Sunday 31 March 2019

Pimping my palms and (barbed) 'wire' we doing this?! - desert terrain progress

Over the last few weeks, I've being thinking quite a bit about desert terrain, due to being (only slightly) distracted by another project! Although my current main focus is on my Sudan The Men who would be Kings game, I've been painting up some 15mm World War 2 tanks, for a North Africa set up for What a Tanker! (WAT) rules, published by Too Fat Lardies.

Picture from Too Fat Lardies

I'm going to do another post in the future, about why - even after only 4 games - I love this rule set, but for those who don't know, WAT is a WW2 Tank combat game, which puts the player in the role of a tank crew and commander, fighting against enemy tanks and AFVs. There's a nice career 'ladder', which allows players to work their way up through different types of tanks, as the war progresses, and become a tank ace. It's easy to learn, but with some nice subtle nuances in terms of command and control, and above all, it's fun! I bought the rules last year, and decided to start painting up a few tanks for 1941 North Africa , with the British facing the newly arrived Deutsche Afrika Korps. I've purchased an A9 and an A10 for the British forces, and two Pz III E tanks for the Germans. All of these tanks are from Skytrex.

British A9 tank
German Pz III E tank
Thanks to my ongoing Sudan project, I've already got a couple of desert scenery boards, and rocky areas of ground, but I wanted some barbed wire and palm trees just to complete the initial set up. At some point, I'll probably pick up some buildings - maybe from Hovels - but for now, this will do....after all, it is only a slight distraction!...

So during a trip to the Hammerhead show right at the start of this month, I managed to pick up said barbed wire from Urban Construct and some palm trees from Hoka Hey. First for the 'Fall on Pell Mell' treatment, were the palm trees!

This is how they started...

I'm a bit of a nutter, where terrain is concerned - I love 'pimping' it up, making it fit in with the colour scheme I've chosen, or adding (quite possibly) unnecessary detail! The Hoka Hey palm trees, are absolutely fine straight off the shelf, but I wanted to make them even more special. I peeled the hot-glue-gunned trees off their bases, and then glued them onto some individual bases (they were originally all in pairs), or as in the case of one base, as a pair, but at different heights. The height was made using other mdf round bases, built up into a kind of pyramid affair, then smoothed off with ready mixed filler. I added my usual sand/tallus/cat litter mix, glued on with slightly diluted PVA.

Sand added to the new base, before painting

After that I got painting! The first task, was separating the top fronds from the trunk - thankfully they weren't glued on, just a case of pulling them off the 'plugs' they were fixed on, and then I mounted the fronds on some skewers to paint.

Fronds before painting - mmmm, plastic goodness! 

These top fronds were firstly basecoated with Wargames Foundry French Dragoon Green 70 A shade, before a rough drybrush of 70 B, and a final light drybrush of 70 B. The base fronds, still attached to the trunks, were painted to represent dying or dead leaves, so I did those in a different mix, using the colours described above, but adding other layers of Drab 12A, and Phlegm Green 28C, again both Foundry paints. Once this was done, I painted up the trunks and branches with Bay Brown 42 A, washed them over with a black wash, then drybrushed them lightly with Bay Brown 42 A again and  then drybrushed  gently with Rawhide 11A, to bring up the final detail. I then matt varnished them (.....yes, like I said, a NUTTER, when it comes to doing even simple terrain!). Once they were finished, I painted up the bases in my usual store mixed colours, based on Games Workshop Steel Legion (that used to be Graveyard Earth), as a base, then drybrushed with Foundry sand 10, A, B and C shades. Then it was time for a little foliage - tufts, and Javis scenic bushes, and I ended up with this...

...and this is how they finished!

Not bad really, for a few nights work, and certainly worth the effort! Like I mentioned earlier, the Hoka Hey 'standard', bought off the shelf, is nice enough anyway, but I love how these trees have turned out! They look even better with a tank next to them!

Next up was some barbed wire - I thought long and hard about this, but in the end, the first lot I've made used the classic 'roll' or 'coil' set up. To start off with, I got some 80mm by 20mm 2mm thick mdf bases, that I'd also bought from Hoka Hey. I then marked these up as shown below, starting 0.5cm in from each edge.(update: with each post being about 3.5cm apart, with only three posts)

Dots added for where the posts would go

Then I cut out some short lengths of balsa wood, about 15mm long, and glued these on using superglue. Add the PVA/Sand/gravel/cat litter (still unused thankfully - not sure what the cat reckons to her toilet slowly shrinking...) mix, and job done!

Sand added - with the original 5 post set up
It was at this point, that I consulted the oracle, where my wargaming 'modelling' choices are concerned, for an opinion on 'how it looks'. This oracle, who is also known as 'my wife' said ... 'Not bad, love, but the posts are a bit close together, aren't they?'.... well, yes, on reflection, they were. So I quickly pulled the 2nd and 4th ones out, and filled in the gaps with more sand and PVA, and then let them set. There was a slight amount of warping, but nothing too noticeable, probably about 2mm across the whole 8cm length. Paint the brown base coat, then I painted the posts in a suitable bleached wood colour (Foundry's Rawhide 11 A shade, then a black wash, then drybrushed back up with A, then B and finally C), and then I drybrushed the sand colour on the bases too, so that the posts would also get a slight hint of light sand around the base of the posts, to tie it all together visually. Then it was onto the barbed wire! Each 'length' of 8cm base uses a length of model barbed wire of about 40-45cm long. I painted this using Foundry's Bay Brown 42 A. I found that painting it as a long length (blue-tacked to my lamp!), before it was spiralled up, much easier, as I could paint along the whole length. Fiddly, but not as fiddly as getting the inside curves if it was in a coil!. It may seem slightly odd, to paint wire in brown, but it replicated the patina of rusted dull wire perfectly, and gave it an instant aged feel. When the paint was dry, but still 'flexible', I steadily wrapped each length of wire round a tube - an old biro about 7-8mm in diameter - and then stretched out the wire coil slightly to give some width between the coils. I then hooked each end over the edge posts of the base, made sure the centre post was sticking up through the coils - it's a case of trial and error, tweaking and stretching or compressing - then glued each coil onto the posts at either end, using a small amount of superglue, to secure things. I then washed the wire carefully in places with a black wash, and then added some thinned (very thinned!) splodges - almost a wash - of Coat D'arms 119 Rat Brown, here and there, to look like slightly fresher rust. This was dulled down here and there with more thinned black wash. Wash over the any superglue that was showing on the posts, with brown wash, add the dry grass tufts and dry looking foliage, and hey presto!

Close up of my finished posts

Double thickness wire - a nightmare to get through!

Definitely to be avoided! At some point I'll do some Minefield signs.

So, with some scenery completed, what better way to celebrate, than with a game of WAT! More on that, and my tanks in the next post, but here's a taste.

WAT acquired, aimed, buttoned up and loaded markers, laser pen, and the 'Universal tanker tool', for measuring angles!

Cat and mouse round the rocks...

3 Critical hits, and kaboom! The Pz III has had it!

A rather nice looking dice tray! Pint, anyone?
To round off this month, I managed to buy a new dice-rolling tray, from, Saddle Goose Designs! It's the first time I've ever owned a dice tray before, and it features the Pie and Pint logo, from Too Fat youngest thought it was a mince pie and glass of milk - ahhhh, the innocence of youth! I cant wait to use it in action for the first time - not bad for £15!

Next time, more news about What a Tanker!, and progress on the Sudan game! 

Thursday 28 February 2019

Sudan Project progress - civilians started

Hello! This month has seen a bit of progress on my TMWWBK Sudan project, with some of my civilians completed, and one of the British officers also painted up.

Mustapha Liiq

First up, is Mustapha Liiq - the local water carrier - who will inhabit the village that will be on the game table. He's a Redoubt figure I picked up at a Partizan show a couple of years ago. He's a nice figure, simple, but paints up well. I had considered trying to model a spout of water leaking out of his leather water bag, but this might have been a bit tricky. Instead, his name hopefully gives an indication that he's not exactly the best at his job!

Just how watertight IS that leather bag?!!

Off to the well....again!...

Next up, is Fatimah - the local village wise woman, who sees all, and says... not a lot! This is another Redoubt figure, bought at the same time as Mustapha. I wanted to paint her up in a slightly more colourful manner than just a stereotypically black or dark dress, so went for a nice blue, and homespun brown.
Fatimah the village woman

Fatimah and Mustapha mull over the news of the Mahdi

Finally for the Sudan project this month, is a Perry Miniatures British officer, from pack SB21 'Foot command in Indian service dress advancing and standing'. He was a really nice figure to paint - a bit fiddly, but well worth the effort.

Standing ready!

'Stand steady boys!'
With the weather improving in the UK, I've been able to get outside and take a few pictures. It is always nice to set up dramatic and atmospheric shots of my projects, and I have been looking forward to doing it with my Sudan war figures. 

Moving up past the water hole

Lurking in the Wadi

Getting closer!

View from the Mahdists!

'Volley fire!!!'

Off to war!

Inspired by a tomb of  their ancestors, the Mahdists move out

I hope you like them! Next time, I'll have some more scenery for my Sudan project, and some small 'side-project' distractions, that I've also finished over the last few weeks. See you soon!

Thursday 31 January 2019

Something old, something new

Happy New Year! First post of 2019, and it's nice to be back.

In this post, in response to a lovely comment from a follower on Twitter (more on that later), I thought I'd revisit in more detail, my markers for my The Men who would be Kings Sudan project. I've added to these since I mentioned them briefly in this post, and my first figures of 2019 are the last of the markers - British 'pinned' markers.

As followers of this blog may realise, I've always liked more visual ways of recording information about unit status' on the table, rather than a simple piece of paper or unusual markers. In my previous project - Somewhere in Scotland  - my Donnybrook rules ECW skirmish game, I used markers to show if a unit was shaken or if they were unloaded. I wanted to do the same with my Sudan project, so I set to, to make 'Leaderless' and 'Pinned' markers for both my British and Mahdists, and additionally for the Mahdists, some 'Gone to Ground' markers to represent their ability to....go to ground!

First up were my Mahdist markers. I used my usual Warbases 2mm thick mdf circular bases, of varying diameters. If you're having a go, pick which ones you think fit your figures best. I tend to use diameters of 4 and 5 cm, with my leaderless markers at 4 cm, gone to ground markers at 4cm, and pinned markers at 5 cm. This slightly wider diameter for the pinned markers, is due to the fact that I've added an MDF 'cell' or cut out square frame from Warbases to accommodate a die, to show how many pinned 'points' are on that particular unit.

My Mahdist bases

People have asked me how I do the writing, so to start off with, I found a suitable font I liked, and typed up the labels for each 'brand' of marker. This was then added to a parchment coloured background, using Word on the computer, but equally, one could print out the text on cream coloured paper. Cut out these words, and then stick them down on the base using sellotape or any other clear adhesive tape. I found the best way was to stick the paper with the words onto the tape, using the static properties of the tape, then carefully add these to the base. Trim the excess tape off using a sharp modelling knife blade, leaving a couple of mm of tape as a border around each label. 

After that, you could paint up the figures and glue these on in the usual way, or I'm my case, I glued on the unpainted figure . This was done for my Pinned and Gone to Ground markers, with pinned markers getting casualty figures from Perry Miniature pack SA12 Beja dead and wounded, and gone to Gone to Ground markers using figures from the evocative sculpts from pack SA11 Beja taking cover, spears/swords. I added some stones, or larger pieces of gravel, cat litter (clean!) and other pebbles etc with superglue, to get some larger 'texture', then used my usual mix of sharp sand and smaller pieces of tallus and cat litter.

The tallus and sand mix is stuck down in the usual way, using a PVA and water mix. I use a brush to 'dab' drops of the mix down, and make sure it doesn't obscure the lettering. Make sure that the sellotape/clear adhesive tape is firmly pressed down around the paper, and sealing it totally onto the mdf base. If there is the slightest gap, then the watery glue mix will get under the tape, and soak the paper - disaster! I usually do 'round' the writing first, and move any excess sand and glue from over the writing with the end of a paint brush. As the tape is shiny, it's sometimes difficult to get the glue water mix to adhere to the tape, if there's a wide border round the writing, but this also works in your favour, as you can push away any excess glue and sand with the end of paint brush, if it covers any writing by mistake.

Here you can see how I have added the sand and PVA around the edge of the writing, 
which is sealed under the sellotape.

Once the rest of the base has been 'PVA'd and sanded', as I call it, including carefully round any figures, then let this dry, then shake off any excess, and seal it once more with another diluted mix of PVA and water. Let this dry, and now it's time to paint up the bases.

A few years ago, I took the decision to paint all my wargaming figures' bases and my terrain using the same colours. I use Games Workshop's Steel Legion drab - a colour similar to the old Graveyard earth tone - as a base colour. Then I use Wargames Foundry's No. 10 Sand triad, to dry brush the sand, gradually getting lighter through the A, B, and C tones. Depending on how heavily you dry brush these on, especially the A tone, you can control how the colour of the Steel Legion Drab comes through or not. With desert terrain, it is worth drybrushing a bit heavier, to lighten up the overall tone of the bases. These colours do for desert terrain nicely, but with the addition of green or scorched static grass, and green foliage and tufts, they take on a summery dry-soil feel for European, American and Mediterranean theatres, and for me they work. Even better, is the fact that when I decided on these colours, I asked my local DIY chain store to colour match these paints for me, and I now have tester pots with these four tones in. The store have also saved the 'recipes' for these tones on their system, so I can always head back and ask for top ups. Ideal for building my terrain boards, when I need larger quantities of these paints! This paint is the Valspar acrylic paint range, for household decorating, and works brilliantly. 

Once I've got the bases painted, and the figures painted and varnished, I add on foliage - grass tufts of a suitably desert-like nature in pale browns and scorched greens from Great Escape Games, and small lumps of greeny-brown clump foliage from Javis Scenics. I drybrush the grass tufts with Sand tone B as well, to dull them down even more. 

I've also been a bit 'gory', and added blood to my bases, seeping out from under bodies, or smeared on the floor or clothing where the poor victims have crawled away from danger. I've not gone overboard with this, preferring subtlety rather than outright shock value, but I did add gloss varnish to the blood on the desert floor to show its liquid state. Gruesome, yet effective and thought-provoking. 

Leaving a trail of blood behind him, this wounded Mahdist seeks shelter

The Leaderless markers, I chose to represent abandoned detritus of war - reflecting a unit in chaos and without order. Weapon and shields were taken directly from the Perry Miniatures SA30 Plastic Mahdist Ansar box set, and I used shields, spears (with trimmed off hands hidden under shields), rifles (the same process), and swords in scabbards. 

As for the British markers - it was a similar thing! No Gone to Ground markers though, and my Leaderless markers used ammunition boxes from Redoubt Enterprises, and pieces from the Perry Plastic VLW1 British Infantry 1877-85 set. The Pinned markers - including one poor chap who is literally 'pinned' to the ground with a spear (thanks to Nick from Too Fat Lardies for that joke!) come from the Perry miniatures pack SB20 British dead and wounded. I painted them up in an eclectic mix of colours, including redcoats, to reflect the ad-hoc nature of my 'force' for my game - but more on that in another post. 

I hope you like them! Any questions, drop me a comment, and I'll try and get back to you. On another front, I've also joined Twitter - where I'll be posting on a daily basis if possible, with news of projects, hobbystreaks, painting, and games. If you're of such a persuasion, follow me on there, and I hope to see you soon!

Best wishes, and see you next month!