Cheap Plastic Crap

I was idly browsing around AliExpress one day, looking for Cheap Plastic Crap that might be useful to me for wargames terrain, and happened upon this. It's not a spectacular example of the modelmaker's art, but I think it should paint up adequately well for use on the wargames table.

It's a railway station of indeterminate scale, but it looks to be roughly OK for 15mm, and they cost about a buck apiece. I bought two of them.

The base piece has a couple of AA battery slots (but no terminals or anything), and there are piercings in it for what I suspect would be a speaker, so I assume that it was intended to be some kind of musical toy. It didn't come with any of that, which is good as I'd just have to rip it all out and throw it away in any case.

The roof is secured by two pegs rising from the body piece's ceiling, and with a little bit of hacking and chopping I should be able to make the interior accessible so that I can put troops inside. I will have to chop away all the protrusions rising up from the base, of course.

Grey Tiger

This is an earlyish version of the Tiger 1, the PzKfw VI, before the changeover to the dunkelgelb base colour that occurred in February, 1943.

This is how the Tigers would have appeared soon after their appearance in Russia in 1942. The very first examples did not have the turret storage bin, but they were quickly fitted to all of them, and I've included it on this one for no other reason that that I think it looks better.

The model is 1:100 scale (15mm), from PSC. It's a very straightforward build, and the sprues provide parts for vehicles from early, mid, or late production.

Top view

Here it is, for comparison, with the old Battlefront resin/metal casting. I like the weight of the old models, but I like the price of the newer plastic ones much more.

I was surprised to learn that US Army testing showed that the Tiger's 88mm L56 was incapable of penetrating the upper glacis of the Sherman's hull front at any range. However, it had no trouble at all punching through the transmission housing or the turret front at over a thousand metres, so I guess that was small comfort.

The poor old 75mm Shermans, on the other hand, couldn't do squat to the Tiger's frontal armour even right at muzzle-point, and had to get to within 100 metres to have any hope of a side penetration.

Dorchester ACV (15mm)

This is the British "Dorchester" ACV (Armoured Command Vehicle) in 1:100 (15mm) scale. It's painted in the early WWII "Caunter" disruptive camouflage pattern.

I printed this some time ago, but just got around to painting it. It's not the best print in the world, but it will do its job as a wargaming toy. It should have aerials sticking out all over the place, but I've found they just get in the way when it comes to storage, and they're very prone to damage, so I don't bother with them any more.

The infantry are old 15mm Battlefront 8th Army figures — the first 15mm WWII figures I ever owned, in fact.

Painting Caunter with Vallejo colours

The British early desert war Caunter pattern is an attractive one on the wargames table, but it is truly a pain in the arse to paint. All of the borders between the colours have to be dead straight, or else it looks like pants.

I've tried masking and spraying it, but on these little rivet-covered models that is extremely troublesome, and the easiest method I've found is just to use a long-haired lettering brush to outline the areas of colour, and then to just colour them in with a regular #1 round brush.

There is, apparently, a very good Caunter set of acrylics available from a manufacturer whose name escapes me right now, but I don't have access to those.

The paints I do have access to are Vallejo. My local model shop keeps good stocks of them, and I can generally be confident of getting the colours I want. In truth, the ready availability of Vallejo paints has made me pretty lazy about mixing up my own colours.

The model shown above, a PSC 1:100 (15mm) A9 cruiser, is painted in a combination of the two colour sets I've laid out here in my modelling notebook.

The base colour (Portland Stone) is VMC 847 Dark Sand,  which is a little too dark on its own, so I've highlighted and panel-toned it with VGC 034 Bone White.

The middle tone (Silver Grey) is VMC 844 Stone Grey. VMC 886 Grey Green is OK, but it looks a bit too dark to my eye on its own. I've tried painting it in 886 and then lightening it with 844, but there didn't seem to be much, if any benefit over going straight to 844.

The darkest tone (Slate Grey) is VMC 830 German Field Grey. If you want a faded effect on a well-used vehicle, a 50/50 mix of 830 and 886 works well.

The keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed that there is not a blue paint to be seen anywhere. The idea that Caunter included a blue seems to have been propagated from a an erroneous scheme devised in the 1960s — apparently the Silver Grey could fade to what appeared to be a bluish shade in certain lights, but it certainly didn't start out that way.

Weathering Brushes

These are a few of the types of brushes I use for weathering my models. They're types that will be very familiar to picture painters, but they may not be quite as well known to modellers.

From left to right:

  1. First is just a #5 round synthetic that I have used for general-purpose dry brushing for well over a decade, maybe two. As you can see, it's had a very hard life. Nothing very special here; everybody has a brush like this hanging around.
  2. Next is a brush style called a dagger. It is flat, with a curved, pointed edge. This is an excellent style of brush for very controlled dry-brushing, as it can be oriented to apply the paint in a broad or narrow strip, with a relatively hard edge, or by leaning the brush right over so the point isn't in full contact, with a very soft edge. It's a good shape for getting right up against or under a ledge without contaminating the other surface. For wet-painting, a dagger can achieve a very fluid, calligraphic line.
  3. Third is a filbert. Again, it's a flat brush but with a rounded edge; this allows you to blend in dry-brushed strokes with each other a bit better than with a regular chisel-edged brush, but it's still broad enough to cover a wide area. Or, by turning the brush 90°, you can dry-brush in a relatively narrow band. It makes it a very flexible brush for this sort of thing.
  4. Last is a fan. These come in both soft and stiff types; this one is quite a coarse hog-bristle fan. I use it for creating a generalised streaking effect.

Apart from the last brush (the fan), these are all synthetics. Although they've improved immeasurably over the last couple of decades, synthetic brushes still aren't generally as good as natural hairs such as sable when it comes to detail painting. However, I prefer synthetics for weathering, as the bristles tend to be fine and springy, and the fact that they don't hold paint as well is less important. Also, and this is a factor not to be taken lightly, they are cheap. Weathering brushes take a real hammering, and using a fifty dollar brush for it is the sort of thing you'd only do if you had all the money in the world, and no conscience.

Stuff New and Old on Wargaming3d

I've begun putting STL files up for sale on Wargaming3d, a newish site catering to the burgeoning home 3d printing wargaming market.

Most of my models were originally designed with Shapeways printing processes in mind, and most often that means they have to be fairly substantially redesigned to better suit home 3d printing, either in FDM or resin. It's a slow process, but I'm gradually getting there.

The catalogue is growing, if slowly. The most recent additions are these:

Loyd Carrier Mk.VI

These were the direct ancestors of the WWII carrier family. They were obsolete and worn out by the war, but a number of them were temporarily brought back into service after Dunkirk.

Bren Carrier No.2 Mk.1

This is one of the early versions of the carrier, used before they were all combined into the later Universal Carrier.

This model is a remix of one by M. Bergman. I have just added and refined details of rivets, tracks, gun and crew.

Beaverette "Beaverbug"

The Beaverette was an improvised armoured car thrown together in a terrific rush in 1940. This is a later version, armed with twin Vickers "K" guns, mostly used for airfield defence and the like.

A1E1 Independent

This British leviathan never made it out of prototype, but it was very influential on Soviet and German tank design in the Interwar period.

Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 Medium Tank

This was the most common Italian medium tank of WWII. It was developed further, but by the time Italy surrendered, it and its descendents were thoroughly obsolete.

Long Journey Into Night (with toy soldiers)

Way back in the distant past, in the very early 1970s, when I first started wargaming with actual rules (rather than just playing with my toy soldiers and knocking them down with a remarkably lethal spring-loaded Britains howitzer), we used Airfix plastic figures and model tanks. Mostly tanks, to be honest, because those little HO/OO scale figures were fiddly and tended to fall over a lot. Basing infantry was, as yet, in the future. Also, to our foetal brains, tanks just seemed so much cooler.

Since pretty much all of our research into WWII came from Commando comics, our games tended not to lean very far in the way of historical verisimilitude. In fact, they had a lot more in common with World of Tanks, with vehicles from all nationalities and eras banged together in a mish-mash.

We had a lot of fun.

.....-----+++++<< O >>+++++-----.....

Advertisement from the Feb. 1979 issue.
Note that the price of the models had
already risen to 13p each, and they
got more expensive fast.
A bit later on, when I was at high school, I discovered from my Military Modeling magazines, that I could get tanks and things in 1/300 scale from Heroics & Ros in the UK.

They were cheap — from memory, one tank cost 6p, which was about 15 cents in New Zealandish money — but ordering stuff from overseas at the time was something of a trial. I had to go to a bank and apply for an international money order, send off my order to the UK, and then wait anywhere up to six months for it to arrive by sea freight. Six months is a long time to wait, especially for a 13 year old boy.

Infantry in 1/300 were even less manageable than before, so again we concentrated entirely on tanks and guns. I forget which rules we used, and the little typewritten A5 booklet has long since gone the way of all flesh, but the author clearly agreed with us on that point, since I don't recall infantry even being mentioned in the rules at all. I suppose they might have been; if they were, we ignored them.

I built up quite a substantial collection of 1/300 models, but eventually, when I left home and started having to pay my own living expenses, they got sold off to pay the rent. I hope they went to a good home.

.....-----+++++<< O >>+++++-----.....

The 1st Edition of Flames of War
As time went on, and I got a bit more disposable income, I started rebuilding my micro-scale collection, but at some time — about the turn of the Millenium, I think — Flames of War came on to the scene, and 15mm WWII gaming became enormously popular, almost overnight it seemed.

It interested me for two reasons:

  1. Because it was the first WWII rule set I'd encountered that appeared to make a real effort to reflect the actual tactics and doctrines of the various combatants, and to make those tactics gameable, and
  2. Because 1:100/15mm scale seemed like an ideal tabletop scale, large enough to be worth spending time modelling, but compact enough to store easily and to look reasonably "right" on the wargames table.

It was soon published in its 2nd edition, and though some distinct improvements were made, it introduced other issues that seemed to me to move it away from a "play the period" game to more of an "exploit the rules loopholes" sort of exercise. At least, that's how it seemed locally; I don't know about gaming groups anywhere else. People started indulging in the GW "super-army" syndrome, and it became no fun at all to play, for me at least.

At the same time, the company (Battlefront) shifted their operations from Auckland to Malaysia, and pretty much forgot all about their New Zealand market. They don't even offer a $NZ currency option on their online store (or at least, they didn't when last I looked). They've become increasingly problematic to deal with, and I just don't bother with them any more.

It's now, as of writing, Flames of War is up to its 4th edition, and it seems to have continued its downward slide into a WWII-flavoured game, rather than any kind of WWII simulation.

.....-----+++++<< O >>+++++-----.....

Right now, my WWII wargaming systems of choice are Chain of Command for small platoon-level infantry actions, and Battlegroup for larger combined-arms games up to about battalion level. I don't have a great deal of interest in regimental or army-sized games as tabletop wargames; I think they're better suited to board games like those from SPI. But if I did, Spearhead seems like a worthwhile candidate.

I still have a large collection of 6mm models, but my eyesight isn't that great these days, so I seldom use them. I should probably sell them off, but whenever I've sold off model collections in the past, I've always regretted it. Now I think I'll just leave them to be somebody else's problem after I'm dead.

My 15mm WWII and Interwar vehicle collection has expanded quite a bit since I got a 3d printer, though regrettably it's not really capable of creating decent 15mm infantry. Also, it's busted right at this moment, which is very frustrating.

If, for some reason, I had to start all over again, from scratch, I think my scale of choice would be 1:200. It has the benefit of being large enough to easily see detail and to distinguish different vehicles and guns from each other, but small enough that a reasonable army could be stored in a shoe-box. It's also small enough that it can be played on quite a small table, just by converting all inch measurements into centimetres. It has, in the past, suffered from a lack of model availability, and what was available seemed to me to be rather over-priced, but now that I could create my own models on the 3d printer, those issues are no longer relevant.

We're still having a lot of fun.

My Printer Broke

The fan in my 3d printer's PSU has been getting noisier and noisier over the last months as its bearings gradually disintegrated. The day before yesterday the damage became too much for it to bear, and the fan just stopped, apart from making the occasional pathetic little scratching noise.

Yesterday I bought a replacement fan, which I thought was the same spec as the original, but of better quality. I had to cut off the plug from the old fan and solder the wires on to the new, as the new fan came entirely plugless.

The new fan was also bulkier than the old. I could get the PSU case closed with it in place, but only just.

I suspect that I created a short circuit in there when everything was crammed back together, because when I switched on, something went
and then everything stopped. My PSU is dead.


I've ordered a new PSU from China, but it will be up to a month before it gets here. So, I'm without a working 3d printer until then. And even then there is no guarantee, as I will have to transfer all the switch and plug cabling over to the new one, and since I am really very ignorant about electronic fiddlery there's a good chance that I'll bollocks it up again.

I guess I'll just have to get started on painting all the bits and pieces I've already printed instead of just steadily adding to the pile of raw plastic things.


In the Chain of Command rules, buildings exist in essentially one of three states: undamaged, unstable, or ruinous. A building that is "unstable" is usable, but is likely to fall down at the end of a Turn, potentially killing everyone still left inside.

I have digital models for undamaged buildings and for complete ruins, but until now, nothing for the inbetween state.

I took the roof component from the Printable Scenery French Townhouse and remixed it in Blender to create the damage you see here. This roof piece is compatible with their French Shop House model as well, but not, unfortunately, the Farmhouse model.

In retrospect, it would have been better to use the roof from the Shop for this "Unstable" indicator, as that roof piece has tiles on all four sides, so it would look a bit less out of place when swapped between the two types of models. But never mind; if need be I can always do another one.

Rural Ruin

Here's another ruin, with a bit more of a rural aspect than the others I've been doing recently. It's assembled from pieces from the Printable Scenery Modular Ruins set, plus the little outhouse I designed the other day. And, of course, various sorts of rubble and what-not.

I don't know what it is about ruins that attracts me more than models of functional buildings.

3d Printing Destruction

Twenty bucks for a table full of Stalingrad from Printable Scenery seems like a pretty good deal to me, though it's going to take a power of printing.

This is where having half a dozen printers would come in handy, but I suspect that if I bought another one I would get some justifiably reproachful looks from the other half of the household. Fortunately I'm saved from myself by not having enough money to buy another printer in any case.

I've been putting together some single-level ruins using their Modular Ruins set, emphasizing, I must admit, speed over beauty, but the Stalingrad Ruins files will allow me to get some multi-level ruins on the table to get my snipers up in.

Warp Speed

Warping on the corner of the first floor piece.
The other two pieces are fine.
I'm getting warping of some pieces from my 3d printer again, as I did when I first got it about this time last year.

There are a number of variables that could be the cause:
  1. Inconsistent heating across the bed
  2. Change to a new variety of PLA filament
  3. Seasonal drop in ambient temperature, and an air current across that bit of the bed
  4. Angry gremlins
It always seems to be in things printed on the front-right corner of the bed, so I suspect either or both of (a) or (c), but I'm not discounting (d).

CoC Dice Tray — in the flesh

I've got my record-keeping dice tray for Chain of Command printed now in PLA. It took about 24 hours all up, for the tray, pegs and morale dice.

On the left, and turning a corner to run across the top, is the Morale Track. In this instance, the force has 11 morale, one peg for each level of morale. Immediately below the last five morale pegs are recesses for dice indicating the effect of falling below that level of morale: loss of a Command Die (the 5-spot icon), loss of a Jump-Off Point (the letter J), or loss of a special Red Command Die (the red square).

Immediately below that is the rack for the command dice, designed to accommodate up to eight 12mm dice (though most forces will only need five). In this instance, there are five regular command dice and one special red die.

To the right of the Morale track is the Chain of Command track. Every time a five is rolled on a Command Die, a red peg is added to the CoC track. When six fives have been rolled, add a gold Chain of Command peg and remove all the red pegs from their holes — there is space for up to three CoC pegs, though it's unlikely that anyone would collect that many before using any.

To the right of the CoC track is a cavity to keep CoC pegs and any other spare bits and pieces in.

And at the bottom, of course, is the dice tray itself. I'll probably end up covering the bottom with felt or a thin sheet of closed-cell foam to cut down on the clatter.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.

The STLs for all the components are available for free download at

Chain of Command Dice Tray and Record Keeper

I've thrown together a custom dice tray for CoC, for 3d printing, which incorporates record-keeping aids as well as the dice-rolling cavity.

There are pegs for keeping track of your Force Morale and Chain of Command dice, small 8mm dice to use with the last few spaces on the Morale Track to indicate the effect of falling to specific levels of morale, and a dedicated rack for the Orders Dice to keep them out of the way and make them less likely to be picked up and thrown with the other dice (designed to fit 12mm dice, because that's what I use).

You'd probably want to paint the pegs in different colours according to their function. For example, the pegs used to count up to a CoC die should really be easily distinguishable from the ones used to indicate the presence of a CoC die.

The little morale-effect dice would benefit from being painted too, to make them a bit clearer and easier to read. They have faces with icons to match the loss of a Command Die, the loss of a Jump-Off Point, and the loss of a Red Command Die. Two of the dice will fit in each of the recesses below the appropriate morale track peg holes.

I've provided enough pegs that you could fill up the Morale Track as far as your Force Morale value, and remove them as you lose morale, or else you could just use one and move it down the track. Whichever works best for you.

The STLs are at

I haven't printed it yet; my printer is busy printing trench sections, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

A Party of Special Magnificence

This is my post number 1,111. I am eleventy-eleventy-one today.

It's an arbitrary and meaningless milestone, I know. But what the hell. The universe is arbitrary and meaningless, so why can't I be?

Note: There will NOT be any parties of special magnificence to commemorate this event.

Printable Scenery (Again)

It's easier, when playing the skirmish-level Chain of Command, or even company-level Battlegroup,  to have building models that you can actually put troops inside. It's not absolutely necessary, but it does cut down on note-taking, or reliance on increasingly fallible memory, if you can see at a glance which troops are where. Up until now I've been using my card buildings, and though they're fine as markers, they don't have accessible interiors.

With that in mind, I bought some more models from Printable Scenery, to go along with the modular ruins I bought from them and printed a while ago. The models are sized for use with 28mm figures, but I've scaled them down to 60% for use in 15mm games. They could probably go down to 50%, but this size suits me well enough.

This particular one is the French Town House from their WWII range, and it costs about ten yankeebucks.

Even scaled down, and printed at quite low resolution (0.24mm layers), there's a fair amount of printing involved. These three pieces ended up taking about twenty hours, all up.

They're well designed for wargames use. Each floor is separate, and they sit together quite securely with peg-&-socket joints at the corners. There are no internal walls, so it's easy to access figures placed inside, but there is a little decoration applied on the floor and around the walls so that they don't just look like blank boxes inside.

This, and others in the range, are also available as bombed-out ruined versions.

All in all, I'd say they're pretty good value for money. I've seen much worse resin models going for a lot more money, and though twenty hours is a long time to print, it's still a considerably shorter time than I'd have to wait for a model to arrive through the post.

Highly recommended.



Here's the first one, with a very, very quick paint-job.

I haven't painted any of the insides (except for a primer coat) and probably won't, since the innards aren't really very important except as troop containers.

Next Day

This is the next one, the Shop, also about ten dollars.

I had slightly less success with the printing of this model, probably because I did all three pieces in one hit, pretty much entirely covering the build plate, rather than doing them one at a time in the safe centre portion. I notice some slight lifting on a couple of corners on the second storey piece, and I got a bit of breakage of delicate details like window bars, banister and stair-well rail spindles. However, none of that really matters a great deal; I can just call it battle damage.

The brickwork and interior detailing would really benefit from being printed at a higher resolution, say 0.12–0.16mm, but of course that would about double the print time, which is already about 20 hours at 0.24mm. If I had a second printer, I'd probably do that, but I find it very frustrating to want to be able to print something, knowing that the printer is going to be tied up for another day at least.

There's at least one more piece that I want to get and print — well, two really, since the farm house in this image is a separate purchase. That's the French Farm set. That's about $22 all up, ten for the farmhouse and twelve for the walls and outbuildings. It looks to me like it would make an excellent centrepiece to a wargames table.


Here it is. Took a lot of printing, and now it needs a coat of paint. At the moment it's all just free-floating (the wall sections are clipped together) but I think I'll probably put it all on a permanent base, along with some scenic rustic farm stuff. I can, after all, print more pieces if I need them separately.

I'm not saying it's Traveller..... but it's Traveller

I found this being referred to online as a decent Traveller clone, and thought I'd check it out.

It's available as a PDF and/or softcover book from DriveThruRPG at — as of writing it's about seven bucks for the PDF, and thirteen for the hard copy/PDF bundle. And it seems to be fairly well supported with other volumes on planetary systems, vehicles, and so forth, which is all to the good.

Dried out, but still slightly mangled.
Thanks so much, NZ Post.
I liked what I saw of it enough to spring for the extra six whole dollars for the book, and it arrived the other day. Late. Having been dropped in a puddle.

Thanks, NZ Post.

And yep, it's Traveller all right, which suits me just fine.

It's been many, many years since I've played Traveller. We dabbled briefly in T20 when it first appeared, but I didn't like it much — it seemed to me to be a bit too much like D&D with blasters, which is fine as far as it goes, but not what we were looking for. I ran some Travellerish games using the Hero System ages ago, and they were pretty satisfying, but I became weary of the amount of accounting required to keep a Hero campaign running.…/terr…/campaign_notes/campaignindex.html…/hero/sci-fi/gaeanreach/sci-fi.html

Anyway, the culmination of my long-running AD&D campaign is in sight at last, and I thought I'd switch gears and try a Traveller game, probably fairly Firefly-ish because I loved that show and the characters in it.

So, now I have a copy of The Traveller Book, and my waterlogged copy of the Cepheus Engine (thanks again, NZ Post!) which has dried out a bit in the hot water cupboard and been ironed dry and flattish. How practical would it be to run a campaign using both at the table? Probably better to stick to just CE. My beloved players are more likely to spring for a $13 copy of Cepheus Engine than forty yankeebucks on their own copies of the Traveller Book.

Let me just consult my House Rules....

Now, I know I wrote down an amendment to that rule somewhere.....

I find it impossible not to tinker with roleplaying or wargaming rules.

I'm beginning to think my players might be losing patience with this trait of mine. The rolling eyes, the heaving of sighs, these are all subtle signs and hints.

Too bad.

Modular Monster Model

I'm not completely sure where this model came from. It's called Ambush Maw, and I've had it sitting on my hard drive for a while now.

It could be quite a flexible miniature for tabletop use, as it could be used all together, as shown here, or the central mouth-thing could be used alone, or each of the graboid tentacles could be used as separate creatures. The tentacle-things are about 100mm tall.

I also printed eight of the graboids at 50% size, just because I thought they might come in handy. At that size they're closer to the scale of a character figure (a little taller) and might be usable as some kind of underground eel thingy. Maybe they could be bulette larvae?

Everything has been printed at quite low resolution (0.24mm layers) in grey eSun PLA+ filament. I could have printed it smoother at 0.1mm or 0.08mm, but it would have taken a couple of days, and I don't really see the point for something that is only ever going to be a tabletop toy.

Goblin Doodle — WiP

I started doodling idly away at a subdivided cube in Blender, and pretty much before I knew it I'd ended up with this little goblin's head and torso.

Now I think I need to take a step back and have a thought for what I actually want him to end up as, and what I want to do with him, because up until this point I've just been sculpting fairly mindlessly.

I'm not even really sure exactly how big he is, at this point.

Cheap Plastic Crap

I was idly browsing around AliExpress one day, looking for Cheap Plastic Crap that might be useful to me for wargames terrain, and happene...