Hexons have been waiting for a long time for someone to flock them and the faux fur was a brilliant success until the point when a cunning summer storm crept up to me and drenched the just painted mat..

So today it was time for acrylic caulc terrain mats and hexons. I was basicly following this example, using a ready artists' canvas (with some sort of acrylic basepaint), using 2 tubes of acrylic caulc per 1*15m mat. Sienna/burnt ochre brown paint was mixed with caulc, which was the spread to mats using latex glowes and paint/mixed flock was the generously sprinkled on the top. This was then left to dry outside (while yours truly was looking at the clouds very suspiciously.)

Here is the result, drying in the sun. Most of that flock will be dusted off, so the effect will not be as pronounced.

The hexons were just painted with acrylic latex mixed with fine sand and then a generous dose of mixed flock and sand was poured on top of them. The base color was much darker and redder than with the mat, so result looked much more like dried mud. Darker brown would probably have worked better.

2 boxes of hexons.

So we are ready to go for African/desert games and 2 more mats with a northern greenish theme should cover us for most other things. WIth maybe a fur mat for Russian steppes. I assume I will tomorrow hear we are switching exclusively to space/sea-themed games.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

From the Ministry of Housing and Ruins

A while back I decided that the battle of Stonne (May, 1940) during the German invasion of France would make a suitable Chain of Command mini campaign and give me a reason to delve to a period of ww2 history which I did not know that well. The usual picture people have of the blitzkrieg in France is about the French army just throwing their weapons away and running. It is true that their higher echelon was still fighting the previous war - actually quite like most of the German higher ups, too. Germans just had few generals who were able to see the future and disregard orders when it suited them. Some of the French troops melted away when the panzer terror gripped them and rumours were saying that general evacuation was ordered. But then there were places like Stonne, de Gaulle's counter attack or Dunkirk, where they fought like lions. French army was probably the most (or second most, the Russians also had quite an arsenal) technologically advanced, but they were sorely lacking in details like radio equipment and that would hurt them time after time.

So the battle of Stonne (aka Verdun of 1940) would be an interesting project. I already had basic infantry for 1940 Germans (ok, uniform cuffs are wrong for IR Grossdeutchland, but scale is 15mm, so there.) and armoured units mainly consisted of PzIII and PzIV, so easily sourced via Zveda. And friend is (ever so slowly :) painting his French troops, so map was the next question. Google maps shows the modern day Stonne, where the layout of roads, map contours etc are correct, but the village itself was totally levelled during the days of attacks and counterattacks, so details about buildings were lacking. Several games and books have published maps about Stonne, but they rarely agree and do not show their sources. I was fortunately able to find some pictures of Stonne. The one below is from 1900 which I assume is reasonably well representative. (And I also assume that Stonne being 30-40 miles north of the ww1 front lines was not completely levelled and then rebuilt between the wars. I might be wrong.)

It shows the main road, flanked by 2-3 story buildings, one higher building behing it and then the spire of the church in the background, just visible. It also might be that the tall building is part of the church, but to my eye it is aligned to different direction and churches in the area seem to have the bell tower connected to the main building.

((Stonne around 1900. Copyright unknown.))

The road in both 1900 and 1940 pictures seem to be just a gravel road, with some maps shoving a small paved central plaza.

Ministry of Housing and Ruins is happy to present the plans for tabletop Stonne. First in 1:100 scale for CoC and the in somewhat reduced scale for IABSM.

German scouts entering Stonne. (No really, roads are still under production. And most of roofs do actually fit..)

Overview from a scout plane. Not a single painted French in sight, operation delayed.

Mayor's house and the smithy. Testing different ways of making doors and windows.

Few days later.

What used to be a shop.

Buildings are made from 3mm foam core. Pumice and plasticard for wall details and roofs. Many a good idea stolen from Derek's  excellent blog, all implementation mistakes purely mine. Roads, telegraph poles and chimneys still mostly missing.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Report from the ministry of housing

The next game of Blenneville will feature the center of a small town, so more buildings were in order. My mail-orders have had the habit of being delayed a lot lately, so after ordering various building from Frontline games  (good service, recommended), I also started building my own from foamcore and acrylic caulc, with printed paper buildings as a backup. The mail order of course arrived with German promptness, so I now have upwards of ten buildings under construction - 2 weeks to go, still need the buildings, bocage and some dirt roads, all is under control, I tell you! So a very quick review of each of these, before the paint job. More pictures to come as I get things painted. I could happily recommend all of these: the resin buildings are cheap but require quite a lot of work, paper buildings are very cheap and with 4Ground money means less time is spent building things. Although, with resin I would still recommend the excellent Kerr&King.

  • Wolf Terrain brick house made of Linka pieces. In theory this is very nice and good quality/price ratio, but it has very much resin flash (pain to clean) and building instructions were, shall I say, somewhat limited, with only a few pictures of the ready house. (Linka site contains some instructions, too.)
  • Mainly Military Scenery's cottages, barns and water mill. Basic resin buildings with most items having a removable roof. Simple kits, with my only complain being the scale. If you market yourself as 15mm, buildings should actually be of that scale. If I want 10-12mm scale for visual effects, I am quite capable of buying them myself, thank you. Fortunately these are all buildings where small variance in scale can be explained away, but warning would be nice. (Mostly noticeable with very low doors, partly salvaged by building having a stand.
  • Battlelands 15mm paper buildings, printed on a heavy hobby paper stock. These are very cheap and reasonably easy to assemble (I did not try the church, though.) so a good way to create a whole town quickly. They clearly need basing and some reinforcing with plasticard to stand up to gaming wear and tear.
  • Scratch built houses. I used 3mm foam core, printed building design on paper, cut the core and assembled, with exterior being covered in acrylic caulc, roofing from 3d printed tile paper from railroad model shop. The plaster effect is too coarse for 15mm and doors particularly would need more effort, but this is quite painless way of making durable buildings with custom layout.This is probably a good approach for desert buildings.
  • And the clear winner, 4Ground pre-painted houses. These are much more expensive than the unpainted resin ones, but I decided to take a couple just to see how they look like. The scale is correct and whole assembly took less than an hour, so well worth the money.

The central plaza of Avaux, still missing few buildings and the fountain. Ofnthe left a scratch built rowhouse, 4Ground on the top and on the right 2 paper buildings. (Phone cam autosharpening doing something wild with clean geometric shapes..)

Corner cafe under construction. Plaster applied after reinforcing internal structures.

Windows under construction.

Friday 24 January 2014

From the workbench

As I was less than happy with the simple weathering with a wash, I decided to spend few euros on a Tamiay Weathering Stick (mud). 3 of the Shermans got a light brushing with that. Results can be seen below - it actually does look like a mud, both the color, very slight 3D effect and the close-up texture. I am not sure how it will stand up to gaming and people picking the models up, or if it is worth the effort at this scale, but I do like the effect. Pictures below do no justice, but at least show the effect and how it builds up batches of mud.

Tank on the left has several layers, one on the right only one.

I also started a prototype of a bigger rowhouse of 2 stories. This wonderful page has pictures from 1944 and then pic from same place today, so can be used both as a rough model and for painting example. I started with a simple 4 2 story apartments model with no shops or anything on the ground floor. Cut the walls from 3mm foamcore, and made window and door silhouettes from 0.5 polystyrene sheet. A light coat of acrylic caulc for plaster. Tomorrow will show how it takes paint, but at least I am once gain reminded that foamcore always needs support or it will warp.

View from the back yard.

IIt always warps..

Thursday 23 January 2014

Getting ready for more Blenneville

As some of you know, I have also registered for the TFL Game Ready Campaign, a non-competition to see how many miniatures members of the mailing list get ready this year. My first submission is below, 10 PSC Shermans, 2 76mm and 8 75mm. Partly painted last year, but finished and decaled this year. (And I must say that while decaling was not fun this time, either, decal medium to soften them up worked wonders. But please note that it also makes some paints run even after thorough drying.) I wanted to try my hand at weathering, remembering how the tanks and IFVs looked after few days of muddy training during the conscript period  - it looks like too much, but in reality one probably should not see any green from below the mud.. Also, it looks more like hastily applied camo than mud, which is not good.

Monday 6 January 2014

Hexagon, one of the simple regular polygons

As the more asture readers might have noticed, I have been building a hexagon-based terrain for a better part of a year now. This started as a quest to build configurable terrain with enough variance, with the ability to have rivers, wadis etc properly below the ground level. I briefly browsed the commercially available options and settled for the GHQ Terrain Maker stuff, the silly engineer in me assuming that regular hexagon (a shape any high schooler should know how to make this with calipers and a ruler.) is such an easy taks that it is practically impossible to produce badly in bulk. And so I bought a test pack - creating terrain was fun and I assumed that the one or two misshapen hexes in the pack were a glitch. And bought several packs more. During the crafting process I started to notice that these hexes were not truly hexes - distances between faces varied by several millimeters (instead of being regular 100mm), so building the pattern meant that a lot of gaps started to appear, getting worse and worse as pattern became bigger. With few dozen hexes one could still arrange them by careful selection so that gaps were not really noticeable, but doing the same with bigger table is not practical. So I am sorry to say, but I really would not recommed the stuff for anyone. If you happen to get packs with acceptable variance, it works wonders, but the packs (particularly the thinnest stuff) had very little quality control during production, it seems.

I fortunately noticed that Mario of Orange Scenics (if you have not checked their creations, do it now. Fabulous stuff!) was selling a 2nd hand pack of Kallistra Hexon IIs, so I decided to give them a try. Much better! You still have to make the embedded river and wadi-hexes by hand, but rest of the terrain actually fits together. So a couple of more boxes are inbound to Finland, hopefully that desert table will finally be finished. And time to dig out those calipers and ruler for hand-made hexes.

All in all, it was an interesting experiement, but in the future I think the old battlemat+hills under it+scatter is much better solution timewise.

Sunday 5 January 2014

A new year, a new color

During the last year I transitioned from wildly colored pseudo-renainssance setting to first ww2 US green and then the pale sand colors of Africa. So the obvious next step in this "let's see if this can get any more monochromatic"-process are early war germans and their shades of grey. Got a box of Peter Pig early war Germans from friends and supplemented that with badly selected box of early war SS troops, who of course happened to wear camo smocks. So it is camo and greys.. Also completely accidentally I happened to buy a BF early war German light panzer company. A total accident, I tell you! So it looks like I will be first assembling a SS panzer recon unit for CoC and later on make a reinforced light panzer company for IABSM out of it. (A friend is already assembling a French force to oppose it.) I have been looking high and low for images for the uniforms and quite a few pictures show a mixture of camo and fieldgray side by side, so I decided it is fine for now.

Undercoat and first shades of gray. BF miniatures easily recognizable by huge heads. BF are also closer to 18mm whereas PP is true 15mm. But unlike many gamers, I actually like to mix sizes to get more variance.

But anyways, the TFL yahoo group set up the Game Ready Campaign (http://vislardica.com/Painting/PaintingIntro.htm) to see how many miniatures members paint during 2014 and I decided to take part. This is a small start, mainly to try out colors and practise painting the camo scheme. We'll se how long it takes to finalize this batch - I already noticed that I need few more shades of green for the camo smock, graah..

Flesh and base for camo. Led-flash does wonders.

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