Sunday, October 31, 2010

15MM Peter Pig CSA Officer "Brave Colonel"...

I was planning to present my first completed Confederate regiment based for the Regimental Fire and Fury system.  I was planning it anyway, until my 4 year old son (yes, he who is pictured a few posts back) decided to "help" me by improving the flesh highlight, by painting ALL THIRTY+ FIGURES IN MASS GLOPPY GOBS OF GDW "ELVEN FLESH"!!!  I was devastated, but did recognize the opportunity.  It had been years since I had painted ACW figures, and it took a few tries to bring them "to speed", but now I consider myself "warmed up". 

Needless to say the stands were ruined... but not destroyed, and they now sit in a small vat of Pine Sol, awaiting rehabilitation.  What is a painter to do but start over?  So, here now is my first offering, a "brave Colonel" marker from the Confederate ranks.

The figure is a 15mm Peter Pig, and though some of their WW2 line scares me, I have been most impressed with their ACW offerings.  Being an Old Glory convert, I do wish the poses were more diverse, but the robustness of the castings and the overall quality can not be over stated.  Simply put, there is no "unusable figures, and the flash is at a minimum.

Personally, I enjoy the pose, reflecting the natural aggressivness of the Confederate officer... or at least that as passed forth by myth. 

I look forward to placing this marker on the field against MacPhee's "damned yankees"... and sweeping them from the field.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Focus, New System, New Product...

Well, the boys at Flashpoint seem to be on vacation, hiatus, or whatever, and the activity there has been minmal.  Rumor has it there has been a major injury to one of the staff, and production problems in some lines they are about to release.  I understand priorities, but you can't make a gamer wait indefinately... which is about what things have devolved to there at FP.

Soooo, I've gone back to the beginning, a noteworthy phrase if you are a fan of "The Princess Bride", back to the American Civil War.  This is the era I began with, and painted my first 15mm miniatures for tabletop wargaming.  I look back I can remember just how bad I sucked back then... real gawd-awful stuff initially.  Yet, as I look back I can remember soaking up everything I learned, everything I saw, everything I heard from those who were established painters and helped me.  I learned and got ideas from those who also were exploring the hobby alongside me.  I remember how each session seemed a little better than the last.  Each stand of figures were just a little bit better than the last... until I finally could field an army I was proud of and perhaps was a little better than those of my peers. 

That was 15 years ago.  I've long sold my 15mm ACW army (2 divisions of Rebels, 1 of Federals, based for Fire and Fury Brigade Series), and I'm finding myself rebuilding my Confederate forces from scratch, one lonely infantryman at a time.  I'm lucky in that I do have some Old Glory 15mm to get things 'moving' again, but I'm finding that the quality of figures just isn't as I remember them.  This could be because I have only the pack-dregs and used all the good castings years ago... or maybe they weren't that good to begin with.

I've always like Old Glory ACW figs, mainly for their diversity, and the dynamicism of their castings.  Units of Old Glory were ALIVE!!, and not all necessarily at 'right-shoulder-shift'.  There was that "curse" though, that 10-15% of figures that were mostly unusable due to casting errors.  Sometimes one could take the figure with the "blobbed" head and making him a walking wounded inf'yman... sometimes the miscasting was just too much to repair.  There ALWAYS seemed to be siginificant wastage, there ALWAYS seemed to be challenging flash and mold issues, and ALWAYS massive amounts of pewter crap to be carved off the bottoms of the bases.  I guess that was the price one paid for reasonably miniatures that appeared on a battlefield instead of the drill field.  This isn't the case anymore.  The days of the 100-man bags are long gone, and 10-15% wastage for 50 men is unacceptable.  Enter Peter Pig.

I know, I know... "my god look at those faces!!!"  Yes sometimes the "Oinker" has some outrageous face sculpts, but I've really only seen the worst examples in his WW2 line.  This always has been a stumbling point with me, I'll admit it, but when the metal meets the meat, I've been impressed.   I've ordered some of his Vietnam line, and have been quite impressed.  The sculpts are crisp, clean, and mostly flash-free.  I haven't seen a "face" issue (where the figure's chin rests on his clavicle), and that prospect really doesn't concern me now.  I am less pleased with the relative lack of variant sculpts (2-3 variants per pose) when compared to the dozen or so sculpts-per-pose with Old Glory, but this is where the painter can make them different with some planning and minimal execution.

With that said I've ordered my first battalion of Confederate Inf'y, and am painting them as fast as I can.  Hopefully within the next week or so I can post some of the results.  I look forward to them pushing 15mm "Billy Yanks" all round the field.

Till next time...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Mainforce VC, the 2nd platoon...

After a busy summer, meaning too much "real life" to allow much quality painting time, I finally got to my workbench to crank out more MainForce VC to bedevil my friend Ken's tabletop US Marines.

My painting situation is unique, I use my breaks at work to paint... leaving me 15 minutes a pop, 1/2 hour daily to work on my figs.  Not easy, but it helps to refine a painter's organization.  Take only what you need, get started quickly, pack up quickly.  The real challenge is not what and how to paint, but where to find the best light.

What I've done is prepped the figs by pose, and started with the first half  (20 figs or so) and painted them up.  It took about a week, but I think the results are decent enough.  Here we have the command group figs, some squad leaders, and a few riflemen.

My first platoon, in keeping with conventional stereotypes, were black-pajama based, and I've since learned that this was generally not the case.  Most MfVC personnel came more and more from PAVN troops as the war progressed, I wanted to reflect those uniform trends more accurately.

I wanted to "uniform" the figs mostly in the green field uniform, but with a smattering of the older issue khaki PAVN uniforms, and some black PJ's.  (I guess you can't defy convention completely) 

I've recently stepped away from using metalllics for gunmetal, opting instead for grays.  I thing the contrast works better, and isn't quite so gaudy.  I'll save the metallics for the bayonets when I eventually get back to ACW figures and gaming.

I guess the "cartoony" style of painting is becoming all the rage, and I must admit that at the 15mm level it works well... at a distance.  I do love the look from the table, but close up the results are less impressive in my opinon.  What I've decided upon is a less intense "cartoon" style, drybrushing the uniforms, and using higher contrast methods on the skin, weapons, & equipment. 

I gotta redo the face on this Platoon Leader fig... but here you can see the drybrushed uniform style.

Another example with the green fatigue shirt, black slouch hat and pants.  To highlight the black, I've taken to the inspiration of DC comics. I remember as a boy that the Batman always had his cape based black and highlighted in a dark blue. I've used that inspiration and am using a very dark sea gray as the highlight color for the black pajama uniform areas.

Here we see the higher contrast "cartoon" style with the face and weapon.

Imagine "impressionist" art style as presented on a 15mm canvas.  One really only needs to give the impression of figure detail at a normal gaming distance.  From a 3-foot range the high-contrast method can be striking, close in... not so much.  For some reason the words "circus clown" comes to mind.

Here we have a squad/cell leader.  After being a slow convert, I favor this new style for 15mm gaming figures.  The "cartoon" method, I feel, is most effective on figures (not vehicles & such) and yields the greatest amount of depth and visual contrast for the scale at "standard" viewing distances.  That being said, for larger scales, 25mm plus, I doubt that this method would be as effective.  I have my eye on 28mm modern US infantry from Empress Minis... perhaps I'll have to put this theory to the test.

So there you have it, the first batch of the 2nd Platoon.  My intent is to finish the figures and then mass-base in a rice paddy environment. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Update on battlefront Hueys, trials and solutions...

As y'all may remember, I received a three-pack of Battlefront Huey "slick" helicopters, which I still consider absolutely the best available.  I've been working off and on getting the slick ready for the table, and ready to present to you fine people.  Alas, it has been put on the back burner as I rush to finish my MainForce VC platoons.  Since the VC did little with Hueys other than shoot at them, the impetus has lessened a bit.  Add to this, my four year old son is infatuated with my helicopters and in his enthusiasm snapped-off the tail rotor blades.  It's fixable, but just another in a series of delays.  AND, I've just found a possible solution to the problem of the upper, green "sun-roof" windows above the pilots.  More on that later.

Stay tuned.... I hear that "snap-snap-snap" of Huey blades at low power as they power-down to make a landing at "LZ Tigertanker".


Thursday, May 27, 2010

VietCong sniper marker...

I've been working on these puppies off and on since they arrived in the mail... and every time I handle them (especially the snipers, seen here), I can't wait to use them!  Here we have two VietCong insurgents "popping up" out of a well camoflagued "spider hole" and engaging presumably "enemies of the Revolution".

Pretty simple and "straight-up" painting techniques.  I like the good base/highlight contrast on the palm leaves, I may decide to add highlight colors to the uniforms. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flashpoint Miniatures USMC Fireteam 1968...

Sorry for the delay folks, again, real life has this nasty propensity to intrude on our beloved hobby. Before I showcased a US Marine trooper in Vietnam, circa 1968 or so, as a test base for both Negro skin tones and Vietnam-era uniform painting in general. Here are the aggregate results...

I painted these up for my friend Ken, also as a cheap test bed for what I wanted to accomplish when I buy my 1st Cavalry Division company. For the uniform base I used Tamiya "Olive Green", with a "US Medium Tac Green" by PollyScale. I found this a darker contrast against the helmet cover, and the equipment pouches (canteens, ammo, etc).

For the pouches and such I used "US Olive Drab" highlighted by Panzer Olive Green, both by PollyScale. For the weapons, although I am less satified by the sculpt of the gun stocks, the front sight-posts look good, as does everything else that suggests that these men are carrying an M-16... except for the guy with the M-14. Stocks were straight-up "Chaos Black", the gunmetal was "US Sea Gray", highlighted by "British Sea Grey" (PollyS).

I kept the "Graveyard Earth" (GW) flak jackets highlighted by "US Olive Drab" (PollyS). I still haven't gathered the courage to highlight Negro flesh... I'd just hate to ruin the figure with a bad color choice.

All in all I think the Flashpoint figures are superior in most respects, and are the best 15mm Vietnam range you will find at this time. Some work could be done to improve gunstocks, but they are far better, IMHO, than what Battlefront has to offer in this range.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Such adoo about NEGRO FLESH!!!

When I first posted the question... the legitimate question of just best to paint the flesh of, I guess technically, an African-American, I was overwhelmed at first of the petty PC bullpocky that came as a response from several individuals on a certain New Zealand figures forum we all know and love. Needless to say I was a bit pissed about the reaction. One would've thought I'd used the "other N-word". Let's just say there were a few too many assumptions about my intentions and a bit too much grandstanding in a forum.

Anyway... what I have for you today is a test subject for an upcoming project. Flashpoint Miniatures USMC rifleman in "15mm". I am painting a Corps fireteam as a mutual favor for my friend Ken, and I get a chance to test color schemes on someone else's figs. Brilliant wouldn't you say?
Here we see the back end of a Marine rifleman in flak vest and m16, about to throw a hand grenade at some target to his front. As a uniform base color I used PollyScale "US medium tactical green", and "German panzer olive green" as uniform highlight. This photo is a bit dark and the following pix may do a better job illustrating the two colors. The REAL challenge, I thought, would be the best way to paint the flak vest. Neatly every period photograph of Vietnam marines that stupid vest appears as a dirty brown about 99% of the time. I tried to replicate this by basing the vest in Citadel "graveyard earth", with a highlight on the raised areas of PollyS "olive drab". I think that the effect really works well, as the olive really does much to mute the brown.
Here is a front view, with the m16 in focus. On the recievers, front sight, and barrel I used PollyS "US sea blue" with a highlight of "British sea grey". The stocks were Citadel "chaos black". The helmet is turning out to be a greater challenge than first realised. I used PollyS "camo green" for the cover, which is quite a bit lighter/brighter than my uniform colors. Followed by blotches of "graveyard earth" and Tamiya "olive green". I next gave the helmet a wash of the "camo green" to help mute the additional colors. This effect is a work in progress.

The web-gear is "panzer olive green" and the boots are "olive drab". There is much still to finish, but I wanted to show my progress as of yet.

Now for the gorilla in the room, the flesh tone. I used Citadel "scorched earth" as a base, I have yet to choose a highlight. I am a bit anxious to try, I'm almost satified with leaving the flesh unhighlighted, the "scorched earth" doing such a great job as a base. However, I do want the face and hands to "pop", so stay tuned.
I don't forsee making these troops "dirty" with too much weathering, although I may experiement with wet trousers at some point.
Love some feedback.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Air Cav is on the way...

FINALLY!!!! After a very long wait I can begin in all likelihood the "lynchpin" of any Vietnam gaming effort, the Huey platoon. My gaming fiend-partner Ken and I began going down the SE Asian path well over a year & a half ago, but paused indefinately because of the distinct lack of 15mm helecopters on the hobby market. Even the Revell 1/100 models were about all dried up! Honestly, if one can't model an air insertion... there really is no point to the effort.

What we have here is graphic manefest of what will go into this huey (and the two others that came with the set) So far so good, and for $20 US per helecopter, I hope they are worth it.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Local VC 82mm Mortar section coming up to snuff...

With the wife in New Orleans and the kids with their grandparents... this leaves me "bookoo" time to paint!! My normal painting strategy is to have three or four projects going at once, so while one dries properly I can improve the time on something else. Right now I'm working on MainForce VC rifles, Local VC mortars, Local VC heavy machine guns, and have just put aside VC sappers in favor of doing a VC painting tutorial on a rifle cell. Whew... lots to do!

Right now, let's get a look at the VC mortar team from Flashpoint Miniatures out of New Zealand. What we have here is a three-man team, a gunner, ammo bearer, and security. The VC were frugal with their manpower, and since in all likelihood the section would only fire a limited amount of ammunition, or a quick "fire and run" mission, there is little need for large ammo stocks lying around or many hands to uncase and pass ammunition.

I wish to focus on two aspects, first, the mortar weapon itself. I have mixed feelings on the sculpt but all in all they are positive. The tube is sculpted and molded well, the bi-pod has a little to be desired, but its very workable. I mean... who is going to obcess over a 15mm mortar bi-pod? OK we will but that is where our painting and basing magic needs to come into play. What I DO like is its relative size to the crew figures. Its huge, and honestly after doing some research the 81/82mm mortar was not exactly a small thing. Having been exposed to Old Glory 15mm mortars (which seem to be the size of mechanical pencil lead), and Battlefront (which seem to flip-flop from small to large and back every other year) I am pleased with what Flashpoint has offered here.

To make up for sculpting shortcomings (which again are very minor) one needs to be creative with their basing. My plan is to model the mortar dug in, in a relatively shallow firing pit. I glued the assembled mortar directly to the naked stand and marked (the circle) where the edges of the firing pit was going to be.

I routinely add texture to my bases to A) compensate somewhat for the thickness of the figure base, and B) to have some sort of eye-catching detail in concert with the figures, guns, etc. THis is accomplished after "setting the scene" on your base and all your elements are placed and glued down, a healthy amount of PVA glue and railroad ballast is laid onto the stand. I next take a 60/40% water-glue solution and coat the ballast again. This will create a 'seal' over the tiny stones and it will take quite a serious jarring/mishandling to knock the stone off the base. Otherwise, every time the stand is handled in game or in transit you will loose your "ground" so to speak.

Normally after the 60/40 coat dries I paint with very watered town earth/soil colors and add static grass, bushes, etc to complete the effect. In this instance, I will add a second helping of ballast immediately around the edges of the pit to suggest recently and hastily dug earth. If this were a FwF project I would consider a ring of sandbags... I'm banking that the VC wasted little time on such luxuries.

At any rate this is just a small taste. I'll be sure to post photos on how the final project has evolved.

Stay tuned!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flashpoint Minatures Vietnam Range...

Yeah, and as luck would have it I draw the VC. Here's a little taste of things to come...

The Platoon Commander (along with the Political Officer looking smug to the left-rear), and a runner. The MainForce VC didn't have radio communications for echelons below Battalion level. Shoe leather (or in this case old tires) was the mode and method.

Lurking through (what will be brush) are three of Hanoi's finest... as part of an B40 equipped cell. Much to my surprise, PAVN forces made up a majority of MainForce VC units as early as 1966-67.

The "black pajamas" uniform was mainly reserved for LocalForce VC and militia units... the "farmers by day and fighters by night". The MainForce VC were the dedicated anti-government force in South Vietnam, just as dedicated and professional (if not as well manned, trained, or equipped) as the NVA.

Lastly we have 4 LocalForce VC assistant heavy machine gunners / ammo bearers. I was saddened to learn that when Saigon fell, and the Communists had their victory, those VC who did sacrifice so much for what they thought they wanted were in the end betrayed by the Hanoi government. In the end the Vietnam War WAS an aggressive war of the North.
Stay tuned for more...