Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Poll: Best Star Wars Soundtrack?

I just started the blog's first ever poll--Best Star Wars Soundtrack.  Please take a moment to vote and then feel free to discuss your vote in the comments section. We'll see how this goes! I'll kick it off, though my comments below sound more like my usual posts than comments! :-)

Though I like many tracks from the various episodes, such as Duel of the Fates from Phantom Menace and the opening battle sequence of Revenge of the Sith, overall best soundtrack for me just has to be Empire Strikes Back. You get The Imperial March, The Battle in the Snow, Main Star Wars Theme, Yoda's Theme, Asteroid Field, City in the Clouds, and more. Jam packed listening fun! Back when I first saw the movie in 1980, I ran out and bought the original flip-open, double-disk LP set with photo booklet inside and everything. I wore it out during our late-night RPG sessions! Sure, now I own the soundtrack on CD and have ripped it to MP3, but sometimes I miss opening that old enormous dust jacket, flipping through the photos, sliding out the albums, and putting the needle on the record. Ah, those were good times! Read more about the ESB LP and CD at its Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Painting WWII Soviet Infantry - Part 2:
Summer Tunics & Trousers

Articles In This Series
Part 1: Series Introduction, Plus Ranks & Insignia
Part 2: Summer Tunics & Trousers
Part 3: Basing Tips & Tricks
Part 4: Winter Uniforms
Part 5: Painting Guides
Part 6A: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6B: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6C: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry

Series Overview
This is the second in an ongoing series of articles documenting the research I have been doing for painting my 28mm Black Tree Design miniatures for 1:1 skirmish gaming. Finding historical information on Soviet uniforms that gamers can use was very difficult, with much of it scattered across various Osprey and other books, along with some websites. I hope folks find this series of articles helpful and might even stir some interest in gaming the Eastern Front. While I painted 28mm miniatures, nearly all this information is useful for all miniature sizes.

Color Variations
Since the Soviets had practically no quality controls in place, uniform colors were amazingly varied. The basic summer tunic and trouser color is an olive shade of khaki, though the color varied widely from drab olive green to a pale brown to a light cream color. Just take a look at the color variations among the reenactor uniforms sold at Trident Military.

I saw the same color variations  among the color photographs I saw in the books I used, as well as among the original color photographs online and color photographs of original uniforms. (Just be careful when looking for color WWII photos online because there seems to be a hobby of colorizing old black and white WWII photos.)

Besides the variations in the cotton cloth dye, many of the color variations came from the cloth fading in the harsh weather and poor dye quality. Normally, the fresh troops who were sent to fill the gaps in shot-up units would wear the darker shades of olive khaki, whereas the hardened veterans would be wearing the lightest shades of khaki.

Painting The Figures
Because I wanted to reflect the chaotic nature of a Soviet platoon that had been fighting for a long time in Stalingrad or elsewhere, with new soldiers replacing dead soldiers while fighting aside veterans with the 1000-yard stare, I painted the tunics and trousers on my figures a variety of shades. Often, the tunics and trousers would be different colors. This fits in with the Black Tree Design figures, which represent Soviets in late 1943.

A Word About The Paint Colors I Chose
I decided to paint my soldiers based on the paints I could easily get my hands on and what already was in my collection.  I  primarily used Reaper paints because I could get them discounted locally from Cool Stuff Inc, a major online game discounter with a brick-and-mortar store. I also used some Vallejo paints because I had bought them years ago when I painted my 15mm figures. I also used some craft paints because I have a massive collection of them, though craft paint military colors tend to be lacking. While it can be frustrating to figure out what colors to use for Soviets, it's also very liberating because there is no "correct" shade of anything! Feel free to experiment as you please, and have fun with it.

My Reasoning Behind Who Got What Colors
For the untrained fresh troops, I tried to pick figures with frightened faces, painting their uniforms in darker shades. As in real life, their trouser and tunic color almost always match, assuming they got their entire uniform from the same supply depot.

Veterans got lighter shades of khaki. Some have lighter tunics with darker trousers or darker tunics with lighter trousers. Sometimes soldiers were able to get new bits of uniforms as things wore out, or they simply strip uniform bits off their dead comrades, a common practice in a besieged city like Stalingrad that major resupply issues. Or I simply varied between the Reaper and Vallejo khaki for more subtle variation.

Because I saw this in vintage color photos, a few soldiers got tunics painted Uniform Brown. Because modeling to me is more about creating an illusion of reality instead of an exact copy, I didn't want to get so crazy with "authentic" color variations that gamers would feel that the soldiers didn't belong in the same unit. I didn't want the units too feel too disjointed. (This is why I painted all the helmets and caps the same color, to give some sense of unity across the entire platoon--but more about that at another time!) Having only a few soldiers in brown tunics but khaki trousers gives that variation while keeping the illusion the soldiers belong to the same unit. At least that's my theory!

Patches and Tears
I have seen a number of photos where the Soviet soldiers had different colored patches on the knees and other places that would wear out, though I didn't attempt to include this. Tears and sewn tears would also be common, but I didn't attempt that either. My skills aren't up to that quite yet. (I did give a couple of my guys scars, though!)

Vary It Up
So if you're looking to do a more authentic platoon of Soviet infantry, try to vary the shades of the tunics and trousers. A uniformly equipped and uniformly shaded rifle section or platoon would be fresh untrained meat for the grinder!

Summer Uniform Painting Guide
Below are the colors I used to paint the summer tunics and trousers on my Soviet figures. I've also listed some additional suggestions I've found. Luckily for the Soviet WWII gamer, unlike the French Napoleonic gamer, there is no correct color for anything in the Soviet army! So use whatever you think looks right to you.

Fresh Troops
Highlight: Reaper 9122 Terran Khaki
Base: Reaper 9121 Khaki Shadow
Shade: Reaper 9158 Olive Drab

Veteran Troops
Highlight: Reaper 9123 Khaki Highlight
Base: Reaper 9122 Terran Khaki or Vallejo 988 Khaki
Shade: Reaper 9121 Khaki Shadow

Hardened Troops
Highlight: Reaper 9123 + White
Base: Reaper 9123 Khaki Highlight
Shade: Reaper 9122 Terran Khaki

Highlight: Reaper 9127 Uniform Brown + Reaper 9123 Khaki Highlight
Base: Reaper 9127 Uniform Brown
Shade: Americana DA180 Asphaltum

Vallejo Variation
One of the figure painting books, I can't recall which one or where I found this, suggests painting Soviet tunics and trousers the following colors using Vallejo paints.  The mixes are equal parts.
Highlight: Base Color + 914 Green Ochre + 976 Buff
Base: 879 Green Brown + 882 Middlestone
Shade: Base Color + 872 Chocolate Brown + Black

Michael Farnsworth Guide
Farnsworth's painting guide, available online at Artizan's website, suggests the following Vallejo colors for Soviet tunics and trousers. I'm not much a fan of using Russian Green for the uniforms because the color is a bit too green from my research. Fine for armor, but not for the uniforms I feel.
Standard Uniform Base Color: 924 Russian Uniform Green
Khaki Variants: 973 US Field Drab, 921 English Uniform, or 983 Flat Earth
Tan Variant: 874 US Tan Earth
Faded Beige Variant: 821 German Camo Beige, 847 Dark Sand

What's The Code?
"Hey," I hear you saying, "how did you keep all these colors straight in your head?" That is a very good question, especially considering that I can't even remember my own cell phone number let alone what color I painted something last month!

To keep myself from getting confused, especially if I had to go back later and touch up the paint on a tunic or trouser, I created a simple paint code I painted on each bottle cap. You can see this in one of my progress photos below.

The code to the left is the tunic color. The code to the right on the cap is the trouser color. TK=Terran Khaki. K=Vallejo Khaki. KS=Khaki Shadow. And so on. Yeah, sometimes things just click for me!

Note: I didn't like the green on these helmets, later repainting them darker.

I hope this has helped you get some ideas for painting Soviet tunics and trousers. I'll be doing the gear next, followed by the weapons, along with a selection of books you might find useful.