Test of Honour: Painted Scratch Build Village

I’ve painted the start of my scratch built Japanese village for Warlord’s Test of Honour. After some experimenting, the paint scheme I went with was a mix of cheap ‘dark umber’ student paint lightened with gesso, watered down and applied with hog bristle brushes. The stiffer brushes cover quickly and help work the paint into the balsa detailing. Once dry it was all dry-brushed a couple of lighter shades to pick up the balsa grain. After another round of drying everything was washed down with a 50/50 mix of water and liquid black shoe polish – again to help pick out the natural balsa grain. The paint scheme was to try and make the wood look sun faded and generally weathered.

The tree/rock pieces are an attempt at making some simple LOS blocking terrain. They’re MDF bases with chucks of garden bag limestone epoxied to them and detailed with some ancient model railroad plastic trees I’ve had in my garage for years. Originally I planned to try and make trees with foliage, but the material that came with the kit was so awful I’ve left them barren and autumnal looking. That also inspired me to throw around some of the leaves I’ve been cutting with my Greenstuff World leaf punch. That’s the little splashes of colour you can see on the building roofs. They’re glued down with PVA and add some nice detail to the roofs, while also hiding a few of the dress-makers pins used to hold the plastic tiling down.

I’m happy with the end result, and have the start of a good set of Japanese terrain to run Test of Honour games over. I need a few more larger pieces and some kind of 3′ x 3′ gaming mat to put it all on. The plan is to go with a quick and dirty drop-cloth and caulk style mat in a similar shade to the ground pieces I’ve already made. This is meant to be a fishing village so I’m going for a sort of gray volcanic sand look for the ground. I also need some more detail pieces like old fishing boats and maybe nets of some kind. Simple fishing boats should be pretty easy to scratch build out of balsa.

Now I have to get cracking on some Samurai and Ashigaru soldiers. Unfortunately the Warlord plastics aren’t really to my tastes – they’re quite low detail and a little unpleasant to paint. I’ll probably end up using the rank and file Ashigaru archers and spearmen, but have recently ordered some metal North Star ‘Ronin’ figures for my Samurai/Ronin heroes.

Test of Honour: Scratch Built Village

I recently played in a demo game of Warlord’s new Test of Honour Samurai game at TCOW (my local wargaming club). I enjoyed it enough to pick up the reasonably priced starter box from Mighty Ape. Warlord have a YouTube video un-boxing the starter set, which shows you everything you get in the full box.

The set includes several cardboard template buildings which you can get you playing the game right after assembling a few figures. However after years of watching Akira Kurosawa classics like ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Yojimbo’ something possessed me to dig out my scrap foam board and balsa wood from the garage and start scratch building. The photos show what I’ve built so far, in a week of evenings.

The first goal was to simply replace the cardboard template buildings with something equivalent in footprint. This means I’ve built a richer man’s two story house with a tiled roof, a small shrine building, and a simpler single level dwelling with a traditional wooden roof held down by stones. The buildings are meant to be clad in exposed wood, based on some turn of the century photos of Japanese houses. I don’t have any materials handy to make anything that looks like a sliding door, so opted for simpler doors and windows.

The larger plan is to build enough terrain for a 3′ x 3′ poor, coastal fishing village that has been infested with no good Ronin that a local Samurai needs to clear out. The next challenge is going to be coming up with a suitable paint scheme to represent weather faded wood.

This is Not a Test: Chemical Factory

I’ve been slowly adding terrain to my collection for This is Not a Test since I was introduced to it a few years ago. On a recent trip through the dustier parts of my gaming cupboards, I found several boxes of “Urban War” terrain from “Urban Mammoth” – both a game system, and a company that seem to have ceased to exist in the 11 years since I bought these kits.

As all of the terrain I’ve put together so far is single level, I was looking for something a little more elevated, so I built and based the “Bio-Toxin” plant.

This design is based on one of the possibilities illustrated in the very simple one page instructions: an elevated platform surrounded by tanks and piping. It seemed like the most interesting option because it gives figures a firing platform with a nice mixture of cover. It’s also high enough off the table that you can move figures around underneath it with some care.

The kit is rather painful to assemble because every pipe run has to be glued together from two halves, which takes quite a bit of prep work. However you do get a lot of piping, and that gives you plenty of options for building crazy pipe runs connecting the tanks.

I’m pretty pleased with the end result, which used most of the kit, but still left me with enough bits and pieces to building something else, or use as scrap for ruined terrain. The Imperial Guard Sergeant is for scale.

The assembled kit is epoxied down to a couple of pieces of cut 5mm MDF. The stairway is based separately from the main platform for ease of transport. I’ve also found that large pieces of MDF tend to warp pretty easily by the time you’ve covered them with PVA, gravel and over-painting.

To paint the main structure I plan to resort to either a can of Army Painter primer, or try to find a cheaper option like a plastic automotive rattle can. After that the usual weathering and ‘dipping’ with tinted floor varnish will be applied.

Bolt Action: British Infantry Squad #1

As we head into late autumn in New Zealand, I’m continuing to paint my Bolt Action British 1250 point army. Having painted most of the fun stuff first (possibly a bad idea), I’ve cracked down and finished the first basic 10 man infantry squad. This is a Bren LMG, 7 riflemen, an SMG and an NCO with SMG. I’m trying to pay a bit more attention to these guys than I would for normal rank and file, but even so you may notice none of them got eyeballs! The three foot rule applies to most of my tabletop figures…ie. if you can’t see it from three feet away on the war game table, I won’t bother painting it. I’ve got two more infantry squads and a Commando squad to paint to complete the core of the force. Everybody is regular apart from the Commandos, so that’s going to be a lot of folks to paint.

The figures still need a little more work in terms of basing. They’re meant to be a Normandy mid/late 1944 force, so I’m thinking of going with autumn basing of some kind. I recently picked up one of those handy leaf punches from Green Stuff World, so might go crazy with leaf scatter. This should be easy since the trees outside my house are dropping a collection of free leaves to hole punch.

Bolt Action: Cromwell with Light Burlap Camo

I’m still working on the Bolt Action British Army Starter box I purchased a couple of years ago. Latest off the paint table is the British Cromwell, which is the last vehicle I have to paint for the force. The Cromwell is a simple tank to put together and isn’t that detailed out of the box, so I threw around a little greenstuff to represent the common British ‘burlap’ camo.

If you look up period photos, you’ll see a wide variety of burlap + netting application on Crowmells in the field. To keep my life simple I just put some on the turret front facing and barrel.

The Cromwell also got minimal marking to represent a Guards Armored Division reconnaissance tank, which will be in support of my British Normandy invasion force. I managed to damage the “Normandy Star” transfer that comes with the tank while applying it, so these tankers get no air recognition markings…hopefully that doesn’t matter on the tabletop.

As with my other British vehicles this Cromwell has been painted with Vallejo Russian Uniform over gray primer. Then washed with inks and over-painted, edge drybrushed and weathered with AK Interactive powders on the lower body, and simply gray sponging on the top.

Bolt Action: Universal Carrier Recce + Radio

I’m still slowly plugging away at my Bolt Action British force, and recently finished painting my second Universal Carrier. Unlike my earlier Universal, this one appears in the force list as a Recce vehicle. So I wanted a way to set the two models apart. A bit of quick Google image searching and I came up with a few period photos of the Universal Carrier Recce, and the corresponding WW2 British radio sets they carried.

Most Universal Recce’s seem to sport a couple of side mounted antenna and the radio set seems to have been hung on the inside of the same hull wall. There’s no way I was going to fit a radio and a figure in the small space that way, so opted for a forward mounted radio set – which seems to be a less common option. It’s all pretty vague though, and even my copy of Osprey’s ‘Universal Carrier’ wasn’t much help. Ah well, guess I’m not a real rivet counter!

A few scraps of plastic-card, some nylon broom bristles and a touch of green stuff later and I’d added a couple of antenna and a simple radio set. One figure got to be the operator, kitted out with a beret from the plastic Warlord Commando box, a set of putty headphones and a microphone. The WW2 British mic seems to have been a bakelite ‘trumpet’ nicked straight off a 1930’s telephone from the look of it.

The rest of the crew was filled out with a few more cut up figures and arm swaps. The commander is (despite strict warnings otherwise) standing up in the cab with a pair of binoculars to hand. His feet were chopped around a bit to get them to fit in the cab space. The driver is stock, with a simple head swap, and the final passenger has his SMLE ready for security (although he’s a little hard to see in the photo). He was constructed with a simple shoulder cut and arm swap. I’m not entirely sure a Recce Universal would be that gunned up, but it got the standard AA Bren gun as well as a forward Bren.

The radio painted up quite nicely I think, and the Recee is definitely distinguishable from my other Universal on the tabletop which is handy. Here’s a shot of the rear with the operator removed, as I haven’t glued the back to figures in yet.

I still need to break out the weathering powders and dust up the tracks and lower hull a bit before sealing it all up. Unfortunately it’s super humid in Auckland at the moment, so varnishing might have to wait until late Autumn cools my garage down a bit more.

If you’re wondering why the ‘Normandy star’ is a bit off centre it’s because that’s based on period photos you’ll find on the web. More typically it was painted in the centre of the body I think, but my first Universal got an off centre star, so this one does too.

The Universal is a great little model, fun to assemble and paint, and it’s not a bad bit of kit on the table either. A cheap open topped ‘armored’ carrier sporting a couple of vehicle MGs to pepper enemy troop with. Two is enough for my force though, so its a Cromwell to finish painting next.

Westfalia Halfmen Kickstarter Painted

Westfalia Miniatures had a Kickstarter for a lovely looking set of 28mm ‘Halfmen’ that closed back in March 2016. I backed it for a bunch of figures which arrived late 2016 after a few production hiccups along the way with the casting process that was used.

The final figures are lovely little resin casts that are great fun to paint. They’re fairly light on detail, but not on character and really look like a bunch of pugnacious little Halfings ready to take on the world. They were also pretty clean casts, with only two slight miscasts in around 12 figures.

I picked up a fairly mixed bag from the Kickstarter: a Wizard and Apprentice, and several swordsmen, pikemen, crossbowmen as well as a command squad. I also got a bonus Goblin and couldn’t resist a female human swords-woman (she’s going to be Snow White in the warband). The figures are all available on the Westfalia website now if you follow those links.

I bought enough figures to run a large Frostgrave warband, although I haven’t played that system in a while! If they don’t get used for Frostgrave, they might be used for Song of Blades and Heroes. Regardless they’re lovely little figures and great fun to paint as a break from WWII or sci-fi stuff.

TCOW: Bludgefest IV!

The TCOW wargaming club held another Bludgefest this weekend at club meet. This is a semi-regular bring and buy, where club members and various hangers on bring their unloved toy soldiers and try and convert them into cash, or more likely trade them for different toy soldiers. Everybody seems to walk away happy and there are some fantastic deals to be had across a wide range of war gaming stuff because the TCOW gamers are a pretty eclectic lot.

I’ve scored some bargains at past Bludgefests, and this Bludgefest was one of the better ones in terms of the stuff for sale. I was restrained however and only took $40 in cash along to spend. That got me what you see in the photo:

  1. The Orc sprues from the new Blood Bowl release for $23. Lovely figures, but annoyingly large bases. These guys will be combined with some Dreadball Orcs a TCOW friend kindly gifted me, and spare WHFB Fantasy Orc heads to make a Blood Bowl Orc team.
  2. A box of the good old plastic Skaven Clan Rats for $20 (despite what the price tag says – I haggled). I couldn’t resist grabbing these guys as they’re great for Mordheim warbands. I’m also not a fan of the modern GW Skaven one piece plastics.

If you’re a war gamer that lives in the greater Auckland area, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on the TCOW Facebook group to see when they’re holding their Bludgefests. Pretty sure anybody with cold hard cash is welcome to attend!

This is Not a Test: Sculpting Pig Iron Productions

For many years now I’ve wanted to sculpt 28mm figures in green stuff. This year I’ve resolved to make an effort to improve my sculpting skills. However rather than attempting to sculpt a full figure from scratch, I was looking for a smaller piece of work to get started.

That’s when I realised I need a couple of Linebreakers for my This is Not a Test Peacekeeper warband. These guys are basically the melee specialists in the warband, which means they need a hand weapon and riot shield. I have a bunch of Pig Iron Kolony figures, but every torso is carrying a firearm, usually in some kind of slung pose. So I dug out my ancient strip of green stuff and got to work sculpting a replacement torso.

The top photo shows the finished product, complete with plastic-card shield and weapon. I’m reasonably happy with the final figure, although it has a few issues. First the arms are considerably thinner than the rest of my Pig Iron figures, and because of the rather fine garden wire I based them on they’re rather too flexible. It’ll be interesting to see how the painted figure stands up to transportation and gaming. For posterity here’s the steps this figure went through.

The Torso

I sculpted the basic torso over a large blob of green stuff attached to some 3mm garden wire. The blob was shaped and then filed down to a rough scale match against a production Pig Iron metal torso. This was the easiest way to get a suitable volume for the torso piece.

Next was some light sculpting work to clone a basic Pig Iron armored torso, including the interesting back plate. My efforts aren’t as crisp as the Pig Iron sculptor’s, but I’m hoping once painted you won’t notice the difference. This photo also shows the start of various packs the figures have around their waist, mainly to conceal to join at their hips and provide support to the arms.

The Fit

The basic torso was reasonably easy to sculpt, and once complete I pinned in a production head, and dry fitted a set of legs. The wire arms went through a few iterations as I tried to get the ratio right between shoulder, elbow and wrist joints compared to the figure’s height and legs.

For the arms I used wire that was far too thin, 0.9mm garden wire. On reflection I should have used the same 3mm garden wire I’d sculpted the torso on. The wire was also only pinned into the green stuff torso, which is a problem too. Really I should have made the whole armature in a single piece for additional strength. I’ve since started sculpting a second torso, for a second Linebreaker, but using 3mm wire for the arms this time around.

The Arms

By far the bulk of the time in the project was spent trying to get the arms and hands right on the figure. Here’s the finished arms sculpted holding two thin pieces of wire that formed the basis of the weapon and shield. This wire is again too thin, and isn’t connected to the wire in the arms in any meaningful way. This made sculpting arms, hands and weapons a lot more frustrating than it should have been due to movement. That said I’m reasonably happy with the hands themselves, which while a touch small do look like reasonably human grips. Both arms could have been thicker, and using thicker wire as the base for my second torso will encourage that I think. The cloth on the arms doesn’t fall in any realistic way, but this is similar to the Pig Iron figures themselves, who appear to be wearing some kind of thick, rather stiff ballistic uniform.

The final figure is on my paint table at the moment, and I’m keen to see what it’ll look like painted up and next to the full Pig Iron Product figures I’ve already completed.

DanCon 2017

Dan, also know as El Presidente of TCOW, runs an annual Flames of War event called “DanCon”. It’s basically a bunch of the TCOW club members and a few other folks playing several rounds of Flames of War over a long weekend with some crazy tournament rules. Update: The official TCOW blog post is online.

You build a 1000pt army list and get partnered with a random partner each game, from the same side (Axis if you’re Axis, Allies if you’re Allies). You play normal Flames rules, except if either partner leaves the table because of morale failure, or because they get wiped out – the whole side loses. There’s some nice prizes sponsored by Mighty Ape and Battle Kiwi this year.

It has been running for several years, but they typically play Late War lists, so I’ve never attended. Both because I don’t have a Flames Late War army in any decent standing, and because I generally prefer Flames Mid War as it feels more balanced to me. However 2017 DanCon was a MidWar tourney, and Dan was looking for numbers so twisted my arm.

I dusted off my old New Zealanders, who haven’t seen the light of day since Flames 2nd Edition and sped read the mini 3rd Edition rulebook. I took a cut down version of my normal list because that’s all I had figures for. Updating them for V3 only required pretending a Quad Gun Tractor was a Jeep for the Portee command:

British Rifle (Africa) (New Zealand)
Infantry Company, from North Africa, page 142

Compulsory Rifle Company HQ (Africa) (New Zealand) (p.143)
– CinC Rifle, 2iC Rifle (30 pts)

Compulsory Rifle Platoon (Africa) (New Zealand) (p.143)
– Command Rifle/MG, 4x Rifle/MG (115 pts)
– Light Mortar (20 pts)

Compulsory Rifle Platoon (Africa) (New Zealand) (p.143)
– Command Rifle/MG, 4x Rifle/MG (115 pts)
– Light Mortar (20 pts)

Compulsory Rifle Platoon (Africa) (New Zealand) (p.143)
– Command Rifle/MG, 4x Rifle/MG (115 pts)

Heavy Armoured Platoon (Africa) (p.133)
– Command Sherman, 2x Sherman (340 pts)

Light Armoured Platoon (Africa) (p.135)
– Command Honey, 2x Honey (140 pts)

Anti-tank Platoon, Royal Artillery (Africa) (New Zealand) (p.153)
– Command Rifle, Jeep, 2x 6 pdr portee (105 pts)

1000 Points, 6 Platoons

Over the course of the day we played three games:

Game 1:
Italian and German Armored vs NZ Rifle and British Paras
Counterattack (Defender)

Lots of armor rushing at bunch of NZers and British Paras trying to hold a few bridges. My partner fortunately knew what the heck they were doing and guided me with wise suggestions through the game (thanks Damian C), while I struggled to remember basic rules. Several rounds of Sherman reserves clashed with the German Panzers while the Paras largely dealt with Italian armor rushing at them from one end of the bridge. NZ infantry ran through a hail of bullets to contest the second objective. Portees ambushed from the bridge road as well, to prang up a bunch of Italian Semoventes and relieve the Paras somewhat. A quick game that left us with 20-30 minutes of free time.

Result: 6-1 win.

Game 2:
German Armored and Rifle vs NZ Rifle and British Armored
No Retreat (Defender)

Fortunately we ended up defender on this table, because I recall this scenario being a pig on attack. Allied generalship was a little wishy washy as I think we were both a little nervous on set up. Things were looking shaky from the outset as a bunch of Pak 40’s and Panzers caused havoc in the British armored ranks. Mid game was looking shaky as well because by then the dug-in veteran NZers had been repelled from one objective by equally ferocious Germans. Sporadic British air support from a Hurricane was largely ineffective and armored reserves took their time arriving, but that combined with another Portee ambush saw the German armor break just before we were out of time.

Result: 5-2 win.

Game 3:
German Armored and German Rifle vs NZ Rifle and Soviet Armored
Free for All (Defender)

Absolute mayhem down the right flank as a horde of Soviet tanks ground towards an objective through a narrow valley, with much flag waving and a terrible traffic jam. Fortunately there was no artillery around. On the left flank I got involved in a horrible drawn out long range duel between my three Shermans, two Stugs (with better armor, and better guns) and a Panzer IV. Thank goodness for the British ‘semi-indirect’ rule, and a lucky shot (and poor armor save) that resulted in one Stug falling. The Portees skulking around on the central road managed to kill a second Stug. Then it was largely a game of “hide your tanks from the Pak 40’s on the hills” while trying to pick off German armor that was distracted sorting out the burning T-34’s from those that were still mobile near the right objective. This game dragged on for 7 turns, and on our side was really two generals fighting two games until the final few turns where we applied enough pressure on the right side to break the German armor and win the game. It’s just as well the Germans broke, because the Russians were about to do the same in the next turn!

Result: 3-2 win.

Thanks largely to that great first game, and three wins overall with lucky scenarios, lucky partners that seemed to work well with my force, and just plain lucky dice – I somehow managed to secure the first place prize. Yeah I was as surprised as anybody. Picked up a sweet picture (the Paras on the bridge above), some nice loot from Battle Kiwi and a gift voucher from Mighty Ape. Alas the boss indoors doesn’t like Paras, so those gents will have to live in the garage!