Thursday 23 July 2009

6mm Doctor Who: Civilians

A small addition, now, to the Dr Who project, in the form of some Civilian Bases, obviously the Daleks need some fodder to turn into slave workers or even Robo-Men!

Irregular Miniatures provides the personnel, from their 'Riot' range, pack SIR1, which has a selection of useful types.

Crucially, some transport can be provided as well, below we see a Transit Van, SIR6. This is roughly painted in a scheme that may be familiar to some readers: "they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team..." !

Next up we have SIR2, a base of two police men, which as you can see appear in full riot gear with batons and shields; these can either provide public order protection, or more sinisterly, be used as proto-Robo-Men, their identity hidden behind full face visors:

They are nice looking minis, although it was a bit difficult for me to try and write 'Police' on the shields at this scale!

The available Riot minis are a good mix of types, with a few who look like they are hanging around just waiting for the trouble to start, or others such as the base with woman (Nice handbag!) and child, that are more benign.

All these are based on UK 1 pence coins, approximately 20mm in diameter. They could be used merely as window dressing, but I like to think that they could take a more active role in a scenario; perhaps with what I'll call a 'Mob' die roll; if three or more bases are gathered together within a 40mm radius, then a certain die result will see them ganging up on the nearest hapless Alien or Law Enforcement type, and close assaulting them in old fashioned style......clobbering time!

Wednesday 15 July 2009

6mm Romans: Some Musings

A quick post now to introduce some musings on a possible new project, namely Romans of the Early Imperial variety in 6mm. This has been one of those 'back burner' subjects for quite a while, and in the spirit of my last prevaricating post, also contains some indecision as to how it will eventually shape up.

Now when the words 'Romans' and '6mm' are uttered in the same sentence, you would quite rightly think of one company: Baccus, helmed by Peter Berry. Excellent service, Wargamer friendly, reasonable prices, good, developing ranges and minis that paint up easily with great detail, what more could you want from a manufacturer? Well, in typically contrary fashion, I had some issues when looking in to approaching this project.

I did not wish to let venturing into this new arena distract me from my main projects and interests, but my butterfly mind alighted on it more and more often to the extent that I did a deal with my conscience, to whit: "Don't invest heavily, just do a few test stands, see if you like them".
Seems reasonable enough, but as ever, these promises tend to morph into something much greater before you know it. I therefore decided to impose some discipline by being ruthless on cost, and this is what led me away from Baccus. Now given their quality, 96 minis at £4.90 is not a lot, and compares well with Heroics & Ros at say 2x £2.50 packs for 100 minis, or the Rapier Ancients line at 4x £1.25 packs for 96. However, my wide experience with the Irregular Minis catalogues meant that in the back of my mind, 16 x their 6 man bases would give 96 men at a cost of £4, being .25 pence per base.
So if I was merely testing the water at the cheapest price, these would seem to be the ones to buy, at least to find out if I actually liked painting up those little legionaries. Then I came upon the E1 24 man block depicted in 4 ranks, at a price of .80 pence each, which would mean only £3.20 for the above mentioned 96. Given my experience, as you will see elsewhere in this Blog, with painting up cast 'blocks' of 2mm men rather than individual figures, this meant I could do a lot for very little, and salve my conscience at the same time, so the die was cast...

The use of these blocks, moreover, would enable me to avoid one of my particular bugbears when it comes to depicting military formations on the table top; Mass and in particular Depth.
How often do you see Roman Centuries or even Cohorts depicted in small groups of 2 or at most three ranks depth? This is not to say, of course, that the Romans did not or could not deploy in this manner, makes sense if you need to cover a long front line with few troops, but to me the Century was given its potency by its depth, and the practice of replacing losses at the front by a conveyor belt from the rear. Besides, a few ranks look a bit wimpy when the might of Rome is best represented by great bloomin' big machine-like blocks tramping forward (Sinister, Dexter, Sinister, Dexter....!).

A website which has done some excellent research on this subject, and depicts well what I would like to try and deploy is the following:

(Beware, there are some rather annoying pop-ups on these pages, but if you can see past them, and the rather detailed examinations in the text, it's well worth it.)

The whole site is well worth wading through, although some of the images can take a long time to load, but the insight included, I think is invaluable when approaching this period.

So I had my miniatures of choice and a good idea of how the Legion Centuries themselves might be depicted, but then came the choice of exactly what armies to invest in. Censoring myself once more, I decided that an excellent period would be the Year of the Four Emperors in AD69, where Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian all vied for the top job in a widespread civil war - this had the advantage of needing no 'enemy' troops, merely Romans themselves!

There are some cracking battles from this time, with Otho at Bedriacum employing Praetorian Cohorts as well as a formation of 2,000 gladiators, and the armies of Vitellius using Batavian Auxiliaries, with even guest appearances of vexilia detachments from the Legions in Britain, including the notorious IX Hispana.

With a view then to looking into the feasibility of the project, I purchased 12 of Irregular's E1 24 man blocks, intending initially to portray a Cohort at 1:2 man to figure ratio on deep bases, (40x30mm turned side-on for 30x40mm) with two blocks forming a Century with 48 figures. 6 Centuries therefore forming the Cohort, as you can see in the pictures throughout this post.

Again, in typically contrary mood, I decided to paint the shields in a rather un-legionary blue, (All Wargames legionaries always seem to have red shields :-) ! ) to depict the Legio I Adiutrix, which had been formed from Marines under Galba. I guess the naval background meant the blue seemed appropriate.

I think in all likelihood, if this project progresses, the figure ratio will have to increase, to the point where probably two bases of 48 will represent a Cohort, so I might be repainting some of the shields seen here. My whole idea was to speed paint these guys, blocking in some detail over the undercoat, taking advantage of the cast together blocks, and I think they have turned out alright; the Irregular blocks do not contain any command figures, and vexilia/banners are available only as separate standards to be glued on, so these do suffer somewhat when compared with other manufacturers, but will do nicely to represent the bread and butter figures of the Legion.
The basing at the moment is also temporary, so please forgive the unfinished nature of the bases in the photos.

It may be that Command, Cavalry and speciality figures, such as CarriBallistae, Scorpio etc, would be better depicted using Baccus or another company, but for the moment these little tykes from Irregular will form the backbone at least until I see how things develop. Of course, in the wake of this experiment, orders for various figures are already speeding their way from SteelonSand Towers as we speak, so we'll have to see how things progress....

Ave atque vale!

Friday 10 July 2009

2mm Tolkien: The Project That Never Was...

"Know thou, oh Prince, that Eons ago, when the world was young, an aged Wargamer paced the battlements of his eldritch Tower, perched up high so far above the plains below. He watched as the wars and warriors of Man ebbed and flowed so far beneath his feet, and he saw that they were small and perfectly formed at that far removed vantage point. He spent many hours searching the ancient tomes of knowledge known as the Irregular Miniature's Catalogue and saw that it was good; his avarice knew no bounds, and from far and wide, he collected all of the most tiniest miniatures that he could obtain, and yet his mind knew no rest, his hunger was never satisfied...."

Regular readers of this Blog will no doubt know of my sometimes illogical liking for the smallest of perfectly formed minis, and in particular, those of approximately 1/900th scale; it would seem obvious then, that I should enjoy all that there is to offer in this most interesting of scales, and that I would experiment in all the available periods and types. To some extent, this is true, however in working my way steadily through the Irregular catalogue, I came to an unexpected and uncharacteristic halt with their 2mm Fantasy range.

It is not that there is anything wrong with this particular, Tolkien inspired range, and indeed, some of the sculpts are some of the best I have seen at this size, (In spite of Tony Hughes' assertion that the Dragon looks like a Hippo....more on this later!) but for the life of me I could not motivate myself to move forward with this project.

I normally buy a number of figures, in small batches, to 'test the water', or that is at least what I convince myself - for some reason these modest tests soon turn into full blown projects, yet here I came across a sort of Wargamer's block, and see these as a failure of sorts.

I am a proponent of using 2mm in the 'Grand Scale' for maximum Mass on the table top, yet for some reason, I could not see a clear way to use this approach with this particular range, balanced as it is between some exquisite character figures such as the Nazgul or Giants, and the more bread and butter, if very interesting offerings of various Goblin types.

It would seem a foregone conclusion to use these in a Battle of the Five Armies (BOTFA) or Battle of the Pelennor Fields (BOTPF) scenario, where armies would really mean armies, yet I am torn on how to develop this line, having come across the excellent work done at this particular page over at Blackbird Media some time ago; this floats the idea of using a board-gaming approach with character bases on some of the best scratch built boards I have ever seen, which I am finding irresistible, yet entirely at odds with my normal approach:

The whole idea is a very attractive one, and is supported by the stunning little home-built city models, particularly Minas Tirith, as well as the ideas they develop on using 10mm GW BOTFA or Copplestone minis, or even larger ones as the various character stands; the Irregular 2mm would also seem ideal for this purpose. Before I get carried away however, let's look at some of what Irregular has to offer; it is as always, a good idea to consult the Gildas Facit website of Tony Hughes for a descriptive listing of what is available, with helpful comments and measurements:
(Scroll down for the Fantasy Range)

You see below the IKF1 Dragon, painted here as my version of Smaug of the Lonely Mountain, and actually, unlike Tony, I think that it is not a hippo, but has a rather canine appearance, quite suitable when you think of early medieval depictions of the Great Winged Worms:

He is mounted, in line with the ideas on the Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields page, on a single base, in this case a UK 2 pence coin, which has a diameter of around 26mm. I think this sculpt is full of character, if it is a bit more cute than it is terrifying, and the left wing tip rears up at a slightly odd angle, yet this could be bent into a better shape prior to painting with pliers - something of course, I forgot to do!

Next up we have "the Eagles, the Eagles!" as the invisible Bilbo was so fond of shouting, IKF11, which are depicted in a small flock - a little flat, perhaps, but actually quite good given their small size.
(Remember all photos on this Blog are clickable for a Super Macro view).
I mounted this on 2p coins again, here with mini Misty Mountains underneath to give the illusion of flying, again, with a view to using them as counter types:

Then we see the embodiment of all Evil, IKF4 Nazgul, which has a great 'Fell Beast' surmounted by a tiny rider, again on a 2p, with Mount Doom type assistance to provide the illusion of flight. This is another fantastic sculpt, and I am really pleased with how it turned out, all the more grist to add to the confusion in my mind as to which way to turn; mass battle as usual, or something more 'board-gamey':

"Master Frodo, will I see an Olliphant, will I though, will I.....?" Well, Sam Gamgee, your wish is granted, but be careful what you wish for, for here come three all at once to do some stomping!

This base illustrates the schizophrenic nature of this test project so far, in that a single IKF5 Mumakil looked rather bereft, all on its own, so I was only happy when basing up a trio, here on a standard 2mm MDF 40x30mm base. These are again an excellent depiction by Irregular, with a crew in the Howdah along with a visible Mahut driver, as well as sweeping great flags surmounted by great big skulls; really really good, but how would they fit into a board game approach?

Next we have a couple of very grumpy looking Ents, IKF3, which are perhaps a bit underwhwelming, and might be better served being scratch built, particularly if based singly. Seen here on a standard 40x20mm base:

Coming along next, and hopefully avoiding the sunlight (SPF50 is best boys!), we have the IKF6 Trolls, which are again great little sculpts; I seem to have gone a bit 'Dallimore' with the paint-job, not bad on a 2mm mini!

Bringing up the rear we have probably the crispest sculpts in the range, the IKF2 Giant, which are brilliant models, and would have changed most people's perceptions of Irregular's stuff if only all their 6mm output looked like this, standing as they do, just shy of 7mm in height:

Finally we have some views of what I have attempted so far from the various Goblin bases, these are very well done, given how small they are, (That's three IKF 8 blocks each on two 40x20mm bases) and would perhaps lend themselves best to my normal approach of big armies:

IKF7, Wolves, and IKF9 Goblin Wolf Riders lead on the infantry:

The Wolf block is a little flat, with the wolves themselves being very squashed down (They would make great mice or rats for a 28mm Pied Piper of Hamelin), and I am somewhat dis-satisfied with only three on a 40x20mm base, I think a lot of them on a much larger base would really do the trick, but then that leads me back to my dilemma....

The Goblin Wolf Riders are well done, in cavalry style, with the Wolves much larger, and suitably 'Warg' - like.

Overall, then, with such an embarrassment of tiny riches, you would think it would be an easy decision for me to plunge headlong into this project, but is has remained stuck, whilst I dither as to whether to be charmed with the idea of a home made board game, which stands at the very opposite of my normal approach (I always strongly defend 2mm minis as being so much more than mere gaming counters, when compared to their larger cousins), or to move ahead with large bases mounting realistic formations - and this of course brings me into the realm of how to depict the various 'Good' troops, Elves, Dwarves, etc which are lacking in the Fantasy Range, and their likely Ancients stand ins, but that is a whole other post.....

So for the moment, I will remain torn between the success of the 2p coin mounted characters, and the not so hot looking standard troops on larger bases; "this truly, quoth he, was the Project that Never Was... "

Monday 6 July 2009

Dr Who in 6mm: Alien reinforcements

Having recently provided U.N.I.T. with Heavy Weapons and Transport, I wanted to augment the Dalek and Sontaran infantry with some 'heavy metal' of their own; even though such things are not very often seen in the TV show, I felt a bit of tweaking wouldn't hurt. The fact is that the search for suitable look-alike minis in 6mm has been difficult, whether thinking in terms of Sea Devils, Silurians, Ice Warriors, Yetis or Cybermen, and with nothing really to hand, I was itching to add something to the forces available.

As you can see in the photo above, a Dalek Commander, in the form of Davros, was roughly scratch built from some plastic and half of a Heroics and Ros WWII Artilleryman, but I needed to cast my net wider to come up with some other items to bolster the Doctor's enemies.
Trawling through some old posts over on TMP concerning 6mm Sci-Fi, I came across a link that had some photos of the vehicle ranges from Scotia, and I knew at once that I had found a likely Sontaran AFV, to whit the SF7 Heavy Scout Vehicle, which has an excellent bulbous cab/cockpit, so redolent of the potato-headed warrior's own helmets!

The TMP discussion is here,

The photos, which are so lacking on Scotia's own site are here, at least those that are still working links:

and Scotia Grendel can be found here:

So this lucky find gave me my Sontaran 'Weapon Sled', which of course could be used as a transport, but I took the liberty of up-gunning them with two more useful additions from Scotia, the SF16 Medium Field Laser, and the SF17 Twin Light Support Laser.
The former is a meaty looking cannon, which comes with a separate wheeled carriage, whilst the latter is a nice twin-barreled sculpt that also comes with a small separate base.

I decided not to use these, but rather mount them on plastic sprue in the cargo bay as turreted weapons as you can see below. The paint scheme is not very inspiring I'm afraid, being based on the Sontaran uniform, but perhaps I'll tweak it later.

The Sontaran Scout Force was then complete, although I'd still like to have a go at doing a couple of their distinctive ball-shaped sphere ships, so perhaps room for some improvement here in the future:

Having given the potato-heads some better weaponry, I couldn't neglect their 'pepperpot' cousins the Daleks, so I again turned to Scotia for ideas. If I remember rightly, Dalek ships appeared in the form of saucers for the TV version of the Dalek Invasion of Earth, and were seen more recently in fleets massing during the 'Bad Wolf' story arc, so I knew I wanted something along those lines, giving the earthbound enemies of the Doctor some chance at levitation on the battlefield; (why bother climbing stairs when you can obliterate the whole building from the sky?)

SF13, Large Flying Saucer, was just the ticket:

These saucers are relatively plain, apart from the nice inscribed pattern on one surface, and come with a traditional bulb cockpit to the other side. Deciding to mount visible pilots for a bit of close air support, I filed down the bulb somewhat to enable the addition of some rare earth magnets, and mounted some cannibalised Daleks on the reverse side.

I suppose I ought to paint in some of the Dalek sphere sensors which traditionally adorn their lower casings, around the outer rim of the saucer, but decided that my painting skills weren't up to doing that many perfect circles, so I chickened out!

I filed off the support peg atop the plastic flight stands to enable the addition of a corresponding magnet, so that these stands might do double duty with other craft or fighters from different projects. Being me, of course, my filing down on both saucers and stands was not entirely level, but this had the side-effect of creating some variety in the flying angle of the saucers, so was no real problem in the end.

I obtained the magnets from Dom's Decals, who give excellent service with their unparalleled decals for small scale aircraft as well as stocking Tumbling Dice Miniature's aircraft ranges.

So, overall, a good start on beefing up the table-top forces of the protagonists so far, just hope that I will stumble across some more minis that might stand in for my other favourite villains from the show!

*Note: I just wanted to apologise to regular readers for the lack of posts recently, but down here in S.E. England over the last week or so, it has been definitely too hot to Blog, or more specifically too hot to paint! I use a wet palette when painting with acrylics, but was finding even this was drying out within minutes of the paint coming out of the tube. For those of you who live in hotter climes, the 'scorching' nature of 32 degrees Celsius might seem ridiculous, but for us Brits, that's plenty hot! Anyway, normal service has resumed now, with cooling temperatures and outbreaks of rain, so things should be back to normal from now on.....