Friday, November 6, 2009

Arizona Rock for Western Gaming

When I first began basing my figures, I was using plain sand and painting it to look like dirt. This really went against my model railroading senses. Then I switched to Woodland Scenic ballast and talus for my bases, applying the ballast to the base without any painting. The process was faster than painting sand, and I like the results! WS's shades of browns look good for games set in the Eastern US or Europe. Unfortunately, they don't look so good for games set out West. Knowing this, I dragged my feet all summer when it came to basing my finished 25mm Western figures.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a couple bags of ground rocks from Arizona Rock & Mineral Company. After comparing many different colors in person at the local hobby shop, I settled for their Cajon bags in the picture. The color is meant to match the ground color of Santa Fe's Cajon Pass east of LA. Having visited the area years ago to photograph trains, I felt this looked suitable for a generic Western game. The Sand & Gravel bag has textures ranging from fine powder to larger bits. The Rip Rap will be for those occasional large stones.

Check their website. They have some great products, especially if you want to do adobe houses in a deep brownish red color. Good stuff!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Western Fence: Part 2

Last month in Part 1 of this article, I explained how I began assembling a 28mm fence for my Western games. This installment features a photo showing how I stabilized the fences so they glued straight onto the popsicle stick bases. Believe it or not, I bought the two Xacto clamps way back in the late 1970's! The technique worked without a hitch.

The painted product. I used the following paints in the following order, using heavy drybrushing up to lighter drybrushing. I wanted that grey/brown look of bleached wood, using actual photos as my guide.
1. Black gesso primer
2. Americana Neutral Grey
3. Ceramcoat Mudstone
4. Americana Slate Grey
5. Americana Gray Sky
6. Polyscale RLM 63 Light Grey (for very light extreme highlight. Hey, I had it handy on my desk, so why not?)

All I have to do is finish the bases and varnish. With the weather looking like it will be breaking here in FL, hopefully I'll be able to spray some Dulcote on this very soon and use it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Splintered Light 15mm vs Caesar 1/72 Fantasy

Once again, I'm dabbling with my boxes of 1/72 Caesar's figures. We own a box of Elves, Undead, and Ch'in Chinese. A few months ago, the kind folks at Splintered Light sent me a sample pack of their 15mm figures from their Splintered Light range, which mostly are sculpted by Bob Olley.

Tonight, I snapped a couple quick comparison photos of the two ranges side-by-side. Wanting to show off the great detail on these figures, I kept the full-size photos at their 500k size. To me, the figures work great together. In the photos are some dwarves, a kobold, bugbear, goblins, Druid's children, saytr, and animals.

Dwarves Will Be Dwarves
The SL dwarves are about the right size, though a tad taller would have been nice. Yes, Caesar makes a box of dwarves, but they make only one box. Splintered Light's Bob Olley dwarves gives a gamer much more variety. Still, having taller cousins (or shorter cousins depending on one's point of view) might not be that bad after all. The choice is yours.

Mixing & Matching Other SL Figures
I would not mix 1/72 figures with some of the other SL figures in their older ranges, though I am curious how their orcs would compare with 1/72 figures. Yes, Caesar makes a box of orcs and a box of goblins, but once again that is the extent of their range.

So there you have it. I don't want to jaw on. Check the photos and decide for yourself.

For more photos and info on Caesar's several fantasy sets, see Plastic Soldier Review.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

15mm Battle Honors & Old Glory ACW Union

With the low humidity and cool temps that suddenly hit Florida today, I finally finished varnishing several sticks of Battle Honors 15mm ACW Union firing line figures. Wanting to get some photos online quickly and being too tired to set up the photo booth, I shot the figs in the evening sun, which picks out every last detail--not what I had intended! The figs look much "smoother" under normal viewing, if that makes sense.

This Is The Blue For You
The trousers are Pollyscale's military colors and found British P.R.U. Blue, which turned out just right. The coats are Ceramcoat Navy Blue. I used back magic wash on the figs. I highlighted the trousers using Ceramcoat Winter Blue and the coats using Americana Wedgewood Blue. I highlighted the black leather using P3's Coal Black, which I also used on the rifle barrels. Coal Black has a blue tinge to it. Wanting a worn look, I dirtied the uniforms using Ceramcoat Trail Tan. The Winter Blue also makes the trousers look worn, as if the soldiers had been wearing their digs for some time on campaign.

Old Glory Bonus Figs?
I got a couple Old Glory figs stuck in my Battle Honors bag and painted them as well. You can see a comparison photo below. For the same price as the OG figures, I prefer the BH figures--better sculpting and detail. The OG rifles are extremely thin and bend with the slightest touch, which constantly drove me crazy. Still, Peter Pig are my all-time favorite 15mm figures but cost about 2.5 times as much per figure.

Monday, June 22, 2009

D-Day 65th Anniversary Display

A few weeks ago in honor of the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, one of the librarians at Seminole Community College (near Orlando, FL), where I teach, asked if I would like to do a display case commemorating the event using my 15mm figures. Sure, I said. Then it hit me. I had all of one evening to prepare!

The display kind of came together on the spot in about an hour. I brought my Landmark buildings, homemade scenery, and 15mm Peter Pig German and US infantry figures. I forgot a grass cloth for the bottom of the case, but the fake wood seems to work just fine. I found some reproduction items in a D-Day book and placed them around an article from Armchair General, plus some photos the librarian printed out. He also did a brief write-up about the scene I was representing.

The combat scene in the corner is meant to evoke the US paratroopers attacking Carentan. Of course, the figures are infantry and not all the buildings are from Carentan, but who would know that other than a hardcore gamer? Artistic license, right?

The response to the display has been great. I designed it to catch people's eyes as they enter the library. They then start looking about the scene to find all the infantry assaulting the church. People have borrowed some books and have been impressed that we gamers actually paint the figures ourselves to use in games recreating such battles. Leads to some nice questions for the onlookers, such as "So, who would you rather be in this position? The defending Germans or the attacking Americans?"

I've never done a display case before. If you get the chance at your local school or library, you should try it. If I had time, I would have made some one-sheets about the miniatures and our hobby.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

British PRU Blue for ACW Union Trousers

Finding a good blue for Union trousers has been challenging. In the past I have tried using Reaper's True Blue as seen in my Iron Brigade photos. I also tried using Vallejo's Sky Blue, probably the most commonly used color for painting Union trousers. I painted a couple packs of 10mm and a dozen 15mm figures this way. I was not satisfied. The color is too light and bright. I was getting depressed.

Some fellows on TMP suggested using Howard Hues, which has a blue designed specifically for Union trousers. I have never used HH paints before. After researching HH, I heard mixed reviews about their paint. Since no one in metro-Orlando carries Howard Hues nor will special order paints, I would have to use mail order. Not really worth it because the stores selling Howard Hues really don't sell anything else I need at their prices. So my search for the ultimate Union blue went on.

A couple weeks ago I stopped by the local general hobby shop looking for some Pollyscale paints. Yes, I use more than craft paints! Being a model railroader since childhood, I remembered Pollyscale's Great Northern Big Sky Blue. Would it work for Union trousers? Nope. Didn't look right, even if less intense than Vallejo's sky blue.

Then I looked through Pollyscale's military colors and found British P.R.U. Blue, which if I recall is an airforce color. Looked good. Last week I bought a bottle and tried it out. Below is the result. I really like it. It looks like as close to Union trousers as I'll probably find. In room lighting, it looks a bit duller than in the photo, taken in direct Florida morning sunlight. The color comes closer to the jpg in the upper left. Also, I should have left a figure painted with Vallejo Sky Blue for comparison but forgot--the difference is dramatic. (Note: The Battle Honors figure below is not finished, which is why it looks so sloppy!)

Now that I finally have found a Union trouser blue I like, I can get cracking on my ACW projects again, but I'm thinking that I might need a darker Navy blue than Ceramcoat's Navy blue. Nah, I'll probably let that go. True Indigo would look too dark on a 15mm game table.

Give Pollyscale's British P.R.U. Blue a try. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fly's Studio: Part 7 - Finished Product

In case you are just joining us, this series of articles chronicles my real-time adventures preparing and painting Old Glory's Fly's Studio from their OK Corral series of 25mm Western buildings. Because the entire process is an experiment, you'll get to see my successes and mistakes along the way. To see the entire series of articles, click on the Fly's Studio link.

Wow, it's been one year since I began this series! I finished the building last Autumn, but was only able to take some decent photos recently.

The Finished Product
I wanted the false-front to look maintained with a fairly fresh coat of buff paint. After all, this was the part folks saw from the street. I wanted the sides to look more worn down, with the paint wearing away. Overall, I think I achieved it. I omitted roof posts because I was afraid they would break off. I wish the roof section lifted off, not the top half of the building. In hindsight, I could have pinned and then epoxied the posts to the floor. Oh well. Next time I'll do that. I still have to add some signs and other details, which I'll do as well.

Lessons Learned
I learned a great deal with this project that I will be taking onto other projects. I've learned that I'm not a fan of interior detailed buildings, though I still have a few more of those type of buildings to do. On future buildings, I want to lighten the look, make the wood more faded than on this one. I think I'll make bases for the buildings as well.

What other Old Glory Western projects are on my table? The Harwood House is primed, and I've figured out an easy way to fix the badly molded roof so it fits level on the building. (More on that in another post.) The sheriff's building, the OK Corral horse pen, the tented roof building, and some outhouses are also primed. These are my summer projects.

Overall, this was a fun and frustrating project. I hope you enjoyed it and learned a few techniques as well--what to do and not to do based on my experiences!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Zorro (Reaper 28mm)

The blurb from Miniature-Giant: "This Chronoscope series figure by Reaper Miniatures is entitled "Zorro", #50054. This pewter miniature is of a human. "Zorro" was sculpted by Tim Prow and released on April 13, 2009. This Chronoscope miniature shows a male adult wearing a hat, mask, and cape and holding a sword in his right hand." Retail is $5.99.

When we get into the $6 range for a single figure, it better be good. I like this figure and will eventually buy it, just as soon as I finish painting some of the 40 Western figures I currently have in various stages of completion. After all, who else makes "Zorro"? (I wonder how long they can call this figure Zorro until some IP lawyer discovers it?)

Zorro's pose is fluid and dramatic, looking to me more like Tyrone Power's Zorro than Antonio Banderas' version. (Over the years, many actors have played Zorro--even George Hamilton, though I wish I could forget ever seeing that movie.) I also like how his head tilts down slightly with this arms extended in a natural-looking, menacing pose. I prefer this Zorro's hat over the head-covering bandanna-mask we sometimes see Zorro wearing. A fun and engaging figure capturing the essence of Zorro.

Though I keep saying Chronoscope is hit-or-miss for me, this Zorro is a hit. Well worth the wait. For more information on the 'real' movie and TV Zorro, check out the official Zorro website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Making 15mm Hedges

In preparation fora 15mm WWII game this coming Thursday evening at my house, I began working on some portable hedges. I used the same techniques Games Workshop and others recommend, cutting scouring pads into strips and gluing them onto a base. I had my doubts, but in the end I was quite pleased. This is a great, easy project that any new gamer or kid will enjoy doing. Plus, who couldn't use more terrain?

Making the Hedges
For these hedges, I cut the scouring pad 1cm high more or less, roughed them up a bit. Though I did mark the cut lines with a dull pencil, being exact really isn't critical. After all, nothing in nature is perfect. When I had enough strips, I glued each onto its own 6" popsicle stick. I also cut one strip into thirds and glued them onto cut down sticks. I can use these small strips as fillers or corners. Eventually, I will make true corner pieces, bending a strip to fit on a custom cut L-shaped section of balsa wood.

Important Tip: Always weight the hedges with a book or something else heavy, otherwise the sticks will warp. Placing several under the same weight works well. Because I didn't want the sticks to warp at all, I let the glue dry over night. This way I knew they would be fine.

Painting the Hedges
The next day, I took the dry sticks of hedges outside for a good primer of Wal-mart black $1 spray paint. When that dried throughly, I began "wet" drybrushing the hedges with Ceramcoat Forest Green 2010, leaving some black for depth. This part felt like it took forever! When that color dried, I began normally drybrushing with Ceramcoat Medium Foliage Green 2536, then Light Foliage Green 2537, followed by a very light brushing of Moss Green 2570 for the highlights.

Basing the Hedges
The base is painted Ceramcoat Autumn Brown as are all my bases. I then mixed some Woodland scenics Fine Brown Ballast with some Coarse Brown Ballast and glued that is random places, making it look more natural. Finally, I applied Scenic Express' Pasture Blend flock to the base. In the photo to the lower-left, the worn down section of hedge, the dirt, and "thinned-out" grass make it look like some soldiers have been taking a shortcut through that section. Don't let it fool you. This section is a bit lower than others, which normally come up to about shoulder height.

This morning, I gave the hedges a quick spray of Dulcote. All said, a few evenings light work. Total cost for these hedges (one scouring pad): about 60 cents. Who can't love that price? By the way, one pad makes 10 full sticks.

Final Thoughts
When he first saw the unprimed scouring pad hedges, my son felt they looked ugly, nothing like a hedge. He changed his mind when he saw the final product. Sure, they won't win any fine scale modeling award, but for less than a buck they work for me! This was an easy project. If a club were to pre-make the glued and primed sticks of hedges, kids and others at a gaming convention could make a couple in one sitting and have something useful that looks good as well.

Update 3-18: More Ideas From TMP
To stop the sticks warping, BrianW at TMP suggests possibly using hot glue instead of regular glue. The sticks would be ready in mere minutes instead of waiting overnight. I'll try this for the next batch. Coopman also at TMP mentiones using air filter material for hedges, which is a good suggestion for larger scales. The material is more 'open and loose' than scouring pads. I'm thinking I could apply some Woodland Scenics Fine Green Blend flock to the filter for a lusher look as well. Great suggestions, guys!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Painted London Gentleman

Last week, I posted photos of the bare-metal London Gentlemen pack from West Wind. Below is my painted version of a gentleman from that pack. I'm very pleased with the result, though my photo isn't that great. Like I said, I'll get better photos in the future. I still have to do some detail work on the base.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

6mm GZG Photo

I'm posting this photo of Ground Zero Game's 6mm figures for Phil Walling and the guys over on TMP. He was asking for photos of the Tactical Interface Transport. You can see it in the upper-left corner of the photo. Hope it helps everyone. Note that I did not take the photo.

West Wind Gothic Horror Packs

For the past year, I have been slowly working on a Victorian Science Fiction theme relating to my Western gaming. Most of the figures are from West Wind's Gothic Horror range, manufactured by Old Glory here in the States. Unfortunately, these figures will never be manufactured again, so when Old Glory runs out of current stock, these figures will be gone. With the Old Glory Army membership, the packs are $4.80 each, which comes to $1.20 a figure, a good value in my book. As with all West Wind figures, some are excellent while others are fair, with some just downright odd.

While Old Glory has photos of many of the miniatures, a few packs are not represented. This didn't stop me from buying them. Rummaging in my folders, I found these photos of unprimed Gothic Horror figures, which I had shot nearly a year ago. Maybe someone will find them useful.

GHZ-5 The Lady Doctor and her Staff (Gothic Horror: Zombies)
Old Glory has a photo of the two nurses online, but not the Jamaican fellow and the other fellow with the machete and revolver. The lady nurses have awkward faces, which have been difficult for me to paint. The chap with the revolver is quite nice for a West Wind figure. I'm nearly done painting him. Having mixed emotions about the pack, I'm not sure how I would rate them. Would I buy the pack again? Probably. Crazed nurses and female doctors are hard to find. Plus my wife is a nurse.

GHJ-5 London Gentlemen (Gothic Horror: Jeykll & Hyde)
If you play Victorian vampire hunting games, you must get this pack. The fellow on the far right is a dead-ringer for Gary Oldman's Count Dracula in Coppola's 1992 Dracula movie. The fellow to the far left is ok, while the figure second from the left is one of my favorites. He can be a crotchety old man or, in my campaign, the crazy mastermind pulling the strings. The figure second from the right I also like, a stuffy gentleman. I'll be posting my fully painted version of him soon. Regardless, if you need a Gary Oldman "Dracula," you must get this pack before it disappears forever.