Vickers Lights

My latest addition to my growing 15mm (1:100 scale) 1940 BEF force are two troops of Vickers Mk.VIb light tanks, useless though they may be.

And thanks to the magic of printing-a-second-set-of-turrets, it's also two troops of Vickers Mk.VIc light tanks. Or one troop of each. Or any combination thereof.

F Tank (far left) has been given slightly different markings to all the rest, because I accidentally got its turret magnets' polarity reversed compared with all the others, so unlike all the others, its turrets aren't interchangeable between all the other hulls.

As usual, the photos may be clicked upon to embiggenate them.

Power Grid — Resource Management

Power Grid is one of my favourite board games. It's been very well balanced, and no two games ever seem to play alike.

Like many of these European games, it uses a multitude of little wooden tokens. I've been keeping them in zip-lock bags, which have the advantage of convenience, but they're not exactly an aesthetic tour-de-force.

Neither is this little box really, but it's nicer than a plastic bag. I made the base-part a while ago out of a scrap of rimu, and completely forgot about it until we got the game out last night — which just goes to show how long it's been since we played Power Grid.

It turned out that I'd made the cavities a bit too shallow to accommodate all of the yellow "garbage" tokens without overflowing. I'd originally intended it just for in-game use, to keep all the tokens in one place, and a bit less likely to get lost on the floor. But somebody — Steve, I think — suggested that with the addition of a lid, it could be used to keep them in permanently, which I thought an eminently sound idea.

So, today I deepened the cavities and made a magnetic lid for it.

The box itself is not perfectly symmetrical, because I never thought it would need to be. However, the addition of the lid means that orientation is actually important. I attended to that by making sure that the polarity of the magnets in each pair were opposite, so the lid will only go on one way.

3d Printing – SLA vs. FDM

These 3d printed vehicles are all 1/285 scale, so the largest of them is only about 25mm (an inch) long. I thought these tiny little models would do best to compare the merits of FDM and SLA printing.

All of the SLA prints were done by Shapeways, and all in their "Smooth Fine Detail Plastic" material, which is the lower of the two detail options they offer in resin printing.

The two FDM prints were done by me on my Ender 3 with a 0.4mm nozzle at 0.08mm layer height in PLA.

  1. Vickers Medium Mk.III — SLA
  2. Burford Kegresse — SLA
  3. Carden-Loyd MG carrier — SLA
  4. Vickers Medium Mk.II — FDM
  5. Vickers Medium Mk.II — FDM. Printed with no gun barrel, and a brass pin added later.
  6. Vickers Medium Mk.II** — SLA

SLA uses a UV laser to selectively cure a photopolymer, layer by layer, within a wax support medium, so requires no additional supports and is capable of rendering very fine surface detail. The sloping panels are cleaner owing to its finer layer discrimination. Shapeways used to have information on the exact layer heights on their website, but they no longer do now that they've "improved" their site design again.

DLP is another process that uses a photosensitive resin, but in a different manner: it employs a LCD screen to expose each layer in one go. It has the advantage that the amount of build-plate coverage has no effect on its print speed, but the disadvantage that its horizontal resolution is dictated by the resolution of the LCD exposure screen it uses. The finer screens now available, and antialiasing technologies, have improved this substantially in just a few years, but it is still likely that pixelation effects might be seen on curved surfaces. Nevertheless, like SLA it is generally capable of much finer layer heights than FDM printing. DLP printing uses printed support structures in much the same way as FDM.

The two FDM examples I've shown here, for all the limitations of that medium, are really not too bad as wargaming models. Both of these have been printed at 0.08mm layer height; my machine will go as low as 0.04mm, but with only a slight improvement in visual quality, and at the cost of doubling the print time. The surface detail is much lower than SLA (or DLP) is capable of, though this could be improved by printing with a smaller nozzle — 0.2mm or 0.25mm — though this once again increases print times substantially.

I'm unlikely to do any more 1/285 scale printing myself, as my eyesight has grown too poor to easily distinguish the different models on the wargames table without a lot of leaning and peering. However, as you can see, it's certainly a viable prospect to print usable 6mm wargames vehicles, even on a cheap entry-level printer.


This is one of Duncan Louca's Hags, printed on my Ender 3.

I got quite a lot of zits and boogers from the supports on this one, but she's so warty and festering that rather than trimming them off, I just turned them into zits and boogers.

Tabletop Game Paraphernalia

That gaping abyss was not there when we started this fight, but we have a character who can cause earthquakes and things,
and he does so love to do that even when it might not be the wisest course of action.

You will note that one of our party is right there in the middle of the gaping abyss.
We have no idea yet how deep it gapes, or whether she survived.
Like I said, not the wisest course of action.
I have about a bajillion fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying miniatures.

I have bits and pieces of scatter terrain — pillars, evil altars, furniture — out the wazoo.

I have a 3d printer, and the 3d modeling skills to be able to make pretty much any sort of tabletop gaming stuff we could ever want.

Nevertheless, this is what we almost invariably end up using, because it is fast and easy and effective. It's a cheap steel whiteboard that I got for a few bucks years ago. It's not huge, about 400 x 500 mm, but it's large enough for most scenarios. Most often, we use chessmen and the like to represent the Bad Guys, because again, they're fast and convenient, and imagination serves perfectly well to project whatever shape is required on to the generic markers.

I've written before about the two-edged sword that is the use of miniatures in tabletop roleplaying — they make the tactical situation more explicit than in pure theatre-of-the-mind, but they also impose a bit of an imagination straitjacket, especially problematic when one miniature is being used to stand in for another creature. People tend to trust their eyes rather than their minds, and if they can see something they know is a cow they'll think of it as a cow, and not as a Ravening Bugblatter Beast of Thrarll.

When we first started roleplaying, many decades ago, we had very limited access to fantasy miniatures, and even less money, so we tended not to use them at all. They weren't completely foreign to us, because several of our group were wargamers and had small collections of figures for various wargaming periods. However, when it came to roleplaying, the nearest we came to using miniatures was when I made a bunch of cardboard tokens with our characters names on them.

My pixie character
Mine was a pixie called Raisenbred Thimblecup. She didn't last very long at all; she was lured off into a swamp and electrocuted to death by a will-'o-wisp.

These little chits were only about 15x12mm, and made from some shitty scrap cardboard I had lying around. They served pretty well for the purpose really.

Many years later, when Wizards of the Coast took over the D&D IP, for a while they were putting out collections of 2d cut-out tokens illustrated with various critters and characters. Like pogs I think, though I've never actually seen a pog in the flesh. Anyway, they work quite well as tactical markers, but again they suffer from the "what you see is what you think you see" problem, and though it's pretty easy to amass a giant, varied collection of the things, there's still the problem of having to sort through them all to find the exact ones you need for any given encounter.

I'd use them for character tokens, and maybe for important NPCs or pre-prepared encounters, but for setting up a fight on the fly, they'd still be a bit of a pain to organise.

FDM vs. SLS 3d Printing

15mm (1:100 scale) Vickers Medium Mk.II
SLS on the left, FDM to the right.
The figure is a 15mm WW1 British officer by Peter Pig.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Here are two 3d printed versions of essentially the same digital model. On the left, one that I had printed by Shapeways using their SLS sintered nylon process, and on the right one that I printed myself in PLA on my FDM machine (Ender 3). Neither is fine-scale modelling quality, but both are adequate for wargaming models.

The detail on the SLS-printed model is very soft, and often entirely absent — many of the rivets are barely visible, if they can be seen at all. On the FDM-printed model, the detail is much crisper, but the layer lines are much more apparent. The surface texture from SLS is rather like very fine sponge, and it sucks up paint like sponge too. On the FDM model, flat horizontal planes are quite smooth, but the sloping panels are perceptibly ridged if you're looking closely.

The biggest differences, of course, are cost and delivery time. Getting a model this size printed in SLS by Shapeways costs quite a lot ($US20.00, plus postage — another $US15.00 to New Zealand) and usually takes a month to six weeks to get to me. The FDM model cost me maybe fifty cents, and took about eight hours in total to print.

It is possible, of course, to get better quality prints from Shapeways, but they are much, much more expensive than SLS printing.

FDG Goblin Sample

This is a free sample STL sent out by Fat Dragon Games with their monthly newsletter. Apparently they're about to kickstart a collection of goblins, and this one is a teaser.

I thought at first it was a bit too big, but having put it next to other 28mm figures, I now think that illusion was created by the very large head-to-body size ratio. I like that, as it gives it definite and identifiable non-human-normal proportions.

Fat Dragon's miniatures are all designed to print support-free, which is a boon. Generally speaking, I like their designs, which tend towards the chunky for reliability in printing.

I'll take a look at the kickstarter once it's up and running, but in general I've had a gutsful of kickstarters — they tend to take forever to fulfill, and as I found with the Reaper kickstarters, I often end up paying for a whole lot of stuff I don't really want or need, which makes the so-called "savings" a bit dubious; I'd often be better off financially by just waiting for the thing's general release and buying only the things I actually desire.

Here it is next to a Reaper 28mm hobgoblin (?) that used to be a half-orc in my AD&D campaign.

It's shorter than it looks.

3d Modeling and Printing 15mm Infantry

Left: Peter Pig
Centre: My FDM 3d printed model
Right: Battlefront
I've been having a go at modeling a generic 15mm British infantryman of the Interwar period. As this is my first attempt at this sort of thing, I've gone for a very simple pose.

I've deliberately gone for rather chunky, dwarfish proportions, as I find that in the smaller scales, "realistic" proportions tend to start to look rather waifish, not to mention that the figures get a bit frail. However, I think I can probably tone it down just a bit. He needs to be a millimetre or two shorter, for a start, to fit in with the traditionally modelled and cast ranges.

I've done a test print on my Ender 3, an FDM printer with a 0.4mm nozzle, and though I've seen worse figures in my time, I think a 0.2mm nozzle or a resin printer is probably going to be necessary to get consistently decent results, as the surface detail has been largely smoothed out of existence. The helmet brim also probably needs to be thickened a bit.

All in all, I'm reasonably happy with it as a first experiment, and it's given me some idea of the direction I need to take for future models. I may have to learn something about rigging my 3d models though, as building each and every pose from scratch will soon become tiresome.


I adjusted the proportions of the model so he looks a bit less like he has a 72 inch chest, and thickened the helmet brim.

I printed this one leaning back at an angle of about 45-50°, and I did get a tiny bit more definition in the face. The rest of the surface detail is still very soft though, and I'd have to exaggerate it a lot more if I was going to be printing these regularly in FDM.

Leaning it back on the printer means that its end-print string-blob is right on the front edge of the helmet brim, which is kind of annoying.

Later still:

They don't look too terrible with some paint sploshed on them, but I shall certainly have to exaggerate surface details quite substantially if I want them to be clearly visible. They're very far from being top-class sculpts, but they've given me a reasonably good idea about where I should be going.

More Books For Me

This batch of books just arrived for me from the Book Depository, a late Xmas present to myself. Strictly speaking, just the four on the right — I've had the 1914–1938 book for a while now.

George Bradford's drawings are immensely useful as modeling resources, and though they're not usually sufficient on their own to catch every little detail, they provide an excellent basis to work from in addition to photographs of the original vehicles.

Hopefully they should enable me to fill in some of the gaps in my 15mm 3d modeling and printing.

The Art of Appropriate Frugality

I've learned a valuable lesson today about stinginess.

I really like Vallejo polyurethane acrylic surface primers, and a while ago I bought several shades in 200ml bottles, as the paint works out a lot cheaper that way than buying it in smaller 60ml or 20ml bottles.


If you're not using it fast enough — finishing a bottle within, say, a year or eighteen months — it starts to thicken in the bottle, and worse, it develops crumbs of sediment, presumably from paint drying on the inside of the lid and so forth, which will gum up your airbrush and force you into an emergency cleaning session, along with a constant stream of swearing.

Now I have a clean airbrush, and I've filtered and thinned the remains of the bottle of surface primer, and my hands are entirely black, and I've got black smears all over my workbench. But at least the rest of that particular bottle is usable again.

In future, I'll probably stick to buying the 60ml bottles. It will cost more money in the long run, but I think it will be less troublesome.
Note: I once was in the habit of always decanting paint intended for my airbrush through a filter, to avoid this very issue. The reliability and ease of use of Vallejo paints has really made me lazy in this respect... not too difficult, since laziness is my natural base-state.

Mighty Armoured Fist of the Wehrmacht!

My first printing and painting for 2019 are these three Panzer 1B, plus a Befehlspanzer 1B.

The models are, I believe, by TigerAce1945, on Thingiverse. They printed OK, but the wheels could do with a bit of attention — I notice that the vertical spokes didn't print at all, and need to be beefed up a bit.

I have another three of them, and another Befehlspanzer with a frame antenna, awaiting paint on my workbench. Whether they will see much use on the tabletop is questionable; the Panzer 1 is a paltry beast if they're confronting anything more dangerous than a man with a rifle. However, as mobile machine-gun posts they could have their uses.

Next Day

Here's the Befehlspanzer 1B with the frame aerial.

The aerial is pretty ragged; this is the sort of thing that FDM printing really does not do well.

Jackboots of the Skies

One of the things it's really not necessary to have on the wargames table, but which I want to have anyway, are aircraft models. A case might be made for including models of dive-bombers and other ground-attack aircraft, but having models of strategic bombers cluttering the place up is really pretty pointless.

That, naturally, has not stopped me.

I found this model of a He 111 on Thingiverse, at by someone called T1ckL35. The model is produced at 1/200 scale, and I've re-scaled it to 1/144 to fit with my fighter models.

The Heinkel 111 wasn't particularly large as far as WWII bombers went, but it's a monster compared with my 1/144 fighter models, most of which are by Zvezda, as is this Me 109 F.

Zvezda do their wargaming aircraft in two scales: 1/144 for fighters, small fighter-bombers and the like, and 1/200 for bombers. That leads to some odd anomalies in sizing: for example, their 1/144 Fairey Battle is quite a bit larger than their 1/200 Bristol Blenheim. I prefer to have all my models in a constant scale if at all possible, but I can certainly understand their rationale for the decision.

 The model prints in two pieces, split along its vertical axis.

There are no locating pins or sockets, so some care will be needed to make sure that it glues together squarely. I've found that by squeezing the front and back of the tail fin between finger and thumb of one hand, and top and bottom of the fuselage between fingers and thumb of the other, I can get a pretty reliable alignment of the two halves.

Because I have a glass platen on my 3d printer, the matching surfaces are perfectly smooth, which is ideal for getting the strongest possible bond with cyanoacrylate glues. I will need to be using one with a little bit of working time though, just to make absolutely sure I have everything perfectly aligned before the glue goes off.

Upper surfaces
The two halves are arranged with their ventral surfaces facing each other on the printer platen, which is good — that means that any printing travel artifacts are on the ventral surfaces, which will generally not be particularly visible. The whole thing will need a bit of sanding to smooth it off in any case, but this will minimise the amount of work I will have to do on the visible dorsal surfaces.

Lower surfaces

Next day....

I've got it assembled and airbrushed with its basic splinter camouflage scheme.

I'm not at all familiar with Luftwaffe colours so I've just found some pictures on the internet and used a couple that look OK together to me: VMA 71011 Tank Green and VMA 71013 Yellow Olive.

I'm even less sure about the undersides, but I think a generic pale grey-blue will do the trick.

I will have to draw on the panel lines, and for that I'll see if I can find some fine waterproof medium-grey and light-grey fibre-tip technical pens. I could use black at a pinch, but that can look a bit cartoonish.

Raupenschlepper Ost

This is the 1942 Raupenschlepper Ost, a fully tracked truck developed for use in the mud and snows of Russia by the Germans in WWII. A great many were made, and they were very popular little vehicles.

The model is based on a 1/200 scale version by m_bergman, which was re-scaled to 1/100 and cut up into pieces by krueger54, so that it would print without supports. I took krueger54's version and made new running gear for it, and also a new hollow canvas tilt. The tilt piece just slots into the cargo bed, so it can be swapped out for different cargo loads, or I could print another tilt and paint it as an ambulance vehicle, for example. Maximum flexibility! Or else it could just be glued in place. Whatever.


A note re: scaling —
  • A six-foot (1800mm) man at 1/56 would be 32mm tall. At 1/48 scale, he should be 37.5mm tall.
  • A 28mm 6-footer would be more like 1/64 scale.
  • A 1/72 scale 6-foot gent should actually be 25mm tall, so at least there's _one_ of the popular scales that is what it says on the tin.
  • A 20mm figure scales out to 1/90 scale.
  • At 1/100 scale, 6-foot men should be 18mm tall.
  • A genuine 15mm tall figure scales to 1/120 scale.
All this is all very well, though it's not going to make one jot of difference to the people who are heavily invested in their "20mm" 1/72 scale wargames forces.

The arguments about what a given millimetre-sizing means are perennial, but basically fall into one of two camps: either

  • a figure is measured from the soles of its feet to its eyes (to remove the possibility of error through measuring headgear of different sizes) 


  • a figure is measured from the sole of its feet to the top of its head, ignoring any headgear.
The effect is that different manufacturers create figures of quite different heights from those of other manufacturers, and market them under the same supposed millimetre size. It's all a complete shambles, and I think the idea of describing figures by some arbitrary and highly mobile mm-size is an absolutely terrible one.

FAMO Fresh

Here it is, fresh off the print bed, my shiny new 1:100 scale 18-tonne SdKfz 9 FAMO. It's a bit of a layer cake; I ran out of grey filament and had to swap to black part of the way through.

I've included the Zvezda King Tiger in the background for scale; the Famo is stupidly large. Large enough to comfortably throw a sIG33 in the boot with room to spare.

I think it will end up being my repair/recovery vehicle; I might just design a crane/winch module to slot into the cargo bed.

The two-colour scheme reminds me of the Matchbox kits of yore, that were manufactured in two different colours of plastic for no very good reason.

I designed this crane module to slip into the cargo bay. The actual recovery vehicle wouldn't have had any sides, but adding this will at least make it look a bit more recoveryish.

I haven't printed it yet, except for the floor piece to ensure that it would fit snugly in place, and I think it might be a bit of a tricky print.

Here it is, in place in the cargo bay of the FAMO. FDM is not the ideal medium to be printing this sort of thing in, a DLP or SLA resin printer would give much cleaner results. However, this will do for the purpose, which is to identify it as a recovery vehicle on the wargames table.

StuIG 33b (15mm, 3d print)

I printed this model to test Cura 3.6's concentric top shell slicing, with very satisfactory results. It's a 1:100 scale (15mm) StuIG 33b, basically just a 150mm howitzer in a steel box on a StuG III chassis. It'll come in handy if we ever get to Stalingrad.

Cura 3.6 Concentric top/bottom shells

This is a 1:100 scale SiG33b, modelled by TigerAce1945 (I think), which I sliced with Cura 3.6. I'd read that its Concentric top/bottom shells were much improved, and so I tried it out on this print, and it certainly is better than it used to be. Most importantly from my point of view is that there's no separation between the top and side shells, which I've been getting a lot with the Cura profile I've been using.

Flame Tongueish

This promo image for the Hellboy reboot movie led me to think about a variant on that old D&D chestnut, the Flame Tongue magic sword.

Essentially, it would have a sort of Heat Metal effect on the blade, as in the Druidic spell. The longer it is wielded by its user, the hotter the blade becomes and the more heat damage it will inflict in addition to its sharpened-metal-bar damage. The heat damage would start out in the first round as an additional d3, then 2d3 in the second round, 3d3 in the 3rd, and tops out at +4d3 heat damage thereafter.

The twist (not much of a twist really) is that the heat will also gradually propagate through the grip, burning the hand of the wielder if they're not immune to that sort of damage. I'd run it on an increasing scale — say, no heat damage in the first round, then +1 point of damage per round (i.e. 1 point, then 2 points, then 3 points, an so on) until it's doing as much heat damage to its wielder as it could to a target (i.e. 12 points per round of burning). The wielder, in addition to taking the damage, would have to make a Will save at -1 per 2 points of heat damage, to not involuntarily drop the sword.

The sword cools when not being held at twice the rate it heats up.

Zvezda Jagdtiger

A while ago I bought myself this Zvezda 1:100 kit of the 128mm tank killer, Jagdtiger, and I just got around to assembling and painting it today.

I have no immediate use for it, but I have a sentimental fondness for the vehicle from the days of my childhood, when our wargaming consisted of getting as many of the biggest and baddest tanks on to a table as we could, pretty much stacking them wheel to wheel. I would sneer at such a callow display these days, but boy, did we have fun.

This was the first real outing for my Badger Sotar 20-20 airbrush, and to say that I am satisfied with it would be a profound understatement. It is by far the best airbrush I've ever used. I have a fine tip and needle set coming to me, but it may not really be necessary — even the medium set it currently has installed is excellent.

Gothic Paint Rack

For no particular reason, I felt the need to create a pseudo-Gothic Revival Puginesque paint rack for the 17ml dropper bottles used by Vallejo, reaper and others.

The STL is available on Thingiverse, it's about 15MB.

A single module, holding a bottle

.....and without a bottle.

Vickers Lights

My latest addition to my growing 15mm (1:100 scale) 1940 BEF force are two troops of Vickers Mk.VIb light tanks, useless though they may b...