Thursday 30 May 2019


I made this to try out the technique of impressing surface detail into foam-core, and I have to say that overall it was a doddle.

Getting the card off one side so I could score the foam itself wasn't completely straightforward though; I clearly don't have the same foam-core as the guy whose online tutorial I was following. Nevertheless, once I did manage to slice it away, impressing detail into the surface of the foam with a pencil was easy-peasy.

The cobblestones are enormous for the scale, they're more like flagstones. However, I doubt that I'll be losing any sleep over that. I'm not sure that the foam would be the ideal material for replicating in-scale cobbles in any case.

All the models are 15mm. The well and Kubelwagen are 3d printed, the ambulance is a scratch-build, and the armoured car is from Battlefront.

Exactly what I'll do with this little square I don't know, but I guess if I whack a few buildings around its perimeter I'll have an instant village.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

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.

Sunday 19 May 2019

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.

Friday 17 May 2019

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.

Thursday 16 May 2019

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.
NOTE: Vallejo also now produces a Caunter set of ModelAir paints, which I'm trying to get my hands on

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.
NOTE: Vallejo now produces more accurate ModelAir mixes for Portland Stone (71.288) and Light Stone (71.143).

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. In fact, the best colour I've come up with so far is a 50/50 mix of 886 and 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.

Friday 10 May 2019

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.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

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.

Friday 3 May 2019

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 and Fist Full of TOWs seem like worthwhile candidates. (FFoT can also be played as a 1:1 tactical game very successfully).

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.