Sunday, 30 December 2012

Wargaming in 2012

It's that time of year again where we look back and take stock of our achievements… and this blog is no exception!

The Good Things about my hobby this year…

Great War BEF Battalion
I'm delighted that this is now "complete", i.e. 1,000pts. I hope to add more in the future but at least I can now take part in most gaming days without needing to borrow figures. The Great War has real enduring appeal for me, in terms of history, modelling and gaming. So expect to see more of this sort of thing.

Wargaming Shows
Amazingly I've made it along to a few shows, specifically Legionary, Salute, Attack, Colours, and Warfare. At these shows I (or more usually 'we') have helped stage demo games of War & Conquest. I've really enjoyed this as it's a chance to chat to a wide range of gamers, about an equally wide range of topics, as well as tell them how good W&C is! It's also good to go along and pick up a bit of hobby "buzz" - i.e. some extra motivation and inspiration.

W&C Gaming Day
The gaming days are enormous fun! Relaxed gaming with a slightly competitive edge. Through these days I'm pleased to say that I've made some new wargaming friends. Certainly looking forward to the next one in Feb '13. (See the Scarab Miniatures forum for details)

Saga Warbands
Saga is - as I've said many times - a superb game, so getting our Saxon and Viking warbands completed up to 8 points was very satisfying. The figures are great fun to paint and the 'wash' method I use means I can get them completed fairly quickly. Thank goodness for LBMS shield transfers too.

Dark Ages Scenery
I'd like to say that I've built and painted a wide range of Dark Ages scenery (initially for Saga) but in fact, most of the scenery is resin and almost all of it was painted by my lovely wife. This does mean I can say "I have a great collection of Dark Ages scenery".

Gaming Club
So far this year I've visited the Bristol Big'Uns club *slightly* more often than last year. Not as often as would be ideal but still, it's been good fun. (Plus now I rarely get lost on the way there!)

Saxon and Viking Armies for War & Conquest
As regular readers will know our warbands soon became the start of armies for W&C. I'm really pleased about this because the Viking Age has long fascinated me. The range of figures is amazing, plus it also allows me to build a collection of little scenic extras such as casualties, villagers, livestock, carts, etc. Fun to model and great for adding extra 'flavour' to the tabletop.

The Blog
I'm so glad I've kept up the blog all this time. Let me offer a big "Thank You" to all the people who visit and especially those who take the time to post comments. It's really uplifting to get good feedback from the gaming community. I enjoy looking at other people's gaming blogs so I'm glad others enjoy mine.

Now, the Not So Good Things about my hobby this year…

Less Active Projects
Like most wargamers I have a number of projects that aren't exactly "top priority".

Romans - considering this is one of my favourite historical era, plus it's ideal for W&C, it's odd that I haven't made more progress. I think the reason is that I have 'just enough' figures completed to be able to play satisfying games so other projects keep taking priority! I really ought to add more Legion and some cavalry.

Celts - similar story to the Romans really. I'd like to add another warband and replace some of the more oddly posed Warlord figures with GB and other metals but again other projects demand more attention.

Germans for the Great War - This is slightly different in that I have a complete army ready to go but the effort required to start, sustain and finish such a sizeable painting project keeps putting me off in favour of 'easier' tasks. They're all black undercoated so will have to be painted conventionally rather than using any sort of wash technique, which adds to the effort.

Napoleonics … sadly these chaps have barely seen the light of day let alone got anywhere near a paint brush!? Perhaps I need to establish a satisfying way to wash/dip them? However, no one around my area appears to be interested in Naps so Black Powder continues to gather dust.

Still not enough gaming
I've played quite a bit of Saga and War & Conquest, plus a few games of Great War this year. Probably more gaming than the previous two years in total. I've even won a few games. But I (or rather 'we') still need to play more wargames :o)

Gaming with Uni Friends
Despite the best of intentions we've not managed to get together with some of our old Uni freinds - you know who you are! ;o) On both sides it's the usual story of being too busy with work, families, holidays, etc. We really *must* do better next year.

Again, many thanks to all my readers!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Painting Dark Ages Figures - Step by Step

I cannot recall doing this sort of thing before, plus I thought readers might find it interesting. Many of you probably don't even need any painting advice! :o) But may be there'll be the odd tip that you might find useful. As you may already know, for my Dark Ages figures I generally use a 'wash' technique with Army Painter Strong tone - although I do also use Games Workshop and Windsor & Newton inks. Most of the paints are Foundry but again I use some GW and Vallejo colours. Where a colour is important I'll mention it specifically.

Step 1 - Preparation
Like all projects, a good start is essential. I know it's a bit boring but time spent on good preparation pays dividends later.

I undercoat all the figures using GW Skull White. I've tried other primers but this one works the best for me. I always attach any weapons, e.g. spears, bows, swords, axes, etc, before undercoating as this makes the bond as strong as possible. Super glue gel works well for this. I'll mention shields later.
Tip #1 Make sure you remove all mould lines! Otherwise the wash will really make these standout.
Tip #2 Ensure you have a good even layer of undercoat. It make the painting easier.

Step 2 - Block Colours
I start by covering any metals (chainmail, swords, spear tips, buckles, etc) in black, then drybrushing with GW Chainmail or GW Shining Gold.
Tip #3 Try to leave a thin black outline around any metal items as this helps the wash to better delineate the feature.
This stage is often quite messy so is usually followed by a quick tidy up with white before moving on to the colours. I paint in batches of 8 - 12 figures. For each batch I choose a palette of colours. The ones shown below feature a lot of red and blue. Another batch might be predominantly green and buff. I use a set of common colours for things such as leather straps, spear shafts, etc.
For figures with cast on shields I either paint them a colour or leave them white ready for a transfer.

Tip #4 Use colours that are slightly lighter than you would normally use. It may look a bit 'bright' now but the wash will tone things down nicely.
Tip #5 Go for more 'natural' looking colours. There were no colour fast dyes or much in the way of soap back then! ;o)
Tip #6 Make sure you get a solid, even covering of each colour. If it looks patchy now then the wash will make it look worse. Some colours may require two coats.
Tip #7 For the flesh tones I use GW Dwarf Flesh, followed by a quick highlight of Foundry Base Sand Light. Only the metals and flesh get highlights at this point.
Tip #8 To help the non-uniform appearance of the figures, choose a colour then select which figures in the batch will have tunics in that colour, then which will have cloaks, trousers, and so on. This helps to prevent all the figures ending up with the same colour tunic, for example.
Tip #9 Don't worry too much about the edges between colours. Slight overlaps will be covered by the wash so this should help speed up painting.
Tip #10 Whilst painting, make a note of the colours you use for each batch. In pic above you'll see two blue dots on the bases. I use this to record which colours were used on each batch. This is only necessary if you plan to highlight the figures after washing.

Step 3 - The Wash
I prefer to apply the AP 'dip' using a brush, hence I call it a 'wash'. It gives more control and uses less of what is a fairly expensive product. You could try using similar products from a DIY/hardware store but I've yet to find anything more suitable. Note the white shield in this photo. Keep the wash off this for best results with any transfers.

Tip #11 Use a good quality soft brush, size 3 or bigger. The soft bristles will help prevent air bubbles forming as you apply the wash.
Tip #12 Make sure your work area is properly ventilated!!!
Tip #13 Keep an eye on the figures as you complete them, the wash can sometimes 'pool' too much in the folds of cloaks, etc. Use a spare brush to gently wick it away.
Tip #14 Leave the figures somewhere warm-ish for at least 24hrs. Ensure the area is not dusty.

When the wash is dry you may look at shiny, brown-ish result and think "Oh no... They look terrible!". But that's fine, they'll be alright after the next step.

Step 4 - Matt Varnish
Some use sprays, e.g. Testors, whilst others use brush on varnishes. After some experimentation I've settled on the latter. I had several issues with sprays (especially the AP offering!) and even Testors can go cloudy. This will depend a lot upon your particular circumstances, i.e. where you can spray, the weather, etc.
I use the W&N UV "Artist's Acrylic" Matt Varnish, which gives a very matt finish similar to Testors.

Tip #15 Spray - If it goes cloudy then apply a brush on acrylic gloss varnish (e.g. W&N) to remove the cloudiness.
Tip #16 Brush - As with the wash, use a good quality brush with soft bristles to avoid bubbles.
Tip #17 Brush & Spray - Apply the first coat as a thin layer. This will cover most of the figure but you're bound to miss some bits so wait for it dry properly and go back and fill in the gaps.

By this stage the figures should be looking fairly good. Certainly good enough to play games with. However, as part of the next step I do a final highlighting stage.

Step 5 - Highlights, Bases & Shields
Using the list of the colours applied in step 2, I apply some simple highlights to the figures. The wash effectively shows you where to apply them so it's quite easy and very satisfying as it adds extra depth to the colours.

Basing is whatever you prefer. I've settled on the scheme shown above. Sand and grit glued on with PVA. Painted with Vallejo Flat Earth and highlighted with Vallejo Gold Brown and Dark Sand. Flock is GW field grass, plus some clump foliage from Woodland Scenics and 'Mini-Natur' grass tufts.
Tip #18 Ensure you have a consistent basing scheme for the whole army and stick to it.

Shields - these are added last. Paint must be gently scraped off the figure's hand and from inside the boss on the shields. The two slightly rough surfaces seem to bond very well with super glue gel (or poly cement for plastics).

Tip #19 Transfers can sometimes be a bit 'shiny' so apply a little matt varnish.
Tip #20 Apply any transfers to the shield before gluing it to the figure.

There you have it. I hope you found it useful. If you have any suggestions or improvements then please do post a reply.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Latest Workbench Report

Things are very busy here at The Wargames Table... Using up the last few days of annual leave, I've now finished for the Christmas hols (hooray!). To be honest I'm a little behind schedule with getting my Saxons and Vikings ready so you'll not be surprised to see that they feature significantly in the photos of my current gaming workbench**

(**When I write "workbench" I do in fact mean the dining room table... oh, for my own gaming room!?)

This little lot, around 80+ figures, are mostly the rest of my Saxons plus a few Vikings and character models. All awaiting a good wash of AP Strong Tone. Then I'll need to varnish them (brush not spray!) and highlight them. Plus I've got shields, bases and movement trays to do. Plenty to keep me occupied :o)

I had thought that it would be a Good Idea to let the figures build up for a big batch of AP washing, however looking at them I'm thinking that may be I should have done them in smaller batches of 20-30. Oh well.

After washing with AP I may 'complete' them in batches just so that I fell like I'm making progress. I'll be sure to post the results.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

There And Back Again

We went to Bath rather than Erebor, but we did manage to see the new Hobbit movie!

First off, we really enjoyed it! A superb film indeed. The characters are brilliant; those Dwarves are a very entertaining bunch. Comic one moment then fearfully serious the next. It was so good that we've already decided to book tickets to our little, local, family run cinema to see it again next weekend.

If you're a Tolkien "purist" then I think you might cough and splutter a few times as they've taken a few liberties with the storyline, plus raided various other appendices and books to add more background information. But that was always going to be the case when turning a single novel into a franchise of three long movies.

I think it strikes a good balance between 'comic' and 'serious' - there are some perfectly daft bits, yet others are dark and sombre. As you would expect, the visuals are breath-taking - particularly the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain. Also, the countryside scenes really do show of just how beautiful New Zealand is. Living there now seems s-o-o-o long ago.

I won't write anymore as I do not want to give any details away, but if you enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, and don't mind the fact that the story line has been altered to better fit a movie, then I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the film.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Sand Style Basing Test Piece

A quick post today... I have in mind a project for next year that would involve a more sandy style of basing so I've been experimenting to see what might work best. Here's what I've come up with.

These were done using GW 50x50mm bases covered in sand/grit then painted using the following colours: A good base coat of Vallejo 877 Gold Brown, followed by a heavy drybrush of 912 Tan Yellow, then a light drybrush of 847 Dark Sand. The static grass is the darker 'autumn grass' (GW's I think) then a couple of 'mini-natur' grass tufts to finish off the more arid appearance. What do you think?

For the project I'd also need to make a new battlefield, probably 6'x4' in three 4'x2' sections, plus some suitable terrain, etc. So it's not going to be soon - although I've already bought some of the figures! The battlefield will probably make use of the remainder of a large can of sand coloured masonry paint I bought earlier this year. Very handy indeed!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Skirmisher Movement Trays

I sometimes find moving units of skirmishers a bit of a chore so I began thinking about how best to do make suitable movement trays. After a quick bit of email discussion the chaps at Warbases have come up trumps again! I simply drew what I wanted at 1:1 scale in Word and sent them a PDF as a plan for the trays. Within a few days they dropped through the letterbox - and at a very reasonable cost too.

Here are some Ceorls - or perhaps Geburs - trying out their new mode of travel.

Here's a couple more shots

This is what the basic tray looks like

This is after adding some sand, grits and rocks. Then painted to match the figure bases with added static grass, clump foliage and grass tufts, etc.

I'm very pleased with the results and will make several more (I have 4 trays in total). They were easy to order and very easy to sand/paint. Hope you found it useful / interesting.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Saxon Huscarls

Painting time has been a bit limited recently. However, it looks like the house sale has 'gone south' so maybe I'll be able to get some more toy soldiers done.

Here's the latest addition to my Saxon army. A unit of fearsome Huscarls. The best troops available to any Saxon King or Ealdorman.

Looking more directly at them we have this pic.

These are a mix of Gripping Beast metals and plastic along with a Musketeer (Early) Saxon standard bearer.

I have so many figures either part-painted or ready for the dip, mostly Saxons but also a few Vikings too. Hopefully I can start working my way through these over the next few weeks.