Saturday 28 March 2009

Weird WWI - 1919 : Part 4

As I explained in a previous post, I'm keen to expand on the air forces of the Great Powers, with items both from Irregular and Brigade, alongside some scratch-built ones. Given that we are now in 1919, we must move away from 'steam age' technology and look for something with a much more modern appearance. What could be more emblematic, therefore, of the modern 'Threat from the Air', than the Zeppelin?

Although Brigade Models offer some very large dirigibles, as they are metal, the price is a bit high for an old cheapskate like myself. Enter, then, the Revell Minikit of the Hindenburgh.
This is a relatively simple snap together affair which comes in a grey plastic, with decals more appropriate to 30s Germany, but a quick paintjob makes her look more the part, and when popped on a flight stand, scales pretty well with 2mm minis.

Talking of things lighter than air, next up a photo of Brigade's Turkish War Balloon, a must have for the Weird War. From a distance, it appears like a simple observation balloon, only to open fire when Biggles and his chums make their approach; handy as well for spotting and dealing with Martian War Machines from above!

Finally we have a first attempt at a form of home-made observation/barrage balloon. Your typical WWI gasbag, is of course, like a rather flaccid sausage, something which might be tricky to model in 1/900th. I'd had the idea of using papier mache or similar, but the outcome looked more like it had the flight characteristics of a turd rather than a bird, so I had a scrabble in the bits box.
Having used the top of one for the bridge of the German Land Dreadnought, I opted for a plastic pipette of eyewash, as these have a rather bomb-like shape, narrowing down to the neck. Below we see the process of construction: the cap is removed, and the end clipped to shape. The flat label tag happens to be hollow, so a piece of this can be cut and attached as a stabiliser on the narrow end, and we are left with a passable balloon shape.

The addition of some twisted fine-gauge wire as tethering cables, and a bit of scrap for the observer's basket, and we have the Mark I version as below; this should do the job until some kindly manufacturer comes up with an alternative:

Now an urgent report from the Russian front. German Intelligence received the following photograph from an agent at Tunguska - could this be evidence of a new Tsarist super weapon - or are the rumours of an invasion from Venus true?

Only time will tell......

Wednesday 25 March 2009

55 Days at Sea: Part 5

Just finished the British Squadron for the Boxer Rebellion, as we can see in the group shot above, all done with name tags and national flags as described in my previous post. Unfortunately, having scoured the Navwar catalogue for suitable models, I felt I wasn't able to represent the gunboats Algerine, Alacrity, Pygmy and Spray, so had to leave them out for now, but at least I've got a decent group of ocean-going vessels to fly the flag!

Below we see the Orlando Class Armoured Cruisers, Aurora and Orlando, the former being resplendent in her white China Station paint scheme. They are accompanied by the Edgar Class Large Cruiser Endymion:

Next up we have the battleships Centurion and Barfleur, the former being the flagship of the China Station at the time; both these ships were specially designed with a shallow draught of only 27 feet in order to operate in the large rivers and estuaries of the Chinese mainland, and some sources say that when launched, were the fastest battleships afloat.

HMS Terrible, a Powerful Class Armoured Cruiser, was designed as a direct riposte to the large Russian Cruisers Rurik and Rossiya, and cost twice as much to build as the Edgar Class seen above. Terrible sailed to the Taku Bar from Hong Kong, bringing troops from both the garrison and India, that subsequently formed a large part of the Relief Force for the Legations at Peking:

Endymion solo now, a ship that went on to see service in WWI in the Dardanelles and the Agean!

Finally we have the Torpedo Boat Destroyers Fame and Whiting, who both took part in the famous raid on the Taku Forts, the latter a Star Class three funneled ship, whilst the former is a two funnel Desperate Class, both capable of around 30 knots!

As you might have noticed, I'm currently using an old blue nylon tarp as background for the pictures, but am looking to get a proper sea scape mat sometime soon, any suggestions for good products out there would be appreciated. The next step, of course, is the rules - I didn't want anything too complex, so have been fooling around with Phil Barker's "Damn Battleships Again" (DBA - geddit?), which are available to look at online at:

These get neatly around the need for large lists of statistics for each vessel by defining them in a number of limited classes of 'type'. Then again, perhaps I'm missing something by not looking into the various inches of deck armour and calibres of guns; I'll see how it goes, but again, any suggestions for some good rulesets would be appreciated! 

Next for painting are a mixed bag of the 'minor' nations: Italy, Austro-Hungary and the good 'ole US of A, pictures to follow soon!

Tuesday 24 March 2009

North West Frontier in 6mm: Part 2

Next up we have the second look at my North West Frontier project using 6mm minis from Irregular. After having a go with the Imperial Infantry seen in the last post, I made a start on the command and support troops. Immediately, I came up against a problem here, in that Irregular's command blocks from the Colonial/Wars in India Ranges all have two flags depicted; of course, as I wanted to do Tirah circa 1897, this was at a time when the British had stopped carrying Colours into battle, with pistol or rifle armed officers being the norm, accompanied by a bugler at most.  
Now the only option was to reach for the small hacksaw and needle files, which if you've ever tried it on the thickly based and tightly packed blocks from Irreg, you'll know this was no small undertaking! After much swearing and groaning (Note to self: buy sharper files!), I managed to massacre the six man blocks down to some manageable pairs or trios, which could be mounted on half scale bases at 30x15mm. 
The glowing exception was the mounted half of the Brigadier's stand seen in the photo above; this is an absolutely cracking mini with great character and animation, with the two officers discussing the campaign over a map. The only slight issue with this, Z8, British Generals mounted and dismounted, was the dismounted pair provided, in that for some unknown reason, the heft and size of these had more in common with the much smaller figures from Heroics & Ros, so they got thrown in the spares bin, and after a bit of surgery on a Z7 block, with one flag removed, the Union flag was raised resplendent as above.

The results with the survivors of the block surgery, with the addition of two WWI Officers, GWC3 (the bracketing figures on the leftmost stand) can be seen below:

The Highland command stand is a good block, but again with the problems of the Colours being carried, I had to reduce it thus, which turned out alright, although the bagpiper on the right of the stand looks a bit lonely!

Next we have another great sculpt, and crucial for any Colonial campaign , a couple of Kipling's screw gun, seen here in the shape of Irregular's IND64, late 19th/20th Century Mountain Gun with crew and Mules. The mules in particular are really good, you receive one block of three per gun.

Having dealt with the 5th Bombay Mountain Battery, Punjab Frontier Force, where would we be without the 18th Bengal Lancers? Thankfully, Irregular's IND62 report for duty here, although I have to say, in common with a lot of their 6mm cavalry, the horses are a little bit too well fed! I guess if I'm honest, these are rather dumpy and blobby, none of the elegance you might expect from such a romantic regiment, but then they are on campaign, you know...

The next stage is a quick look at what is next on the painting table, the Pathans themselves. (Although in Tirah, I suppose we should strictly call them Afridis, or Khambar Khels, or Orakzais, or somesuch...)

Below we have the IND39 tribal command block, although I have removed a figure from the right hand side of the base, a chap who should be holding a sword above his head, however, in an unfortunately all-too-familiar way, he is often miscast, rendering him a bug-eyed mutant. 
These miscasts can be a problem when ordering from Irregular, although at this scale it isn't always so obvious, and the company has good customer service, so, in my experience, are happy to replace the worst examples if you receive a lot of them in one order.

Next we see the IND38 tribal infantry with Jezails. These sculpts have good detail, but are rather passive in their pose for my liking; they look more like a bunch of friends lined up for a fishing trip photo than fierce tribal warriors!

That's why I have decided to scatter a selection of IND37, tribals with swords, and IND44 Sikh/Afghan Ghazis/Zealots in amongst them, to add a bit more animation. Ideally, of course, you'd have some blocks in skirmish order aiming their weapons, but given the excellent value for money offered by Irregular at this scale, you can't have everything I suppose....

Finally we have a couple of shots of something I just couldn't resist, the IND59 Siege Gun with Elephant Team, yes, it belongs to an earlier era than 1897, and might be more comfortable at Maiwand than the Dargai Heights, but just check it out! This is the Tiger Tank of it's day...well, something like comes with a base that depicts a number of artillerists, both colonial and native, behind an earth embrasure, as well as the neat Heffalump we see here.

Can't wait to have a go painting it, I'll update with some pictures of it, and the Pathans, as they come off the workbench.

Friday 20 March 2009

Weird World War I: 1919 - Part 3

(Clicking on all photos should bring up a larger image)

There's been a lot of interest since my last post on this subject, in the concept of a 'sequel', if you like, to Wessex Games/Brigade Model's Land Ironclads. (Thanks in no small part to the kind support of the Editor over on TMP!) I've had any number of people asking about what these 'new' dreadnoughts were.

I'm not presuming to improve on the already excellent ideas in this range and its rules, merely hoping to add some of my own into the mix. So if you'll indulge me, in this longer post and in some others to come, I'll be taking a look at some of the stuff I'm working on.

First off, we have the Land Dreadnoughts of the Weird WWI era themselves, as glimpsed in an earlier post, based on Irregular Miniature's IKSF26.
As you can see in the Work-In-Progress picture above, this mini can quite easily be converted into different versions - the addition of funnels made from those plastic tube covers for paint brushes, or a judicious filing down of some of the turrets can add quite a lot of individuality.

For the Germans, I wanted an 'armoured' look, so used the cap of a plastic vial of eye wash (!) to give a helmet-like superstructure, and then named the whole, in that style unique to the German language, a 'GepanzerteUberlandSchiffe' or armoured land ship, in this case, the Lutzow. These minis have a handy oblong flat surface to each side which is ideal for a national flag - hand painted here, but could be done by using a pre-printed flag stuck on. The colour scheme comes from naval Dreadnoughts at around the time of the start of the First World War, and the base here is the card backed by magnetic sheet that I normally use, dimensions 40x40mm.

I see these vehicles as 'land ships' in the truest sense, in that they are sea-going vessels, rather like the coastal monitors of an earlier era, mounting big guns, that can proceed onto the land using their gigantic tracks, crushing all before them.
We therefore see that Her Majesty's Land Dreadnought (HMLD) Indefatigable has a distinctly nautical flavour, with an added mast, and the top gun turret filed down to give a defined bridge:

Next we have the 'Grand Char de Rupture de la Marine' La Normandie; I added a tall superstructure made from electrical cable insulation topped off with some sprue, in imitation of the large fighting tops of French ships of the period, and her colours as well echo the original schemes.

These behemoths, of course, would be supported by a plethora of other vehicles of a smaller size, right down to the diminutive WWI tanks seen in my previous post. The conversion of miniatures to come up with new concepts is not something I can claim credit for, and principally this idea came from the work done over at Yours in a White Wine Sauce:

Here, in a variety of scales, but particularly to my eye in 6mm, many weird and wonderful ideas can be viewed. In the future, I'm particularly keen to have a go with Scotia's model of the A7V Uberlandwagen (the transport version of the tank), and also Navwar's tracked Karl Mortar of WWII vintage, to produce some giant SP guns!

Of course, as many navies were to discover, capital ships are vulnerable to air attack, and so some form of top cover is required for all this hardware. Now Brigade Models' Aeronef range is obviously the main contender here, although I feel that a lot of these minis are too remeniscent of ACW/VSF types for this later period. My starting point, therefore, was the 2mm generic Biplane available from Irregular, IKGW6. With some filing down of the tailplane or wings, or indeed the addition of a third plasticard wing, most types can easily be represented (Brigade are yet to release their tri-plane fighter - come on, you guys!).

As can be seen above, I mount these in flights of three on the widely available 1" flight stands, and they can do good service in providing cover for the ground troops.
Strike aircraft types, however, saw me heading back to Brigade, who have the excellent VAN-905 Four-engine Biplane Bomber we see below. Although these have a couple of more engines than the historical Gotha or Handley Page, the fact that the top wing comes separately with the engines attached, means that by reversing it, you can represent either type:

I mount the aircraft on the flight stand by topping it with a rubber washer, and then inserting steel stationery pins into this, which are then bent up at a right angle and to which the tiny 'planes are mounted using superglue. A whiff of some fluffy cotton wool disguises the washer, and adds a nice cloud! Sopwith Camels go Tally Ho! below after the Hun in the Sun:

The fun, of course, doesn't end here, I feel the VAN2012, Turkish War Balloon, should make an excellent armoured observation balloon, whilst VAN901, Small Dirigible, can fill in with some Hydrogen powered reconnaissance! The only thing lacking is a 'blimp' type barrage/observation balloon: perhaps someone can suggest a good way to scratch-build one of these?

I don't have a photo as yet, but next up on the workbench is a Revell Mini-Kit (06700 Snap-Fit) LZ129 Hindenburg, which is just the right size for a predatory looking Zeppelin, and retailing at around £2~£3 each, won't break the bank.

Finally a quick link for further inspiration on this whole concept, and a promise that as it develops, I'll do all that I can to bring you more photos and news:

Have fun!

Painting 2mm: The King's Life Guard Part 2

Irregular Miniatures make a number of different blocks of combined Pike and Shot suitable for the Renaissance period, however I find that they are comparatively small in size, and depending on the kind of figure ratio you are hoping to achieve, not ideal for large formations.
Thankfully, they do some separate blocks which can easily be combined to form a representative whole. As you will have seen in my previous post, I favour a Pike block from RBG9, and Musket 'sleeves' formed from 4xBG16, which gives an appropriate depth against the Pike. I suppose strictly, the officers of a regiment of foot would have been on foot during a battle, but I like to top off the base with the mounted trio from RBG24. As you can see in the photo above, once I have the blocks painted up to my stasfaction, I like to base these large formations on an artist's card base (1.6mm deep backed with magnetic sheet), which is 60mm wide by 30mm deep.

Once glued down, the troops just need a final look over, and any areas that look a bit sloppy, or have been obscured, tidied up. If you're feeling ambitious, this is where you add in the feather in the Colonel's hat, and a few coloured sashes to distinguish the officers!

I pre-paint the bases before mounting the blocks, again making sure to use quite a light colour tone in order to make the figures 'pop' with a suitable contrast. The base could probably be left like this, but I think some attention with your smallest grade flock, or even some larger pieces as bushes or trees gives it a nice diorama-like feel:

So there you have it, a straightforward way of painting the King's Life Guard, ready to defend His Sovereigne Majestie against his rebellious foes!

Finally a shot of part of the Royalist army en masse - I think this gives a good idea of the visual effect that can be achieved by these tiny troops when deployed in number, all for a comparatively minimal effort in both time and expense. Give some a try; you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

55 Days at Sea: Part 4

(Clicking on all pictures should bring up a larger view)

As I said in my previous post on this subject, I've been pleased with Navwar's 1/3000th range so far, and having received my re-print copy of Jane's "All the World's Fighting Ships 1898", full of remarkable illustrations hand drawn by Fred T. Jane himself, I can appreciate the good job the sculptor has done, given the limitations of this small scale.

Although I needed only a certain number of ships, Navwar's packaging of the vessels along with one or two examples of sister-ships or similar types means that I already have a good sample of the wider navies - so I can quickly call on re-enforcements once my 'What-if?' scenario heats up.
("Admiral, you sent a gunboat to the Taku Bar - now despatch the Fleet!)

Above we see the Japanese N5115 Fuji-class Battleship and Asama-class N5312 Armoured Cruiser in their undercoats, on my patented 'Double sided sticky tape paint sticks'. 
(If you're reading this in the UK, you'll understand that all those years of watching Blue Peter on TV were not wasted after all!)  

Below we have my first attempts at painting in this scale, two N9036 Chinese Armed Trading Junk, which will be conveying my Boxers into the melee, seen here mounted on 50x30mm plasticard bases; you will also note my decision to include a name-plate on the base. I don't normally do this on figure bases, but these somehow just looked naked without something, so the Brother label maker I 'borrowed' whilst at work (Don't tell the boss!), came to the rescue. The vessels' names are speculative, based on the Chinese nomenclature for the Boxer Movement: "I Ho Chuan", 'Righteous Harmonious Fists'.

Now it's Brainwave time: having named the vessels, I realised that visually I was missing some way of telling the nationality of each vessel, as they are obviously too small to mount visible flags themselves, I was casting around for what to do when I remembered Brigade Models' range of adhesive flag sheets for their Aeronef models; just the ticket, and available for all the belligerent nations:

These can be a bit hard to cut out and mount, scalpel and tweezers are required; but I think they look really good and are just the right size - below we see the Russian flagship, the Armoured Cruiser Rossiya (N7309):

She is mounted on a 60x30mm base made from the  1.6mm thick artist card with magnetic sheet applied from Tiny Tin Troops:

My only slight concern with using this is the fragility of the edges upon handling; perhaps there is some way of sealing them with varnish to give them some strength? I'll have to give it a go; anyway, they take paint well, white waves and wakes and all!

Finally we see the Japanese N5329 Suma, and N5324 Kasagi. My research, particular on, has thrown up the fact that the majority of vessels were probably painted in their 'Tropical Station' white livery; this is a time before the battleship-Greys and Greens of the Russo-Japanese War, but I decided to do a number in their peace-time standard colours of black hulls and white or ochre upperworks to add some variety. 

Anyway, so far so good, next up the British squadron in all its glory!

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Painting 2mm figures: The King's Life Guard

A word now, on painting 2mm scale figures from Irregular Miniatures. As I've said before, I'm certainly no expert, but it always surprises me how many people criticise 2mm for being impossible to paint, that they are mere blobs, or that you need an electron microscope to see any detail.
Oh ye of little faith! Of course they are small, of course they were designed to depict groups of soldiers; and yes, you can't count the buttons on the uniforms, but give them a try and you might be surprised. Not all the available blocks are perfect, but handle one in a well lit room, and take a good look. As you scan along the front, it is obvious that far from being a plain block, each figure is clearly delineated, you can see cross-belts on their backs and weapons at port to their front, there is even a drummer at one end of the line and a standard bearer in the centre!
As to painting them, you'll struggle to do justice to this detail; at least I always do, but for reference, here's my quick method:

As you can see in the first photo above, after cleaning up the mini, I sit firmly on the middle of the fence in the white versus black undercoat debate by using panzer grey!

Stage 1: Using a dotting motion, I put colour to the front, side and rear of each visible figure on the block, and then using almost a highlighting or drybrush stroke, pick out the raised detail of the figure's legs.
Next I fill in the line of the shoulders as seen from above, taking care to make sure that not too much paint flows from the brush.

Stage 2, in the picture above, sees a dot of flesh tone for each face, (you can even put in the hand of the standard bearer) and I also usually paint in the pikes and their points, and give flags their base colour.
Next up, as you can see below, I do the headgear, in the case of these ECW chaps, a variety of colours (scruffy lot in those days), again dotted on, with care taken not to obscure the faces at the front.
Here I've also added in a few buff coats amongst the musketeers, and follow up with a dot of black for armour amongst the pikemen, applied over the uniform colour.

Stage 3 is to finish the standards: of course at this size you are really only trying to suggest the colour or pattern, so don't worry too much; on occasion I've even removed the cast on flags entirely, and had them replaced with oversized printed or painted ones for more visual appeal.

Next I will try and pick out the weapons visible in the front rank with a stroke from my finest pointed brush (usually a 000), yes this is fiddly to do,not always successful, and perhaps not really necessary, but I think it adds a level of definition.

Finally, I line in the exposed base in the ground colour, using a bright contrasting tone that is lighter than you might normally use, for reasons of visibility, taking care not to overlap onto the figures.

So, you're almost there - a whole regiment (the same principle applies to mounted troops, just paint from the horse outwards) in a few quick steps - and you haven't gone blind or in a fit of frustration decided to use plastic Risk counters instead!

These figures were designed for maximum 'Mass' appeal, enabling you to portray a lot, in a limited space, on a limited budget, and will reward a bit of attention with regiments and battalions that at least look like they have the footprint of the real thing on the tabletop.

Don't be afraid to give them a try!

Next Post: Finishing and Basing the King's Lifeguard.

Monday 16 March 2009

'Weird' World War I Part 2

As part of my ongoing 'Weird' WWI project, I've recently been trying out some of Irregular Miniatures' 2mm WWI range. Ostensibly 1/900th in scale, they should fit in well with some of the other minis I'm planning to use, particularly some Sci-Fi stuff and the wider range now available from Brigade Models.

First up, we see above the German A7v in the company of some captured MkIV. The front of the German tank sculpt is a bit flat, with not much of a suggestion of the front gun, but the top mounted cab and roof grilles are really well defined. The MkIV is really good, you can even see the guns in the sponsons!

Below a group of British MkIVs, mounted on card bases, dimensions 40X30mm, at these sizes, they're best mounted in groups:

Coming next we see see the French Char de Schneider, a model that has really caught the shape of the original, although again the front ball mounted gun is not that well defined (What am I talking about- these things are tiiiiiny!)

Talking of tiny, how about these FT-17s - these guys are even smaller, yet the MG and cupola on the turret are plainly visible - with some great definition on the tracks as well - shame my paint job on these was not so hot (Macro photography is a harsh critic - beware!).

The piece de resistance, however, without a doubt is IKM8 Rail Gun, here in the guise of of a German Kanone. This one would put a lot of 1/300th models to shame, here it is accompanied by the engine and tender from IKM7 Armoured Train, and in the background by IKM6 Train and waggons. These are all mounted on BG147 Track lengths, which again, given their size, are really well defined.

Brigade Models has a range of small contraptions that should match up well with these, even some rocket armed MkIV tanks to deal with those pesky Martians!

Next Post: the Land Dreadnoughts themselves, and some thoughts on 2mm scale aviation...

Saturday 14 March 2009

North West Frontier in 6mm

(Note: all photos should be clickable for a larger view)

Next up on the workbench, part of my ongoing project to do the Tirah Campaign of 1897 with the 6mm Colonial range from Irregular Miniatures. As some of you may know, minis from Irregular are (and I'm sure Ian and the gang at York won't mind me saying this), well.....a bit .....umm.....irregular. 
Sometimes when you unwrap them, you can't help but do a double take at what at first appears to be an undistinguished lump of metal, and the style of sculpt is chunky and colourful to say the least. However, and you will read this all over the 'net: whatever they look like 'naked', they always paint up really well!
Now of course you have the old Heroics & Ros line from Navwar, and also the excellent stuff that Baccus are now producing, but I find the H&R ones a bit tough to paint, as they are very small and the sculpts are sometimes a bit plain, and Peter Berry's stuff is far too pretty for a quick and dirty painter like me! 
Somehow, even if they look as ugly as sin, Irregular's troops are full of character and swagger, which is always important in a fight, table-top or otherwise.

Above we see Irregular Z23, 'Highlanders Marching', a nice looking mini, although the rifle/bayonets are a bit fragile; unfortunately there is only this pose available for the Scots. Below we have IND40 'Sikh Regular Infantry', which  actually I use for Indian Sepoys, as I find that their turbans are a bit small - if you look at contemporary photos the Sikhs have huge turbans at this period, but luckily the IND60 'Later 19/20th Century Sepoy' fits the bill for this. (see my company of 3rd Sikhs in amongst the photos in my first Blog post)

Next then, we see them painted up as the Afridis of the Khyber Rifles, as well as a view of how I've decided to base the troops for the campaign. Irregular's stuff comes pre-based, and the size can sometimes vary, so I went for two blocks to a base, to present a sort of skirmish line, with therefore a width of around 60mm, depth 15mm. 
The basing material itself is 1.6mm thick artist's card which I buy with pre-applied magnetic backing from Tiny Tin Troops - I am not a big fan of thick bases for troops at this scale, and so compromise over possible warping with these thin card ones, or even sometimes plasticard.

Next up we have the Dorsets, a base of Z5, 'British Infantry Kneeling', and one of Z6, 'Binf Standing', the definition on these is not so hot, perhaps, and the pose of the standing figures is a bit unnatural, I would have preferred something with a bit more animation; preferably levelled bayonets (The cold steel Carruthers!).

Finally we see the Gordon Highlanders (Although I bet they wore trews in this campaign: it can get chilly up your Khyber Pass otherwise!) who are protecting the Brigadier who is a mix of Z7 'Britinf Command Group', and the mounted half of Z8 'British Generals Mounted and Dismounted'. This is a cracking sculpt, and will feature again in my next post on command groups, along with some of the supporting troops.