Monday, February 27, 2012

Black Tree Design's Frustrating Random WWII Packs: There Must Be A Solution!

16 poses from WW2371
Black Tree Design have an interesting and frustrating way of selling many of their figures, especially those in the WWII line. Take "WW2371 Wehrmacht Infantry with SMGs I" for example. Black Tree Design has 28 poses of Wehrmacht with SMG's but only sells this code in random 4-figure packs. To make matters worse, the code includes some figures dressed in caps, while others have helmets, and some are even officers! Just to top off the frustration meter, some poses come with MP40s and others with captured PPSh-41's.

But wait! There's more! Nick Collier began BTD's WWII line back when the company was Harlequin Miniatures. If memory serves, he did the Soviets, Germans, and Americans. Then he left the company with the line unfinished. Cut-rate clean-up sculptors then came in and added more poses to the packs. While Nick's figures are excellent and the research top notch, the opposite can be said for the later sculpts. As a friend recently put it concerning my non-Collier Soviet figures, "Some of those fella's must have been hit with an ugly stick!"

Those Big Platoon Packs Really Frighten Me!
WW2378 - 24 poses but random 4-fig packs!
So there you go. All those different poses, uniforms, weapons, and sculpts all tossed randomly into the same 4-figure packs! And the same is true for their larger figure packs and platoon packs. While I bought my BTD figures second-hand, the gentleman had purchased one of those large assorted packs where you get something like 20 riflemen poses. The downside was that he got 7 of the same rifleman pose! It just so happens that this is the worst of the poses to boot! (This is the only bare-headed Soviet soldier they sell.) Now, I painted two of them and have left the other five primed, figuring I can let a newbie painter take some whacks at them. (Thankfully, I didn't get any of the useless prone riflemen!) Still, I paid so little for the figures second-hand that I can't complain, but if I had paid retail I would have been ticked off! (The original owner was ticked off and just wanted to dump them IIRC, getting them out of his sight.)

I will be honest. I am terrified to purchase any more Black Tree Design WWII figures. Not because I hate them, quite the opposite, or fear bad service, they have turned that around from what I hear. I fear those random packs!

The Solution? I Contacted Black Tree Design USA
I only want these circled in red, please.
Tonight I emailed the good folks at BTD, asking them if there would be some way to specify what poses I want and then just order those instead of random figures I don't need. For example, I really want some of those Wehrmacht carrying captured PPSh's! I'd also like to have some Soviet's carrying captured MP40's. That would really capture the look and feel of city fighting, where both side kept stealing (good) weapons from each other. I asked if maybe I could send them a copy of their jpg's with the figures I'd like circled, like I shown to the left. Or maybe they could consider selling them in pre-made 4-figure packs. After all, WWII gamers tend to be a picky lot, wanting exactly the uniforms and weapons they need.

Here is the kicker. While I did buy a load of Crusader Germans and Americans, I would love to have some more BTD figures as well. They mix without any problems and offer figures no one else seems to make. They were also cast better than the Crusader I had ordered from Old Glory (I know this is a touchy subject, but I have witnesses I tell you! Witnesses!) I'll post back if I hear anything from Black Tree Design.

One Final Yipee Note!
The Soviets are finished! Everybody break dance! Ok, we can stop break dancing now. I'm getting too tired.... I began these Soviets something like 13 months ago or more. I forget because I'm getting old and we oldies forget a lot. What? Oh right. The Soviets are done. Back on topic. Well, I had worked sporadically on them until recently but 13 months is still a long time!

Yesterday, I finished painting the last details on the infantrymen and some officers. I also repainted the helmets--the green was too light, the photo I posted a while back didn't lie. I even made one of the officers an NKVD fellow, making sure the riflemen know which way is not retreating. I need to base them, varnish them, and finish off the bases. That is planned for my Spring Break next week. You know photos will be coming!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interwar Pulp Western Back-of-Beyond Excellence:
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

If you like crazy spaghetti Western action. If you like crazy interwar Pulp action. If you like crazy Mad Max action. Then you will love The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008, Rated R) from South Korean filmmaker  Jee-woon Kim. You can watch it streaming on Netflix or pick up the DVD or Blu-Ray on Amazon for about $11. Do not let subtitles put you off from watching this film. I give it 5/5 stars, which is rare for me. The train robbery at the beginning alone is worth the price of admission! The ending has some nice twists. Check the official UK website for more info.

This movie is really hard to describe. According to IMDb, "The story of two outlaws and a bounty hunter in 1930s Manchuria and their rivalry to possess a treasure map while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits."  I'm horrible at writing reviews of anything, so just let me say that this move has everything I love, plus the soundtrack is amazing. I kept asking myself, I wonder where I can get figures for these characters! (You can bet that I will be blogging about that soon!)
The directing is over the top and often tongue-in-cheek. The R rating is for violence and some language. (Ok, it's not a family film.) I had been fearing a lot of guts and gore, but there really isn't any of that. Kim makes you imagine the gory parts, such as someone's finger getting chopped off, which I find better than seeing it.

One last bit of advice: keep watching into the beginning of the credits. Like most Asian films, the "real ending" is in the credits. After that, they just show stills from the movie while finishing up the screen crawl.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Tree Design Soviets: Almost Done!

A few progress shots featuring some of the almost completed Black Tree Design Soviets. Yesterday, I painted the fellows wearing helmets and was so excited that I grabbed my Lumix, grabbed the miniatures, grabbed some yellow envelopes, and set up a rickety photo station on the trunk of my wife's car in the driveway. Oh, I forgot to mention that it was a frigid 43 degrees here in Florida when I shot the photos. And I was wearing shorts. Yep. That's how I roll.

BTW as I've bee painting this large batch of 25 figures, I've been trying different techniques. For example, some have black-lining while others are lined using darker shades of the shadow color. You can see this on the equipment especially. All this variation just seems to add to their ragtag appearance.

Know The Code
As is often noted, the Soviets had very little quality control in their uniforms, so I used a variety of shades to give them that hard-fought look. The lighter the color, the more veteran the soldier. (I read about this in many books and online discussions.) To keep the colors straight, I painted codes on the bottle caps. TK, for instance, means Reaper Terran Khaki. The left code is the color for the blouse, while the right code is for the trousers. This system worked great! I think I'll use it for Confederate troops as well. I'll post my painting guide a bit later.

Soviet Helmets
Also, I notice the helmets look a a lot greener in the photos than real life, probably due to the sunlight and the yellow envelope. I looked at many photos of Soviet WWII helmets, and it appears they, too, had many different shades from a more olive to a more greener look. So, I uploaded various helmets to Reaper's Power Palette  webpage to get a match for the Reaper colors. For example, the one helmet came up Reaper Highlands Moss. I have it's shade, Jungle Moss, but not Highlands Moss. So I custom mixed some craft paints to get something close enough. More on this mix in another post. Though the uniform colors vary widely, I wanted to paint these helmets the same color to pull all the figures together. These were the first 28m helmets I've painted, and I think my style of feathering mixed with blending worked pretty good.

Okay, I've blathered on long enough! Here are the pics.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Western Gaming Inspiration: Warlock (1959)

I getting ready to expand my Wild West town and am looking to purchase some of the new GameCraft Miniatures Wild West 28mm buildings. As a result, I did some "research" early this morning (woke up way too early and couldn't fall back asleep) and watched (on Netflix) the 1959 classic western, Warlock, staring all my favorite actors: Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quin, DeForest Kelley, and more. The blurb at IMDB reads: "The town of Warlock is plagued by a gang of thugs, leading the inhabitants to hire Clay Blaisdell, a famous gunman, to act as marshal" You just know there will be problems! I won't spoil the movie for you!

As I often mention, I use the blog as a visual notebook for myself. Below are a series of screen shots I captured for inspiration, ranging from building shots to outfits. Why should I guess what colors to use for buildings or figures when I can screen capture? I know this post is picture-heavy, but the images are fairly small, averaging less than 200k each. If this is too many photos, please let me know. I'd hate to bring folks's readers to a crawl!

The opening scene of the town Warlock. I need a model of that water wagon!

The saloon, very muted. This will be repainted white later in the movie.

The stone sheriff's office is great. I love the other buildings, too. Must remember to dirty up my models!

This is a great outfit. Must paint stubble on my figures.

Seeing this photo, I realized we need figure facing rules in Western games, for that shot in the back.

A nice collection of dusty outfits for painting inspiration.
Inspiration for townsfolk painting.

Windows are not empty. Remember to add curtains!

The villain gamblers always wear flashy vests. I doubt the small print pattern will survive shrinking to 28mm.

Masked bandits. Remember to make a handkerchief green or blue! Red gets old.

Love the livery colors. I need water troughs (basic water boxes are fine it seems) and wagons.

Another collection of great costumes to paint. Notice how gun barrels are not black?

This doesn't look good!

Richard Widmark makes a stand. Again, love the costume.

Is Henry Fonda a good guy or band guy? Classic outfit and pose.

I love that jacket on the right! I must try it. Plus, buckskins! Nice inspiration for painting.