Cold War Project — Infantry Basing Method

GPMG group, primed but not yet painted or flocked
This is a Heroics & Ros 1980s British three-man GPMG group, with the gun mounted in its sustained-fire mode on a tripod.

I am mounting all my infantry on steel washers, the size of the washer being dependent on the number of men in the group.

For three-man groups and team weapons, I'm using 22mm washers. For two-man groups 16mm, and for single figures 12.5mm.

Single figures are there pretty much just to allow for casualty removal, but also to represent men with specialist equipment like the Blowpipe AA missile launcher.

The only problem with washers as basing material is the extremely inconvenient hole in the middle. I cover that hole with a piece of 80-90gsm printer paper, torn into an irregular shape to give soft, irregular edges and glued into place with liberal amounts of cyanoacrylate (superglue). The superglue penetrates the fibres of the paper and, when dry, gives you quite a tough, plasticized material, more than strong enough for this purpose. Make sure the cyanoacrylate has soaked the paper directly over the hole as well.

The figures are glued in place, either before or after being painted, again with superglue.

Lots more superglue (liquid, not gel) is flooded all around the figures, and then baking soda is spooned over everything. The baking soda combines with the liquid superglue, curing it almost instantaneously, and results in this rough plastic-like groundwork around all the individual figure bases. This blends the square figure bases in with the communal base, and it means that you don't have to faff about with any other groundwork materials like pumice gel or the like. The excess is just tapped and blown away.

The last stage would be the application of very fine flock — I like coloured MDF powder, which gives you an irregular cover that isn't granular enough to overpower the very tiny figures, but the more convenient ready-made option I use is Woodland Scenics Fine Turf — the Burnt Grass colour seems to me to be the best basic colour — with the very restrained addition of Coarse Turf to represent small bushes.

Cold War Project — Artillery Again

More Heroics & Ros 1/300 scale artillery, this time the big boys. This is the 155mm gun and it's massive Foden tow lorry. The lorry's load comes as a separate piece from the body of the truck, and I'm not sure whether I've got it the right way round or not. I guess if I've got it wrong, I'll just have to live with that shame.

There was really very little point in buying these models, as the chances of guns this size ever actually appearing on the wargames table are pretty remote. But that's never stopped me in the past.

For a change, I haven't painted the crew in DPM uniform, which gives me an opportunity to see how they compare visually with the much more labour-intensive camouflaged figures. It helps that these older sculpts are in such rigid "toy soldier" poses.

Cold War Project — Artillery

These are a pair of British 105mm Light Guns in 1/300 scale, from Heroics & Ros.

I think it unlikely that the crews would be wearing their berets in the field, but that's the way they're modelled. The berets are supposed to be navy blue (which would just look black in this scale), but my navy blue paint went weird and frosty, so I've painted them a lighter blue. I might revisit that some time in the future, but it's not a huge priority.

I've added a bit of scrubby vegetation to break up the flatness a bit, but that's about as far towards a "mini-diorama" as I want to go with basing.

I have a couple of One Tonne Landrovers to pull them around.

I'm not a big fan of bases on vehicles, but because these models have little magnets glued beneath, I can pop them on or off steel bases as need be.

Cold War Project — Infantry


This is the first rifle section for my Heroics & Ros 1/300 1980s BAOR force. I've made an attempt at representing the DPM camouflage uniforms, though with only limited success. I'll do another section in plain green and see if the extra work involved in painting the camo uniforms is warranted in 6mm.

I'll be basing them on steel washers: 22mm, 16mm and 12.5mm, for three, two, and one man groups respectively. The groundwork material is green coloured MDF powder, with some brown-coloured ground-up stuff (maybe kitty litter) in amongst it. Oddly, it is magnetic: I'd guess that the brown is a ferrous oxide of some kind, perhaps.

Cold War Project — Chieftain

These are 1/300 Chieftains from Heroics & Ros. I have seven more left to paint, which will give me three troops of three to field.

The Chieftain has been one of my favourite tanks, ever since I was a kid. I was just a toddler when it first came into service, and it was well established as one of, if not the best MBT in the world by the time I started modeling tanks and things at the age of seven or eight.

There are possibly more detailed models of the Chieftain available in the 6mm scales, but this one from H&R looks pretty good to me, and I'm quite happy with it.

Cold War Project - Abbot

Here's a couple of Heroics & Ros 1/300 scale Abbot 105mm SPGs.

When I've seen the Abbot in photographs, it has always looked like a really big vehicle, but in fact it's really quite small, as becomes clear when you see a human being standing next to it. It's the same basic chassis as the FV430 series, I believe.

The model's gun is moulded horizontal, but I've bent these two up into a firing configuration. On the real vehicle, the angle to the turret would be a lot more acute, as the pivot point is further back inside the turret.



I've got all the guns, vehicles and aircraft primed now, so that will limit the degree of embarrassment I feel if and when they get on to the table before they're properly painted.

Assuming I don't drag my feet too much, painting the vehicles should go fairly swiftly. The BAOR black/green camo is very simple, and other markings are minimal. Even the aircraft should be a doddle, as the RAF roundels in the modern era have shrunk away almost to nothing.

The infantry will be a lot more labour-intensive though; they're going to need their DPM camo done, and their basing as well, which is always time-consuming.

Cold War Project

Samaritan ambulance and Sultan command vehicle
When I made my order at Heroics & Ros for my BAOR force, I inadvertently did a double-order for my FV432 APCs, and the FV105 Sultan command vehicle.

As it turns out, that's not a tragedy. Better to have too many APCs than too few, and it means that one of the Sultans can be turned into a Samaritan battlefield ambulance.


Magnetizing

As part of the preparation I give to all my 6mm models, I glue small rare-earth magnets to their undersides.

This is for several reasons, but primarily to ease transport and storage: I can keep the models in small steel tins, like old cigarette tins or the like, and they don't rattle around in there and knock all the paint off. The magnets also mean that if I need the vehicles to be based for any reason, I can just  glue a small piece of thin steel sheet to the base and pop the vehicles on or off as required. And finally, it makes handling the models easier when I'm painting them — I use fairly large bolts as painting holders, and the magnetized models just cling to them.

The magnets are attached with 5-minute epoxy. That green stuff in the photograph is a thin silicon rubber baking sheet that I've cut up, with a steel ruler underneath that the magnets are clinging to. I put a blob of glue on the underside of the model and then put it over the magnet; this ensures that the magnet is flush with the very bottom of the model's wheels or tracks.

The magnets are invisible behind tracks, but not so much for wheeled vehicles like these 1 tonne Landrovers. However, when I'm priming, I paint the undersides black, and then on the tabletop the magnets aren't really noticeable unless you really look closely.

I bought the magnets in bulk from China, and they were very cheap. The size I use mostly for 6mm vehicles is 3mm x 1.4mm, but I also have a stash of 3mm x 1mm for very low-slung models.

Uncharted Cold War Waters

Well, maybe not uncharted, as such, but certainly unfamiliar to me.

The appearance of a 1980s Cold War variant for the Battlegroup rules has encouraged me to spend some of my Paypal loot on a BAOR force in 1/300 from Heroics & Ros. The early- to mid-1980s is very slightly later than when I did my own army training (1979-80), but I'm pretty much totally unfamiliar with the equipment of the period. I didn't really take any notice of anything not directly relevant to me as a humble rifleman.

That means that before anything else, I'm going to have to go through all of these plastic bags and see if I can match up the serial numbers with the equipment models. If it was a WWII army from virtually any of the combatants, that would be a doddle, but it's going to be a bit of a grind since I barely know a Lynx from a Sultan from a Ferret. I'm pretty sure I can reliably identify the Chieftain models though, which is a start.

Even though the period I'm looking at is 35 years ago now, it all feels a bit fresh and new to me because I am so ignorant. It's almost like starting wargaming again.

By the way, the new Heroics & Ros infantry sculpts really are superb. It's just a pity my eyesight is so shitty these days.

Some of the new infantry

Later...

This is a 3-man Milan ATGM team, painted up and mounted on a 22mm washer. I have to say, painting DPM camo gear in this scale is a bit tricky.

New on top, old below.
The photo to the right compares the new (top) infantry sculpts with the old (below). The new ones include considerably more detail — I can discern helmet camo, webbing straps, and a recognisable SLR — and they're a bit bigger than the old ones too.

The old sculpts are perfectly fine as gaming tokens though. The figures have the right number of limbs, the weapon load-out is distinguishable, and if you don't care so much about detail, they're a lot more cost-effective.

Bog End

Figures are 15mm WW1 British staff officers from Peter Pig.
This terrain piece is somewhat experimental, inasmuch as I wanted to try out using very cheap (and pretty terrible) 5-minute epoxy resin for the water effects. I wanted something to go at one end of my river pieces (here and here), so they don't necessarily have to go from edge to edge of the table. The water doesn't match those pieces though, so that may not be a goer — I'll just have to see how much the difference scrapes on my nerves when the pieces are actually in play.

The no-name epoxy I used was some I found on a clearance rack at a local hardware chain store, for about three bucks per 50ml syringe. At that price, I figured I wasn't risking much except my time if it didn't work. I mixed it along with about 5-10ml of acetone to thin it, and I added some sepia acrylic ink — far too much, as it turned out — to colour it.

The results are as you see, only partially successful. With the acetone and ink added, it took a lot longer to cure than it said on the label, but that was a good thing as it gave me more working time to nudge it into all the nooks and crannies. In very shallow areas, close up against the flocking, it has greyed out somewhat. I suspect that's because the PVA I used to seal the flock wasn't fully dry, and some of it has migrated into the epoxy. It's not a tragedy for this piece, because it just looks like muddy, swampy muck, but it would have been problematic if I'd needed clear water throughout.

Whether it was because of the additives or not I don't know, but when it cured, this epoxy developed a waxy bloom that had to be wiped off. I was a bit relieved when I found that it could be wiped off.

The epoxy has one advantage over the polyester casting resin I've used, and that is that it doesn't smell, but that's it's only advantage. It is much thicker, and really does need the addition of acetone to make it usable at all, and it creates a pronounced meniscus as it cures. It doesn't create the slight surface ripple that the polyester does, so it doesn't look as convincingly liquid.

Fight the Desert War in a Small Way.....

....was the tagline for a bunch of ancient ads for GHQ 1/285 miniatures that appeared in magazines like Military Modelling in the '70s.

British 2 pounder anti-tank platoon (figures from Heroics & Ros)
I usually play 1940-ish Battle-of-France-ish games in 15mm, using the Battlegroup rules. However, I'd like to play in other theatres from time to time.

Since retooling for a new area of operations in 15mm would be quite expensive, and because I already own a whole lot of 1/300 and 1/285 scale WWII miniatures, both painted and unpainted, it seems sensible to make use of them to fill out the models I need to play these other theatres. If I find I'm becoming particularly attached to one or the other, I can always then start to build larger scale models for it.

The first alternate theatre I'm looking at is North Africa, c.1941. That means Caunter-pattern camouflage, which I can't say I really enjoy painting, but at least it's easier in 6mm than in a larger scale.

Cyclopaedia

The D&D Rules Cyclopaedia is now available again, in soft or hard covers, this time as a Print-On-Demand book. The softcover is about $US25, and the hardcover is about $US30, plus postage and what-not. I'm very tempted to buy a copy, but it would be a frivolous waste of my money since I don't even get any use out of the original copy I have, and postage to NZ would likely double the cost.

I think this was possibly the best version of D&D ever released. It is complete in one volume, so there's just the one book to carry around.

Advancement for characters runs up to 36th level, though no character in any campaign I've ever run or played in has even come close to those exalted heights: my highest-level character ever is Sir Fnord the Pretty Gosh-Darned Neat (some very old character sheets here) at a majestic 13th level, and that's after nearly forty years of (increasingly infrequent) play.

It includes all the critters a DM really needs, though it never hurts to have more up one's sleeve just to mess with those annoying players who have memorized all the standard monsters capabilities and weaknesses. Fortunately, it's pathetically easy to use the multitudinous AD&D/OSRIC bestiaries that have been produced with it; they hardly need massaging at all.

The beauty of this version of the game is that it is an excellent combination of completeness and freedom. It provides the supportive framework that can allow one to go berserk with invention without having to mess with the muscles and bones of the system; it is far less restrictive than AD&D or later versions. However, it is thorough enough to fully support players and DMs who aren't (yet) comfortable enough to diverge far from the beaten path.

Regrettably, I hardly even knew that B/X D&D existed when I first started playing in Palmerston North in '81, and even if I had, I would probably have turned my nose up at it, because we played ADVANCED D&D, not that baby "Basic" stuff. I was an ignorant idiot.

Why Infravision Sucks

Infravision, as it's described in AD&D and the like, is just a terrible idea, conceptually speaking.

For a start, let's look at its limited range. Most creatures with infravision can see with it out to 60', but why? Why does it stop? If it's a sense that distinguishes temperature gradients as a visual signal, then a man (or a dog, or a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast) standing at 50' and one standing at 70' should be pretty much equally visible.

The range limitation only makes sense — barely — if the sense is based on receiving a reflected signal from some sort of active emitter, like early night-vision equipment that used an infrared lamp and an IR-sensitive receiver. But where does the IR beam come from, in a creature with infravision? From its eyes? In which case, what's it using to see with? If it is coming from the eyes, then they'd be glowing like flashlights to any other creature with infravision, and they'd blind each other if they looked each other in the face.

Which brings us to another point: warm-blooded creatures are warm. If such a creature had IR receptors in its eyes, those receptors would be surrounded by a body-temperature bath. It would be like trying to see clearly with a light-bulb right next to your eyes — it might not blind you completely, but it will certainly impair your visual acuity.

For infravision to be sensitive enough to be able to distinguish an individual's facial features, the hot eye-bath would be crippling, making the whole sense mostly useless. Assuming the sense existed at all, at best it would be able to make out gross forms, maybe silhouettes, and if you were trying to navigate an area of a more or less constant ambient temperature, you'd be walking into walls and tripping over furniture a lot.

I don't expect D&D to strictly adhere to the laws of physics, but if it's going to pay lip-service to them, it could at least try not to be so blatantly egregious in its hand-waving.

Later editions of the game dumped infravision completely and just used a pretty-much undefined, maybe magical, thing called Darkvision. I don't really recall ever reading anything that tried to explain how it works at all, which is, I think, an improvement over the clusterfuck that is D&D infravision.

Note: I'm doing away with infravision in my AD&D campaign. Nobody gets it. I'll give those creatures that currently have it an enhanced ability to see in dim light, but they'll see like a cat, not like an Advanced Optics Night Vision Apparatus. I'll keep the Infravision spell though, because that's a magical effect and requires no more handwaving than saying "it's magic". 
Also: Why the hell should halflings have infravision anyway? They're basically meant to be short fat jolly rural rustic English peasants. Screw them.

Bog #01

Here's the first piece of bog terrain finished.

I originally intended to use a 5-minute epoxy and acetone mix for the water, but I can no longer find really cheap and nasty epoxy — I used to be able to get 40ml syringes for just a couple of bucks, but now the cheapest ones I could find are closer to ten. So, instead I used polyester casting resin, which costs about thirty bucks for a 250ml can.

There are down-sides to using the polyester:

  • First, it stinks to high heaven while it's curing.
  • Second, the disposable plastic cups I used for mixing are dissolved by it — I had to do a rapid transfer into another vessel before it ended up all over everything.
  • Third, it's very, very clear, which would normally be a good thing, but for this purpose it could have done with being a bit more murky. I added some colouring, but not quite enough, so the water looks more lake-ish than boggy.
  • Fourth, it's quite a bit thicker than water, so the meniscus is more pronounced, and it takes a bit of persuasion to flow into all the nooks and crannies. However, I was pretty much expecting that and I'm not heartbroken by it.

The vehicle in the picture is my 3d-printed 1/100 scale Burford-Kegresse machine-gun carrier.

Bog Terrain - WiP

These pieces are going to be sodden boggy bits of land. They're each about 300mm x 250mm, on a 3mm MDF base, and the groundwork is built up from SculptaMold coloured with acrylic house paint. It all needs to be painted and flocked and what-not yet; I'll give it a day or so to dry out first though.

The one on the right is intended to go on the end of one of my river pieces, while the left-hand one is a standalone piece. I haven't made a final decision yet, but I'm leaning towards using pourable epoxy for the water effects instead of the gloss acrylic medium I used on the river pieces.

Turning Circle Templates

Turning Circle Templates — approx 35KB PDF (A4, 210x297mm).

These are designed for use in aerial dogfight games, but I guess they could also be used in naval games, or sci-fi Road Warrior scenarios as well. I was originally going to get them laser-cut, but that proved to be too expensive, so I just glued the print-out to cardboard and cut them out myself.

Each block is about an inch long. I use 1/300 scale aeroplanes for my WW1 dogfight games, and they work well for that scale. They're OK for 1/144 as well, but for larger scales you might want to scale up the templates as well.

E.H.P.

Here's another Bones Kickstarter figure.

I don't know what the SKU is for this one, or even if it's for sale yet — it takes quite a while for the Kickstarter figures to filter through to the online shop.

I like it mainly for the over-the-top shield. I have a weakness for that sort of thing, probably from early exposure to the old Warhammer stuff back in the day.

For those unfamiliar with the term: E.H.P. stands for Evil High Priest. I don't know if it's still used, but it was common shorthand back in the distant primeval past.

Halfling

The newest character in my AD&D campaign is Oswalt Tenpenny, a halfling fighter-thief. So, I thought I'd better hunt out a halfling figure and paint it up. This is a plastic Reaper Bones miniature, but I have no idea what the SKU is.

As it turns out, Steve (the player) already has a halfling figure of his own, but never mind. I'm sure this one will come in handy one day.

Ford Trekker DUF 1940 (1:285)

Back to the 3d-printing mines again, and this time I've designed a 1:285 scale Ford DAF Trekker, used by the Dutch (and then the Germans) as a light anti-tank gun tractor and utility vehicle.

It came in various configurations, with two or three bench seats and a large or small trunk, and several different styles of engine grille. This is one of the 1940 models.

The single model is available from http://shpws.me/Ppur, and a much more cost-effective sprue of six is available at http://shpws.me/Ppxl

I don't usually start my designing in 1:285, I usually build the base model in 1:100 and then re-scale and re-design from that base. This was a special case though, as it was specifically a 6mm request.

SculptaMold Terrain Pieces

These are the finished test pieces I made using SculptaMold as the primary landscaping material. All the finishing is via my usual flocking and what-not, so they don't look appreciably different to any other pieces I've made — which is a good thing, I guess.

It's not a perfect landscaping material, but it does have many virtues, and on balance I think I quite like it.

More terrain-making, and a new material

I'm trying out another river segment, built in pretty much the same way as my first one, but this time I'm using a a material that is new to me, SculptaMold from Amaco. I saw it used on Luke's APS on Youtube and liked the look of it, so I popped down and bought a bag from Gordon Harris art supplies. It cost me about twenty-two bucks for about 1.3 kg, which should be enough to do a reasonable amount of terrain. It would probably get a bit pricey if you wanted to build a whole table, but for my purposes it's OK.

It's a plaster and paper (?) fibre mix; I don't know if there's anything else in there. Depending on the amount of water you use it can be mixed to a cottage cheese-like paste, as I've used it here, or to a more liquid slurry that can be cast in rubber moulds. It sets up more slowly than plain plaster; by the time I'd finished laying out the river banks and setting in all the gravel, it was still quite workable, so I slapped together a little rocky outcrop on a plastic cutting board, using some bits of pine bark and the left-over goop from the river banks. I wasn't really keeping track of time, but I'd guess that you probably have 15 to 20 minutes of working time, which is plenty for most things.

When it's wet, it retains a quite knobbly cottage cheese texture, which is fine if it's going to be under flock and stuff. If you want a smoother finish though, just leave it for about another ten minutes or quarter of an hour to stiffen up a bit, and then it can be smoothed with wet fingers or modelling tools, or just with a wet soft brush.

It's early days yet, but at first acquaintance I think I'm going to like it.

Later...

OK, so here are the two pieces, painted but not yet flocked and vegetated.

The SculptaMold takes longer to set fully than I'd assumed from Luke's video, but I have a little toaster-oven, and an hour or so in that at its lowest heat got everything set solid.

Something that this stuff has in common with regular plaster is that it's bright, bright white. I think it would be a good idea to add some ink or paint or something to the mixing water, to stain it it right through. That way, any pin-pricks of white left behind after painting will be avoided.

The river banks have been left just as the stuff goes on wet, and you can see that it has quite a knobbly texture. The SculptaMold on the little rocky outcrop was smoothed a bit with wet fingers after it had stiffened up, but not set fully, and it's a lot smoother where I did that. It looks a bit rugged in this photo, because the bark pieces forming the cliff face are facing the camera.

Painting the knoll has revealed that, though definitely tougher than regular plaster, SculptaMold terrain will still definitely need to be on a protective base of some sort. The edges are vulnerable to crumbling under handling otherwise, and as I haven't tinted it, any breakages are pretty obvious, being glaring white.

Cold War Project — Infantry Basing Method

GPMG group, primed but not yet painted or flocked This is a Heroics & Ros 1980s British three-man GPMG group, with the gun mounted i...