Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bastogne Board Commission

 So if you're subbed to my Facebook page (if you're not, the link is in the sidebar...*hint, hint*), you'll have seen my progress on building a full gaming board based around the Battle of the Bulge on commission. The client wanted a full board, with protected sides; one side consisting of pine forest on a ridgeline and the other side consisting of a town at a lower elevation. To break up two dense terrain on either end, the middle portion would consist of open fields divided by low walls and fences. To provide extra cover in the open fields, I added some artillery craters.

I started by building an open-topped box out of lumber. To cut down on weight, the bottom is 5mm hardboard supported by 1x2 slats laid underneath. Everything is glued and nailed to ensure rigidity, then any small gaps are sealed, and the entire box is sanded to remove sharp edges and roughness.

I then cut and glued in the bottom sheet of 1/2" foamboard for the groundwork. Once dry, I cut and glued in two pieces of foamboard to a height of 3" for the ridgeline. Once everything was dry, I sketched out the locations of all buildings, roads, walls, and craters. Using a dremel, I gouged out all the craters, the rutted dirt road, and the bunker interior and sanded down the ridgeline, filling in any cracks.

I built up the edges of the craters (as well as around the bunker exterior) slightly with clay for both realism and to provide a little more cover for minis. Using 1/2" foamboard, I made the "Belgian bunker", as well as several intact and ruined stone buildings that are common to the area. While nice, these buildings are heavily labor-intensive and a tad large, so I limited their inclusion here.

The stone houses are cut using a steel rule and very sharp Xacto and 1" utility knife, joined together with toothpicks (for strength) and construction adhesive. I then mark out the horizontal line of every third or fourth course of stone with a steel rule and dull pencil, filling in the rest of the courses afterward. I then take the pencil's erasure and lightly push in a couple of stones here and there, then press a large stone on the walls to texture them.

The bunker is similar but the walls are cut horizontally and sandwiched together to give a cast concrete appearance. I then drew out the cobblestone roads in the same way as the stone house technique...and I never want to draw another circle again! Once all these items are dry and assembled, I "prime" them with acrylic gesso then drybrush successively lighter tones of paint.

To fill out the village, I used Sarissa's European houses, as well as cutting out several ruined houses myself from 3mm MDF, as well as cutting roofs and additional floors for the stone houses. I also added some premixed vinyl spackle to smooth out and texture the craters while adding sand and gravel. I used two miscast Warlord vehicles for vehicle wrecks and tried to integrate them into the crater areas.

The low stone walls are a mix of plaster and Durham's rock putty. I "cast" them by laying the wet mixture in a low dish, then once dry, snapping irregular small chunks from the slab with my hands and by hitting it with a steel rule. I then glue these pieces together with construction adhesive, coat them with white glue to "seal" them, and then add just a little sprinkling of sand here and there. I also installed barbed wire fenceposts using basswood.

Next was to install the pine trees and, while I like the look of the "bottle brush" pines, they aren't particularly realistic. So I took regular pine trees, sprayed them with spray adhesive, and then sprinkled light flocking over them. While I do like the look, they took over a day to dry (on a project like this, that is a long time). I laid down the earth texture using a mixture of acrylic paints, some gesso, and a touch of white glue applied very thick and then sprinkled with a mixture of sand, model railroad ballast, and just a couple small stones. Once dry, I drybrushed with lighter colors of browns and tans.

On the ridgeline, I created a few areas of rocky outcroppings using premixed vinyl spackle mixed with small stones, then painted these grey and drybrushed in white. In the village, I added debris around each ruined building, again using the spackle/sand mixture. I also fully painted all the timber frame houses and the stone house roofs.

Areas of mud and debris were airbrushed to give them an irregular feel, as well as to feather their color into the surrounding groundwork.

Finally, I added areas of static grass and snow drifts. And, here is the completed board.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Frostwallon Warband

I've had most of Rackham's Cadwallon miniature line for about a decade sitting in a box collecting dust. While they don't seem very amazing now, at the time, there was nothing else like them - exquisitely detailed, 32mm fantasy miniatures with dynamic, interesting poses and a uniquely quasi-medieval/quasi-Victorian aesthetic. If you've ever read Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, these miniatures really epitomized the characters from the Ankh-Morpork subseries (prior to the release of Micro Art Studio's licensed Discworld 28mm line) - somewhat arcane, somewhat advanced, with a dash of the cartoonish. The problem was, they were just so nice and so detailed, I never felt my skills had been up to tackling them. Enter Frostgrave - an easily approachable fantasy skirmish game that finally gave me an excuse to crack open the box.

This is my first warband with at least another one or two planned just from what I currently have. The bases are CMON's excellent "Mystic" base set.

Witch Ahsa and Harlequin Apprentice

Knight, Man-At-Arms, & Crusader

Marksman & Crossbowman


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Fall of Berlin: Panzer IV Ausf J

Last, but not least, is the AFV I'll be taking to Adepticon BA Doubles - the Panzer IV Ausf. J. For the base model, I used Warlord's plastic Pz IV G/H and because making a late production J model would require the removal of many core pieces (most notably going from four return rollers to three), I decided on making an early production model instead. I added new wire handholds to the turret, a shot deflection ring around the cupola, one-piece hatch to the cupola, a more defined gunner's visor, wire handles to the engine deck, and antenna, and mesh schurzen. The mesh schurzen were kind of a conundrum, as no one makes them in 1/56 and I wanted to scratchbuild ones that weren't too bulky. These are made from aluminum window screening with the general shape traced along the kit schurzen, then with plasticard strips added around the ends. It isn't perfect - it lacks any definition between panels and is missing the small brackets along the side - but it works. The commander is from JTFM's German Tank Crew set.

The scheme itself comes from AK Interactive's 1945 German Colors - a hard-edged three tone scheme done in Tamiya Dark Yellow, Red Brown, and Flat Green. This is the first time I've used Tamiya's acrylics in the airbrush and I really enjoyed working with them. Metal is Pavement, washed with Testors Rust, then drybrushed with GW Boltgun Metal. Wood parts are Reaper Amber Gold, highlighted with Reaper Golden Blonde, then washed with Reaper Umber Wash.

Decals are Rubicon and Italeri. Weathering was done with pin dot oil washes, then dirt and smoke stains were laid down with an airbrush, and then mud was added using a mix of dry pigment/glue/grout.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Fall of Berlin: "Patchwork" Konigstiger

For the first of the AFVs for my Fall of Berlin army, I ordered a JTFM/Die Waffenkramer Henschel Konigstiger. All in all, this is a good kit - the details are nice, it's well molded, and is a hefty chunk of resin. My one issue with it are the tracks, which lack any sort of linkage detail and look somewhat unrealistic. But, if I'm honest, this is a rather minor complaint (as well as being fairly commonplace among 1/56 resin-cast AFVs). I added lifting hooks to the turret, an AA gun ring to the cupola, an electrical wire behind the glacis headlight, an antenna, packed some epoxy putty behind the gun mantlet, and finally added a small plasticard "turret ring" to lift the turret ever so slightly and make the tank seem more imposing.

I wanted this to look like a salvaged and re-fitted tank in the final months of the war, so decided on doing a "new" turret and gun atop an "old" chassis. The turret is fresh off the factory floor, still wearing its red oxide primer undercoat and manufacturing chalkmarks. This is done by priming it in Krylon Red Primer, with highlights and rain streaking done in Testors Acryl Rust with a bit of white added. The gun is also new and wearing its grey lacquered undercoat (painted in Pavement). Fun fact: German barrels weren't primered. Instead, they were lacquered in a dark gunmetal grey and then overcoated with normal paint. Standard primer wouldn't have withstood the massive temperature differences inside the barrel.

The chassis carries an ambush scheme of Testors Acryl Rotbraun, Testors Acryl Dunkelgelb, and Tamiya Flat Green. Bands are laid down with an airbrush and the dots were added by dipping the end of a plasticard rod in each color, dabbing off the excess, and then touching it to the tank. Care has to be taken to avoid a "bubble" or dome effect with too much paint when doing this. Steel items are Pavement with a bit of GW Boltgun Metal drybrushed over it. Wood is Reaper Amber Gold with highlights of Reaper Golden Blonde, with a Reaper Umber Wash. Optics are Cool Blue.

Decals are from Rubicon and Italeri. The entire tank was then given a pin dot oil weathering - focusing more on the chassis - with the turret only getting some red and brown pin washes and some black around the fume extractor. Soot and smoke stains were done with an airbrush of a Dark Grey/Black mix; dirt with a light mist of Burnt Umber. After sealing, I added some dry pigment to simulate rust on the mufflers and then added some mud with a mixture of dry pigment, glue, and tile grout.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Reaper Mimic "The Luggage"

I had actually bought this miniature several years ago after reading Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, which features a sentient chest known as "The Luggage". (If you haven't read the book, it's quite good). In pursuit of something quick and fun to paint to enter in this year's Crystal Brush, I pulled it out and painted it in between doing other projects for Adepticon.

The wood is basecoated in Territorial Biege with just a hint of Pewter Grey added for weathering (it's almost impossible to see after the wash, unfortunately), then highlighted with successive layers of Reaper Amber Gold and Reaper Golden Blonde; then washed with GW Flesh Wash (which provides a more reddish tone than brown wash, accentuating the highlights). The "metal" parts are basecoated Pavement, with highlights of Pewter Grey, and edge highlighting of Pewter Grey, Granite Grey, and just a little Pure White.

The fleshy parts were tricky - I wanted to give the appearance that these were growing out of the wooden parts. As such, I basecoated them as I did the wood, gave them a wash of Vallejo Grey (to accentuate shadows without the harshness of a black wash), and then began steadily blending in Tentacle Pink until the furthest parts were pure pink and then I blended in some Cool Blue at the very tip of each appendage. The mouth was done in the same way, but to give it more depth I gave it a wash of GW Blood Red wash. The teeth were also done in the same way, but they "grow" from Biege to 50/50 Biege/Tentacle Pink to Pure White. The eyes are VGC Scarlet Red with some highlights of 50/50 Scarlet Red and pure Orange, with a wash of GW Blood Red wash.

The saliva strands are stretched clear plastic sprue, cut to length and superglued inside the mouth, then given a liberal coating of Vallejo Gloss Varnish.

The base was a resin one I had in my bitz box - not sure of the manufacturer. Mud is Brown Umber and the skulls are blended layers of Biege and Pure White. Disgusting!