Tuesday, October 2, 2018

15mm WWI Casualties and Accessories

I'm in the process of running a 15mm WWI campaign at the local club, and now that I have about a platoon's worth of infantry for the French and Germans complete, I'm focusing on adding some more special pieces. The rules I'm using are TFL's "Through the Mud and the Blood", and each player has a particular big man who is his own unique character, with a bunch of detail elaborated beyond the base rules. 

When ordinary soldiers are killed or wounded, the game doesn't track them any further. But when a big man is hit, he might soldier on in a reduced capacity, be gravely wounded and have to be extricated from the fight, or be killed outright. When a character is gravely wounded, the cry goes out for stretcher bearers, and these poor gentlemen have to make their way forward under fire and try to reach the injured man. 

These are Peter Pig's 15mm WWI German stretcher bearers. Each team consists of 3 pieces, the two bearers and the separate stretcher. The pack contains two such teams, as well as two extra stretchers. They don't offer a French set, but I'm thinking I can replace the German heads with French ones and just fudge the rest in the painting. In 15mm it should look alright. But we'll see. 

Who are they trying to reach? Casualties of course. Here is a set of Peter Pig's WWI German casualty markers. There are three different pieces in a pack of 8.

This isn't quite enough to represent the average failed attack (or successful one, come to think of it) which tends to look a lot worse, but it's a start.

Of course, any WWI project is going to need a healthy (or rather an intensely unhealthy) amount of barbed wire, so I've begun work on my wire sections. I've got about 4 feet so far, and this is the prototype I'm working from.

The base is made from sheet styrene cut into 4" x 2" pieces. To that I glue cut down stumps of toothpicks for the posts. Then I paint white glue over the base and cover it in a generous amount of sand. I also glue a few pebbles around the base to represent larger stones. Then the base is undercoated a dark brown and drybrushed with a few lighter shades. The posts are painted a light khaki color and then given a thick dark brown wash.

The wire itself is from Gale Force 9. At first it is bright silver and very new looking, so I soak it for a few days in a plastic container full of vinegar and salt. That rusts it up perfectly.

I'll probably add more wire to each piece to give it a more tangled look, but for right now I'm focusing on churning these out. From the profile it looks a little more gnarly.

Wire or no wire, the attack must go forward. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

15mm WWI Update

I haven't been posting a lot lately, just because other factors have been getting in the way, but I have slowly been chipping away at my ongoing 15mm WWI project. Here's a quick look at a few more figures that are ready to go over the top.

First up, here are five more French riflemen from Peter Pig. The only modification to any of these was the addition of a scope to the weapon of one of the crouching riflemen, and the removal of his bayonet. He will be a designated sharpshooter for his team. The "Through the Mud and the Blood" rules allow a designated figure to operate as a normal rifleman until called upon to operate as a sniper, at which point some special rules apply.

Next, four grenadiers from Irregular miniatures. Some of you may recall an earlier post I did about adjusting Irregular WWI Germans to fit in better with their Peter Pig counterparts. For these guys, I just removed the pedestal under them. No heads were removed and swapped, as they fit in better than the Germans did.

You can see the variety of poses is not great. I bent some of the arms around a little to add some minor variety, but that's not much. The sculpting quality in general is not quite up to the Peter Pigs, but they're not bad figures, and it was a quick way to add dedicated grenadiers to the unit.

And lastly, here are five more Germans. The first, second and fifth (from left to right) are from Irregular Miniatures, and had their pedestals removed, their heads swapped with Peter Pig heads, their arms bent around and, in the case of the second from the left, a pistol added to one hand and a grenade to the other.

The figure in the middle is from Peter Pig's WW2 line. I removed the pockets from his chest to make his jacket more appropriate for WW1. You can just make out the edge of a little piece of white card on his base. It has a number on it, which identifies which "Big Man" card is his in the "Through the Mud and the Blood" deck.

The figure next to him is another Peter Pig figure, who was originally carrying a submachine gun. I replaced it with two small brass rods to give him a double barreled shotgun - not a military-issued weapon, but perhaps a hunting piece that I can imagine a trench raider taking with him on an assault.

There's plenty more of these in the works, and I look forward to posting more photos soon.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Shatterlands - Kickstarter for Second Set of Figures

I had the opportunity recently to preview (and try my paintbrush out on) the second issue of figures for "Shatterlands," the 28mm blackpowder fantasy skirmish game from Stonegate Forge. The company is currently close to fully funding the Kickstarter campaign that would allow them to put these figures into general production, so you should definitely take a look at their KS page.

If you're not familiar with the game, it's a really fun take on skirmish gaming, with a sort of French and Indian War feel reimagined in a fantasy setting. It has a number of innovative features, including character-specific scratch-off cards that let you track both damage and improvements for a character across a whole campaign. You don't known in advance how quickly or how significantly a character will advance in skill level until after each game, when you scratch off a given trait and see the result. Also a neat system of color-coded dice that let you see at a glance how good a particular character is at getting the job done, without having to memorize a long list of modifiers. For example, in general you want to roll low, so if you see a character is rolling a 20-sided die when shooting, rather than a 6-sided, you might not want to try to use that guy as a sharpshooter. The game is unlike any other I've played of this type, and always makes for some tense moments and a good immersive sense of story.

From a painter's point of view, this is another set of fantastic figures. The sculpting is extremely crisp, the poses are very attractive and well chosen, and the casting is top notch. Mold lines are very, very slight, and flash was nonexistent.

The extension includes 6 new figures, 3 Dumah Rangers (in colorful uniforms) and 3 Rappani (in black with bows and arrows). You have the option of equipping the Dumah Ranger on the right (in blue jacket) with either a rifle or a combination crossbow/ musket, as I have chosen here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

15mm Stormtrooper Alterations - Irregular Miniatures

Recently I was looking to add some dedicated close combat stormtroopers to my set of 15mm WWI German figures, guys who clearly had the look of men looking to get up close and personal as they raided an enemy trench on some moonless night. My Germans and French have been entirely taken from the excellent Peter Pig lines so far, but while Peter Pig does have some stormtroopers modeled throwing grenades, they don't have figures with shovels and pistols and body armor, which is the look I was going for. 

I looked around at my options with other manufacturers, and decided to give Irregular Miniatures a try. The photos on the website seemed to have promise, and the price was right. My biggest concern though was that size-wise the new figures would not be a good match. I didn't own any pieces from them already, and couldn't find clear comparisons online between the relative sizes of the two lines, so I took a shot in the dark. 

It was pretty clear on opening the package that the Irregular figures were significantly bigger than the Peter Pig ones. They were also not as well sculpted, and the variety of poses was not great, but I didn't want to give up so easily, so the following pictures show some of my efforts to bring them down to size and fit them in with the Peter Pigs. 

First and foremost, I needed the Irregulars to be shorter in order to fit in. Right off the bat I cut the pedestals off their feet, and then sanded the feet down just a little bit to make them stand a little lower. 

Next, the Irregular heads were significantly larger, and that was a detail that stood out even when viewing them from a bit of a distance. Men naturally vary a good deal in size, but the helmets wouldn't differ quite that much, in both size and style. So off came the Irregular heads, to be replaced by spare helmeted heads I cut off of WW2 Peter Pig figures. I didn't realize when I was doing this that I could have ordered spare heads from Peter Pig, both in steel helmets or in field caps. I probably would have gone that route had I known about the possibility at the time. 

Next, I wasn't very happy with the Irregular poses. They are clearly all based on exactly the same pose, with some very minor changes made to give them different equipment. So I cut some metal away from their joints to make it easy to bend their arms in different positions. Between that and gluing their new heads in different orientations from the ones they started with, it helped give a little more variety to them. 

To mix things up a little more I also glued a few very simple custom items into a few hands. I made a shovel from brass and card, pistols from pieces of brass rod, and a grenade from brass and a small wooden dowel. 

Size-wise the figures are not a perfect match, but then even within the Peter Pig line different packs of infantry vary in size. For example, the Germans in firing poses are noticeably smaller than those charging with bayonets fixed. 

The results are good enough for my purposes, and these gentlemen have already hit the table and given a good account of themselves in storming their objectives. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WW1 Terrain Tiles - The Process

With the French and German figures shaping up nicely (if slowly!), the focus of my 15mm World War One project is shifting to terrain construction. I knew from the beginning that the terrain was going to be one of the most engrossing parts of this project, and for me the real excitement is in having a realistic degree of relief. Standard moveable terrain features that sit on top of a gaming mat are of course a lot easier to make and more convenient to store and transport, but I've had my heart set on trenches and craters that sit below the surface. That means creating my own modular terrain tiles that I can cut the features down into.

After some reflection, I've decided that one foot square tiles are the way to go. In 15mm scale each tile represents a good sized piece of terrain, and hopefully they should be relatively easy to pack away. Also, I was able to find precut styrofoam tiles on Ebay in this size easily, and for a good price. I've gone with 3/4" thick tiles because that is slightly taller than the figures.

Each terrain tile will consist of two thicknesses of styrofoam, making 1.5" high sides. That way I can cut trenches and craters into the top layer, and still have the ability for some tiles to make dugouts at an even lower level, or create extra deep recesses or even mine craters in no man's land. To make things easy on myself, I've decided to start with making no man's land tiles before attempting the more complicated task of making trenches.

In order to save materials, I decided that if a given tile doesn't include a feature that extends below the top layer, the bottom layer will not be a full sheet of styrofoam, but rather consist of "risers" that simply support and reinforce the top layer. When the plastic sides are added to the tile it should still be strong enough, and visually no different from a tile with two complete layers.

What follows is the process by which I made a tile featuring a small hill with shell holes spread around it. All gluing was done with a hot glue gun. This proved to be very useful stuff when working with styrofoam, because it dries quickly but not too quickly (unlike white glue) but doesn't dissolve the foam like super glue does. It's also strong and robust, not brittle. And it's inexpensive. All around good stuff. Obviously, one should be careful with it though. Extreme heat and stickiness are a potent combination.

Step 1: Here I have drawn a quick, rough outline of the space the hill will cover, and I've cut out some of the shell holes using a knife. I used the brims of a few different sizes of drinking cups as stencils for the holes.

Step 2: This is the under side of the tile. You can see I have added "risers" along the outside edges of the tile. These are just cut from one of the styrofoam panels I bought. The intention is that it will allow me to make more tiles than I otherwise would from the materials at hand, and save a little money. I also added one of the cut out pieces from the shell holes in the center of the tile as a support. 

Step 3: I glued panels of cardboard to the under side of the shell holes. They will be built out with paper mache, so these panels will stop it from falling out the bottom. 

Step 4: Here is a view of the top of the tile. You can see how it sits on the risers. Also, I have added filler pieces of styrofoam in the area of the hill, so it does not have to be built up entirely with paper mache. That would make for a very thick mound of the stuff, which would take longer to dry. 

 Step 5: I've added plastic styrene panels to the sides of the tile. This gives it much more strength, and I hope will protect the edges from crumbling over time, so that the panels sit more neatly together. They are 1.5" tall, and slightly more than 12" in length, so that there are no gaps. I trim overhang with an exacto blade after they are secured.

Here is another view of the top where you can see the side panels in place, and the filler material for the hill.

Step 6:  I've used Sculptamold to build up the hill and the shell holes. This is a sort of fine-ground paper mache powder to which you simply add water, stir and slop it on the base. It's easy to work with and easy to clean up, and it dries plenty strong enough for my purposes.

I fill the shell holes with the Sculptamold and then excavate them with my fingers, building up a little parapet around the rim. The hill was covered over with a generous amount of the stuff, and then I pressed the bottom of a round glass into it to make craters. I built those up too with my fingers. I formed a few uneven balls of Sculptamold to represent boulders thrown loose by the shells, and stuck those down on the surface.

(A note on craters: you have two competing interests here. On the one hand you want them to look realistic, which will generally mean rounded, like a ball was pressed in to the earth. On the other hand you want models to be able to sit nicely inside, which will mean a more flat bottom and straight sides, like a cylinder was pressed in. For my part, I've tried to aim for the middle ground, starting with a rounded shape and subtly flattening out bottom and sides to an extent. )

Note that I didn't bother to cover the whole tile with the paper mache. It's fine to have some flat, un-cratered spaces. In fact I will need some open spaces to add a few modular pieces on top, like shattered, burnt-up clumps of trees, a downed airplane, that sort of thing.

Here is a profile shot of the tile to show some of the relief. 

And here is a close up of the surface so you can see the texture of the Sculptamold.

Step 7: After the Sculptamold is completely dry (a process that takes one to two days with an electric fan blowing over it, depending on thickness) I sprayed the tile with a generous coat of Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement and sprinkled a mixture of sand and fine gravel over the entire surface. After giving it a few minutes I turn it over to lightly shake off the excess (which I then gather to reuse). It's okay that the covering is not completely even. 

I also add in a few larger pieces of gravel to represent larger rocks tossed loose by the explosions. I glue those on with Elmers white glue. 

Step 8: Next the entire surface and sides are coated in brown paint - which takes a while, because it can be tricky getting in all the nooks and crannies created by the paper mache and the sand and gravel covering. I use Golden Acrylics brand Burnt Umber Light, which is available in large bottles from a local art supply store. You'll need a large volume of paint, and I would recommend against trying to make it go further by slightly diluting it. It will take more time and coverage to build up opacity, and if it is watered down too much it can loosen the glue that is holding the sand in place.

You can see I also added a few plastic tree stumps. These are Woodland Scenics tree armatures, cut up into irregular pieces and glued to the surface before the brown paint was applied.

After the base coat is throughly dry, I do a lot of dry-brushing with a palette of brows and tans. I go a little lighter around the edges of the craters so they stand out a little. 

Rocks are painted a light gray, and then washed with Army Painter Strong Tone, a dark brown wash. Plastic tree bits get a few coats of the Strong Tone. 

And here is the finished tile:

Here is another tile I did (my first "proof of concept" tile). This one doesn't have any added elevation, just craters.

Here you can see how the tiles join together.

And here is a low angle shot of the two of them so the elevation is apparent:

No sooner is the terrain prepared, than rival patrols are already trying to assert dominance over the ground.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

15mm WW1 Germans - Peter Pig

When the 15mm French figures I've been working on hit the table, they will be staring across no man's land at these guys. These are Peter Pig's 15mm German line, specifically those in the mid to late war style steel helmets. As such they can represent German soldiers from mid 1916 onward.

Here is the unit as it exists so far:

Infantry charging with bayonets:

Infantry in firing positions:

And a team of 'bombers':

For the Mg 08 I drilled a small hole in the flash shield and added a small piece of brass wire to represent the end of the barrel (as cast, the model ends with the guard itself). I also shortened the ammo belt of the assistant so that he could sit closer to the gun and fit on the base size I had chosen. The gun is cast as one piece with the gunner, and there is no hollow space between the legs of the gun stand. But if you paint the 'empty' space black and carefully pick out the positive detail I think the effect is nice.

It was a very fast and simple 'conversion' to add a small piece of brass to the top of one figure's rifle to turn him into a sniper. In the TFL rules Through the Mud and the Blood designated individuals can operate as normal riflemen until they are detailed off to operate as snipers, at which point special rules kick in for them.

And here are the Big Men. Because this is one of Peter Pig's earlier lines, there is not a separate pack of NCOs/ officers (though there is a set of 'high command' figures). Each infantry set includes a commander figure.

Friday, April 21, 2017

More 15mm WW1 French

The 15mm First World War project continues, and I've added a few more figures to the French platoon. After the disastrous encounters of 1914 and 1915, French infantry platoons (like those of their allies and enemies) saw the development of many specialist roles to allow the unit to employ a variety of new weapons. Fortunately the excellent Peter Pig WW1 lines give you a lot of great options in modeling these.

Every platoon will need a lieutenant and a couple of sergeants. Without their leadership even the best-trained men will falter.

Bombers are men with a talent for grenades, a very useful skill set on the modern battlefield. Their job is to get in close while their comrades suppress the enemy, deliver a deadly volley of grenades onto the entrenched enemy, and move in to the wreckage.

To engage targets at longer range while the bombers get in to position, picked members of the platoon employ rifle grenades. The technology has come a long way since the beginning of the war, and these guys are significantly less likely to blow themselves up than they might have been a year or two ago. Honest.

Of course we're going to need plenty more ordinary riflemen too:

To lay down some really heavy fire, you could do worse than a Hotchkiss heavy machine gun: