Monday, July 10, 2017

Mind the gap!

Hosting several games of Queztalcoatl Rampant, the Lion Rampant variant Kevin Smyth and I created, got me thinking about how to better enforce the rule that requires all units to maintain a 3" gap between themselves and other units. Players tend to want to mass their troopies as tightly as they can and I found myself many times reminding them of the 3" gap rule.

Back when I was playing DBA and DBM, we all used some form of "Barker marker," a 40mm square marker that we used to ensure that we stayed away from the danger zone that extends out from a unit's front. For DBM, there were template sets you could buy that provided a handy way to stay outside of distances that affected your movement, etc.

I wandered as I pondered and chanced upon a pack of Litko 3" circular bases, at which point the volubly loud exclamation "Aha!" escaped my lips (scaring the cats and alarming the neighbors). Those 3" bases were perfect for templates that players can use to gauge proximity to other units as they move and thus escape the gamemaster's chiding and condemnatory gaze—although it won't correct "conga-line" tactics.

The bases are 3mm thick, so easily picked up by their edges as they lie flat on the table, but I wanted some kind of "handle" that made placing them and picking them up a bit easier. I also wanted to terrain them in some way to harmonize with the bases on the table. For the Elizabethan Irish project, I thought something like an old, weathered Celtic cross slightly askew would look nice—although I have yet to find a suitable 1.5" to 2" high Celtic cross to use [dear readers, suggestions are welcome]. I also thought that for the ECW, something  like a lonely gibbet—with or without the hanging corpse of some malefactor—would be nice. Such can be acquired (e.g., from Irregular Miniatures) but I haven't ordered it yet.

In the interim, I wanted something generic that I could use for any X Rampant style game: Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, The Pikeman's Lament, etc. Poking about at Hobby Lobby recently, I came across a packet of 1" wooden drawer pulls. I suppressed another "Aha!," but was quite glad to have found them. They would make the perfect handles for generic templates.

Pulls and bases pre-assembly
I started by roughly determining the center of the 3" base and gluing the pull to it. After the glue dried, I stained the pull using the Minwax Tudor stain that I use for dipping my figures. I didn't let it sit long at all before wiping it, so the stain effect is fairly light.

When the stain dried, I spread some of my beloved Golden Course Pumice Gel medium on the bases as the foundation for terraining them. After the gel dries (I gave it about 48 hours), I trimmed off the excess and glued some model railroad ballast to make rocky bits.

Twin bins of rocky bits
I paint the gel medium and rocky bits with a coat of slightly watered down Vallejo Mud Brown from their airbrush range (which is already a bit thinned). Then I drybrush the lot with Vallejo Yellow Ochre. After that, I drybrush the rocks with a Vallejo Deck Tan and then highlighted with Vallejo Bone White.

Looking muddy
I flocked the bases with patches of Woodland Scenics Earth Blend Blended Turf. I go over the patches with a second application of the blended turf using diluted Mod Podge. The double coating gives a bit more texture to the flocking.

I follow up the turf with an application of Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf. I make a mix of the Light Green and Yellow Grass colors. It breaks up the monochrome affect with the coarse turf the way the blended turf does for the fine turf colors.

When the glue has dried for the coarse turf, I take a small tweezer and pull out the fluffier bits of the coarse turf. I like to trim it down, otherwise it looks a bit much. I really just want it as additional texture and color, so I don't want it overwhelming the surface like kudzu.

Kudzu: The vine that ate Alabama (there's a house under there)
Finally, I added a few Scenic Express flower tufts. The final product turns out quite nice and is usable for any of the Rampant family of rules.

Handy-dandy gap-minder units

Saturday, July 8, 2017

For the pikes must be together...

I bear orders from the captain, get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon
OK, different rebellion (but there were so many), but it's apt. I've completed the Border Reivers Irish pikes, a.k.a. The Baldrick Brigade. (Actually some time ago, but I've only got round to blogging about them now.) They were a quick and delightful paint—something which I've found to be generally true of Jim Bowen figures, which is why I love them so much.

These are the first figures I've completed for the 16th c. Irish company for The Pikeman's Lament. All the others I have are cleaned, primed, and have some kind of paint smeared on them, so they're soon to follow.

Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn
I wasn't sure at first how to paint them. After a bit of pondering, I decided to treat the figures' coats as a kind of leather jerkin and went with painting them different variations of leather colors: Vallejo Tanned Leather, Oiled Leather, and Red Leather. The sleeves were an assortment of lighter colors with Howard's Hues Linen predominating. I also used some Vallejo Dark Sand as a saffron-dyed linen color. The Irish in the 16th c. were apparently very big on saffron dye. The Dark Sand is yellow without being too saturated. I'll use it a lot for the kern and gallowglass.

The trousers (or trews maybe) I painted an assortment of browns, tans, reds, grays, greens, grey-blues. I could have painted a sett (tartan) on them, but I'm too lazy and not sure if they would have them anyway. My general rule for painting is that unless I'm very inspired to do so, I don't opt for flashy. Painting one tartan pattern on a pair of pants is a chore; doing it for 12 figures is insanity. Someday I'll paint highlanders, then Katie bar the door.

The nice thing about it is that the above considerations were the majority of the paint work. Bowen sculpts are simple, clean, and free from a lot of the fiddly detail that tends to drive me insane when I'm finishing a batch of figures. The Renegade/Bicorne figures, for example, seem to sprout extra detail as I paint them. I think I'm done and then I notice that some fiddly-bit on a musketeer needs to be detailed, then another... I "finish" those figures several times before I actually finish them.

Once the figures were block-painted, I prepped 'em for dipping with a sprayed-on coat of Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel. It gives it a semi-gloss that allows the Minwax stain to flow and settle better—and prevents rust. The dip itself is the part of the process that still gives me pause. Once you start to dip, you pass the point of no return. If somehow you manage to screw everything up, you don't have a lot of options for fixing it.

Assuming I haven't turned several hours of painting effort into hammered poo, I let the Minwax dry for a minimum of 48 hours before I apply dullcote. What I've found is that after about 8 hours, the dip is dry enough to start basing the figures. An awful lot of time in my painting process is "curing". That's true mostly with the dip and with basing. The basing material I use is good ol' Golden Coarse Pumice Gel medium. That takes at least overnight or all day to dry to the point where I can trim off the excess from when I slopped it on the base. It's best actually after a couple days. Too soon and the gel is still kind of rubbery, but with a sharp X-Acto knife you can trim it off after 8 hours or so without undoing things. It's amazing how long things can take to dry and harden. But by combining the Minwax drying with the gel medium drying, I can cut 24-48 hours out of "curing" time.

I used my now-standard 3-2-1 basing. It seems a little odd for pikemen, whom you expect to be in tight ranks and files, but they look alright on the table. They did actually take part in a game back in March where they arrived as reinforcements to save me from being overrun by Polish hordes

Axe me about what else is completed

Since I started this post some time ago, I've also completed a unit of fearsome, axe-wielding gallowglass.

We will, we will axe you!
These figures required a bit more prep work because they had to be made to hold the two-handed axes cleanly. I spent a bit of time with a drill and little round file to get it all right.

I also completed the command set with a rather natty chieftain, his priests, piper, and a couple kern. These turned out nice, but I dullcoated too soon (maybe?) and got some crinkling in the paint. It's mostly noticeable on the priest's robes.

The Ó Súilleabháin blessed by his priests and serenaded by his piper
I wanted to stick with a yellowish theme on their clothing. All the info I have points to the predominance of saffron-dyed clothing for these guys. Rather than make them all a uniform yellow color, I varied between plain linen color, diluted yellow, and deeper yellow. I used various pictures of 16th c. Irish soldiers as my guide.

The kern, which I'm still working on, will have the same variety of yellowy/strawy/linen-ey colors.

The rest of the colors for the gallowglass kind of fell into place since it was mostly steel with a few accents that I could make up.

I have two more units of gallowglass almost done. I've completed painting/dipping them and am basing them now. I also got some English pikemen—the first of my colonialist oppressor units—wait for another post on those. I also just ordered some Irish shot, Scots red-shanks, and some Irish horse from Timeline.