Painting Sea Bases (and some ships)

I put together some images of setting sea bases underneath 1/3000 scale model ships. I did dry brush rather more heavily then intended on one pass but overall, the information is good for those preparing small scale model naval vessels.

I based this exercise on two French Armoured cruisers from the early 20th Century – the Ernest Renan and Jules Michelet. The models were sourced from Navwar. They are presented as images below. Click on the images for a expanded view.

The Ernest Renan – French Armoured Cruiser and the Navwar model

I should note as well that this was part of a presentation put together for the Virtual Wargames Club, one of my two connections to sense, relaxation and de-stressing in this increasingly stressful world.

The Jules Michelet – French Armoured Cruiser

Why two French cruisers from prior to World War I? I did toy with the idea of using a couple of battleships but given the choice of the excessive tumblehomes of the battleships compared with the multiple funnels of the cruisers, it was a tough choice. However, who doesn’t like all these funnels?

THe models (both sides) and the material for the masts

Clean up the models, add the masts using the TLAR (That Looks About Right) principle.

Preparing the models

Next we get down and dirty.

Getting messy fingers – making waves

For this step I keep a damp rag or some damp kitchen towel handy to wipe the fingers off. Makes it easier that way. Also, once done, the fingers wash off quite well in soap and water.

I then looked at painting just the water surface but decided to paint the vessels anyway as part of the process.

Painting part 1 – view from left to right

First step, undercoating and I had some brown undercoat from Vallejo I wanted to try. That was followed by covering ship and base with black, then in order:

  1. Dark Blue (Prussian Blue or similar)
  2. A middle shade of blue, applied as a kind of heavy dry-brush
  3. A light blue (in this case, something like a sky blue) also dry brushed a little less heavily
  4. A very thin wash of a light green – in this case, lime green but Citadel has some bright fluorescent greens that will work well. This wash, applied lightly and wet will give a hint of green phosphorescence when the base is finished

After painting the bases, a medium sea grey and black wash was added to the ships

Painting part 2 – view from left to right

Medium sea grey is now brushed over the vessel then the ships are painted with the various colours for the deck, corticene areas, and black in the area where the coaling occurs. Black on the funnels and masts and lastly, a light dry brushing of white on the water surface.

The final product – and two other variations on a sea base

The wakes are then painted on the final version for the two vessels (see the left most images) and voila, done! Some varnishing can be done with your favourite varnish.

The other two images are other variations of a similar process with the Dante Alighieri illustrating the lazy man version of the Sea Base.

I do trust you have enjoyed this how-to post.


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Do Wargames Rules Writers have a Eurocentric View of Terrain?

In a post on Twitter, @GodsOwnScale noted:

And one more thing. The trend to base figures with a half earth, half grass look. Where did that come from. Standing in the middle of the field yesterday, I didn’t see how that style of basing reflects anything in reality.

The Parthian General

What GOS is describing is the current trend in basing Wargame figures with a mix of soil, gravel and static grass, as illustrated with the picture to the left.

When I first started wargaming, bases were simply painted in green, one of two shades. There was a dark chalkboard green used and another was the what became the somewhat ubiquitous Citadel’s Goblin Green. Gobbo Green was a colour slightly lighter than the shade of the grass mat to the left.

Many wargamers creating Armies based around the 18th century armies still use plain, green bases, paying homage to the armies of some of the grandfathers of wargaming like Brigadier Peter Young, Colonel J. P. Lawford, Don Featherstone and Charles Grant among them.

We then started flocking bases. Initially this was with model railway flock, sawdust and the like and was a universal green shade. For variation, some brown acrylic paint could be mixed with the PVA glue prior to basing to create a kind of green lamington. Now, many of us base figures on textured bases and using static grass.

A hawk’s eye view of the Nubians

Bases were made to look more and more like the terrain the Army being painted was used to operate in (and yes, those Nubians to the right are 15mm – I do sometimes paint giant figures).

Given a dry environment, more sandy gravelly stuff was on  the base with the odd tuft a dry grass.

GOS lives in England and there is a reason that William Blake, when protesting those “dark satanic mills” built during the Industrial Revolution wrote:

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

England is indeed a green and pleasant land. There is (mostly) constant water available to ensure the grass grows thick and green. The forests and woods are thick with trees that prevent light reaching the ground so underbrush really only appears at the edge of the forest, and that combined with the absence of light in the wood itself means that it is almost impossible to see anything actually in the wood from the outside.

A countryside ger from Sukhbaatar Aimag, south-east of Ulaanbaatar

However, outside of England, the land is somewhat different. The photo to the left is a ger (yurt) in Mongolia. This area is between the steppes of Dornod Aimag and the Gobi. The grass has a taste similar to chives, so the mutton herded here comes pre-seasoned.

The point is, that this is neither a green and pleasant land, although it is very pleasant, nor is it a desert, well leastwise, not this part of it anyway.

This segues nicely into the other part of this discussion, and what I really started to think about after GOS’s comment on Twitter. Wargame rules writers I was exposed to in my early days of wargaming were inevitably English or American, and the Americans tended to concentrate on the American Civil War, much of which was in the Eastern Theatre and therefore in green grassy lands presumably with forests similar to England.

It was always confusing for me to read about ambushes being laid at the edge of woods when with every wood/forest/bush land I had seen, I could see at least 100 metres into it. It was the same in many other locations I visited around the world. It was only after my first visit to the English countryside that I realised woods in England were such that you could ambush from within. Famous ambushes such as Teutoburger Wald and those of the French and Indian Wars now made sense to me.

When basing naval miniatures, I base them on a blue base because, after all, we all know the sea is blue. But on those trips to England and Scotland, the North Sea was far from blue, more a miserable grey colour. Surely, if I am painting and basing my World War I ships, I should put them on a grey sea base. Given that the sea colour is a reflection of the sky, and as I come from sunny Sydney originally, to me the colour of the sea is that nice deep blue of the Pacific.

Gravelly, grassy terrain on the base

As wargamers, we tend to see terrain through familiar eyes. I see forests through Australian eyes and therefore thin, and sea through the same eyes (blue). As for grass, well it may be green, or gold (OK, yellow) or brown but again, where I am from, it is thin and seeing gravel around it, or the grass patchy, is quite normal.

And as we have deserts in Australia (the well named Great Sandy Desert for one), deserts are sandy and more a pale brown than yellow or white.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so is the terrain basing underneath figures.


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Painting Wargaming Figures: WWII in the Desert – Review

Andy Singleton is a professional figure painter. After some encouragement, he has penned Painting Wargaming Figures: WWII in the Desert. This has been published by Pen & Sword Military. It contains around 200 illustrations over its 157 pages (ISBN: 9781526716316, published on 7 May 2019).

Singleton has broken the book up into two main sections, the first part dealing with the basics, and the second part dealing with specific forces from within the war in North Africa, namely the armies of:

  • Britain and Commonwealth
  • Italy
  • United States of America
  • Afrika Korps

The last two sections in the book deal with Camouflaged Uniforms and Basing.

Each section is split into three levels of complexity, “conscript”, “regular” and “elite”.

Conscript is like the beginning painter level and will get armies onto the table quickly. As the painter develops their skills, or for readers who have painted figures before, the regular and elite levels provide greater degrees of complexity in painting of the figures.

Singleton covers both plastic and metal figures and while all the illustrated figures in the book are either 20mm or 28mm figures, certainly the techniques could be used for figures of 10mm or larger. 6mm and 2/3mm figures require a different approach to painting altogether.

Andy uses much the same techniques in the painting sections with a little variation. The paints her iuses are the popular Army Painter and Vallejo ranges of acrylics and for each figure he is illustrating, he provides a paint bill of materials for both Army Painter and Vallejo paints.

I will admit that my preferred size for World War 2 gaming is 6mm (1/300, 1/285) and as mentioned above, painting figures of that size requires a different approach to painting.

However, recently the publications of Too Fat Lardies for Chain of Command and What a Tanker have me considering some 20mm or 28mm forces. North Africa seems a reasonable location to try those rules, especially with the early war equipment from the Italians and Commonwealth Forces, then the Commonwealth and Germany followed by the introduction of the USA and some Free French forces.

The section on Basing is perhaps the simplest section in the book given that the setting for the forces is North Africa where we are dealing with sand, sand and more sand … except for the dust!

I do think that the softback of this book is a shade expensive for, although if puchased in the context of a club library, would be a good edition. The Kindle or ePub version is better value I think.

The painting advice is good and following Singleton’s suggestions will have the gamer producing either quick armies at Conscript level or very well painted forces at Elite level.

Singleton also has a Painting Guide out for Early Imperial Romans (released in November 2019). Keep an eye out for Andy Singleton’s next book as well – Painting Wargame Figures: Rome’s Northern Enemies due for release in June 2020. Both these books will fit nicely for those of us considering the Too Fat Lardies new rules, Infamy, Infamy!

 

Painting Lessons

With the recent entrapment due to COVID-19, I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos in the evening, after all, there is only so much Netflixing one can do.

Many of the videos were dealing with painting, both air brushing (a skill I am yet to develop) and brush painting (where I used to think I was somewhat of a dab hand). Now I am still a wargames painter at heart and mediocre modeller at best and many of the videos discussed blending and shading and turning out masterful figures, especially in the vein of Games Workshop. There were several, however, that covered some of the most basic of techniques.

For example, I knew that regular paints from Vallejo and Army Painter would require thinning before air brushing but it had not occurred to me that thinned paint came off the brush easier and provided better coverage, especially over large flat aircraft like 1/300 aircraft and their flight stands.

With Easter coming up and a four day break here where the biggest decision will be whether to spend it in bed or on the lounge, I have a hankering to actually get of my rather expansive butt and try some airbrushing. As for my other painting, more to be published here in the not too distant future when I think I will have the Winter War air wargame set finished!

In the meantime, I did find this YouTube painting tutorial from Owen very helpful, even painting wargame figures and 1/300 scale aircraft:

Sea Bases

Magnet attached to Base

Making the Sea Bases is a fairly straightforward, although slightly messy process. To be totally honest, I stole the method from the GHQ website but adapted what was there for the bases under the vessels. I also used Vallejo or Citadel paints for colouring the bases then varnished with Vallejo or Army Painter varnishes.

The method, starting from scratch. I found some brilliant board in Art Friend, Singapore, that I have not found elsewhere . It is, I am sure, a plastic of some sort but behaves in many respects like a cardboard. If you are reading this Doug, I seem t recall showing you a piece in Canberra one or two lifetimes ago 🙂 

Anyway, the process should work well with MDF or other materials as well although I am not sure I would try with cardboard (does anyone base on cardboard anymore?).

Magnetic strip is added under the base for those times transporting. The Navwar metal ships are probably robust enough to handle some bouncing around during transport but Fujimi plastics, and I guess GHQ Micronauts are a little more fragile with more parts that can break off.

Flex Paste spread across base, ships pressed in

The next step is to spread some of the flex paste across the base. This is kind a hit and miss at the start until you get used to working with it but I reckon a depth of approximately 1mm is good. I then wait a couple of minutes for it to start to dry a little. 

Next step is to lightly tap a finger across the top. This will add the wave shapes to the surface. the surface can be shaped as well to make a more regular wave pattern or wakes for the vessels (remembering the Kelvin angle of 19 degrees from centre line).

The ship can then be pressed into the surface, perhaps even sliding it forward a little to add a little dimension to the wake on the bow.  

If not able to get Woodland Scenics Flex Paste, which is great for this and some other modelling tasks, maybe the same can be achieved with something like Polyfilla, although I have not tried that. This jar of Flex Pastes has lasted me about 5 years so far and has not dried out greatly yet.

Ship on base. The paste is usually enough to hold it in place

Taking a closer look to the image to the right and below and you can see the rippled surface.

At this point, I leave the vessel embedded in the base overnight to let the Flex Paste dry properly and cure. I have not had any warping on the bases of any of the ships I have based this way.

I guess it would be possible to paint after a couple of hours.

I should add as well that when doing this, it is useful to have a damp rag handy to wipe finger on as the Flex Paste will build up there. I have not had any problems either just using a naked finger and/or a coffee stirrer to do these bases. 

A better close up of the surface prior to painting

For painting the bases, firstly I undercoat the base and the ship in water undercoat suits the painting style I am using. For recent vessels this has been grey. I then use four colours in the following order:

  1. Dark blue
  2. Light or fluorescent green
  3. Light blue
  4. White

The process is to first paint the base in dark blue as a foundation coat. Next the green is thinned down, to almost invisible – say 1:5 or 1:6. The base is then washed in the green. When that dries, a dry brush of light blue followed by a light dry brush of white.

Paint the ship, then using white again, run it down the side of the vessel, letting it thin as you drag it down to make the wake on the side of the ship. When dry, the sea can be varnished, other in satin of gloss varnish, depending on what you prefer. The vessel can also be varnished, in matt or satin. Voila, you have a ship that looks like it is at sea.

The final result – in this case, satin varnish on the sea surface

Labels on 1/3000 scale ship models

Japanese vessels – ready for Modern Naval Wargames

With a large collection of 1/3000 sale ships (more unpainted than painted I will admit), remembering the name of all the vessels can be a memory trial. As the vessels are primarily painted to wargame with, it is good if both sides can see the vessels name during battle.

One option is to put the name under the base, but this suffers from the vessels being lifted off the game surface constantly to check. A second is to add the name to a tab at the rear of the base, in the wake as it were, in the same way that Figurehead provide a label area for their 1/6000 scale vessels.

Chilean Navy Ensign

I prefer to base my vessels on 3mm thick bases and add the vessels name to the side. The 3mm thick base is good as it allows those of us with corpulent fingers to grip the base and not hold the vessel in our fingers. More importantly, I like how it looks 🙂

The method used to produce the base labels is quite straightforward.  Using word processing software such a Microsoft Word or similar, I create a table of six columns. In the second, fourth and sixth columns I type the vessel’s name.  Let’s use three modern Chilean Naval units for an example: Almirante Cochrane – a British Type 23 class; Capitán Prat and Almirante Latorre – Jacob van Heemskerck class.

Ensign placed

I then decide on whether I will add the national flag or the naval ensign. I usually lean towards the ensign although in some navies the national flag and the ensign are the same. In this case, a hunt on Wikipedia for “Chilean Navy” will return the basic details, including national flag and ensign.

Table set to Autofit to contents

Next step is to resize the text. The font I use is Calabri (not sure what the Apple font equivalent is) and it is set to “bold” and resized to 6pts. I also set the table contents to “Autosize to contents”.

The ensign is then copied and pasted to the first column, first row of the spreadsheet. It is usually quite large at this point. Once the ensign has been copied in, then we resize that image, using the size of the text as a guideline.

Ensign resized

The image of the ensign is then copied to the empty cells we have ready for the. We set the wrap text option for the image to “square”

It can then be moved to the next column where the name of the vessel is.

Set the distance between image and text … make 0.1cm in this case

When formatting the layout of the image, under text wrapping set the “Distance from Text”, Right to 0.1cm (or 1mm).

After this it is pretty much straight sailing.

Drag the ensigns to the left of the name of the vessel (see Almirante Cochrane below). Once the columns the flags were originally in are empty, they can be deleted.

The table can then have a design adjustment in “Borders and Shading” by turning off the cell lines in the table.

Select the table one last time, set font colour to “white” and the “fill colour” to a dark blue, close to the shade you will use on the base. You end up with something like below.

The final name labels

Of course, when I got to the end of this it occurred to me that the blue on the ensign may make it disappear after printing. In this case I would add a white border around the image.

I then use a sharp knife to slice the names from the sheet and some PVA glue to affix to the base. Slap on a bit of varnish and job done!

Past the Block

Or at least I will be if manage to paint some more tomorrow night. All it needed was a good Fokker – a Fokker D.XIII D.XXI.

I decided that I would work on the Winter War 1/285 scale aircraft that I have in a set – Finnish fighter, Soviet bombers and fighters. These game from Raiden Miniatures. Tonight I managed to paint a top surfaces white (Army Painter flat white), the under surfaces light Grey (Tamiya British Light Aircraft Grey) and then start on the Olive Green disruptive pattern. Photos below.

I stopped at the point I did for two reasons. One os that I was not going to paint past midnight and the second was that Tamiya does not play well with Army Painter paints and the top colour was starting to strip the white. Hopefully tomorrow there will have been a more thorough drying and thr Tamiya will not strip the Army Painter..

Lastly, I started on the Fokker D.XIII D.XXI simply because I could not find the Brewster Buffaloes. They will be next on the list.

Overcoming Painting Block

I’m having a Rimmer moment – writing and planning lists of the items to be painted in the lead pile and collecting (again) the colours to be used.

I was thinking of painting the Winter War (Finns vs Soviet) aircraft collection I had. Aircraft are quick and easy and should get me in the mood fairly quickly. Then there was the Prussians mentioned yesterday. At much the same time, I sorted the Greeks I had purchased for the start of my Peloponnesian project. Then there are also a large number of Aeronefs that I enjoy painting and want to get started on. And of course there are the 1/3000 scale fleets for Jutland (and I have my copy of Conway’s here to assist with masts etc), the two fleets for Matapan (and I have both Mal Wright’s Camouflage of Commonwealth fleets and Marco Ghiglino’s Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II) not too mention the British Pacific Fleet from World War 2 along with the US and Japanese fleets from the Battle of the Philippine Seas along with sundry German and British vessels from the early part of World War 2.

Also I have the Russian World War 1 fleet; the Soviet modern fleet; 1/300 scale modern Poles to finish along with World War 2 Japanese; and the 1/1200 World War 2 coastal set (British, German and Italian torpedo boats and the like).

Oh, I almost forgot, there is the Future War Commander Indonesians as an opponent for my FWC Aussies.

Definitely a Rimmer moment.

I think I’ll go home tonight and re-plan everything over dinner. Results tomorrow night … perhaps!

Prussians – 1813-1815

As I have been suffering a painting block, I thought I would do some mundane things like sorting and tidying over the weekend to see if that helped me over the block. The Prussian project I started nine years ago seemed like a good place to start. I had brought the figures from Australia to Manila packed rather well as it turned out – they survived the trip in Hold Baggage well. The figures painted and based are below.

Those still requiring the bases to be finished are included the following image.

The full force thus far – including those with part finished bases

So far looking at the painted figures, while the infantry uniforms are a Prussian Blue, it appears almost black here. I am thinking I will need to lighten them up a little.

I am happy with the artillery and cavalry colours however.

Once I started unpacking the unpainted figures, I quickly got a sense of the size of this project as in total, when completed, the force will consist of:

  • 33 Infantry Bases (792 figures)
  • 14 Cavalry Bases (140 figures)
  • 12 Artillery Bases (12 guns, 12 limbers and 60 crew)
All the unpainted Prussians in the box now. Time to get cracking

I’m building the army with Heroics and Ros figures. H&R do a Prussian musketeer which I am using for the musketeers and fusiliers, the stovepipe British for the reserve infantry and then the Landwehr figures for the Landwehr. That seems to provide enough variety between the figures.

The Landwehr will be in dark blue coats, the same as the regulars, but some will be in white trousers, some in grey. Perhaps even in a couple of battalions I’ll mix the trousers in the battalion. I haven’t thought that far in yet.

The reserve infantry (British in stovepipe shako) look the part, especially compared to some of the images from the time. The only minor quibble I have with the detail is that the Brits have a backpack and the almost ubiquitous Prussian blanket roll is missing. To be fair to myself however, I have seen a picture of a Prussian reserve infantry figure like that – with pack and sans blanket. Colour of the Reserve Infantry will be a mix of grey and blue uniforms, and maybe even the odd red battalion – again, I am still researching that.

 

Battlefields in Miniature – Paul Davies – Review

Every so often I buy a book forgetting that I already have that book on the bookshelf. Friend Anthony suffers the same problem from time to time and as a result  we both get additions to our libraries as we give the other our duplicated purchases. These books are, in many cases, in areas where we normally do not read (enjoy the naval history books when I get them to you Anthony!). 🙂

One such book was Battlefields in Miniature by Paul Davies, published in 2015 by Pen and Sword Books. It looks like the hardback version of this book is out of print however Pen and Sword have an ePub and Kindle version listed (ePub, Kindle) in their catalogues.

There are a number of books published on wargames terrain making, many from the makers of various figure ranges and while normally books like this only provide a passing interest to me, this is one book I will refer to again and again, especially as I pursue my hobby here in the Philippines where there are limited wargaming clubs.

So, why this book? The 287 glossy colour pages make the book enjoyable to flick through. Better though is the organisation f the book with 18 chapters dealing with generalities, tools, materials and then a discussion of 17 types of terrain. The chapters included are:

  1. Welcome to the Workshop
  2. What’s Everyone  Else Doing?
  3. Before  You Get Started
  4. Terrain Cloths
  5. Terrain Tiles
  6. Custom or Sculpted terrain
  7. Rivers and Ponds
  8. Islands, Cliffs and Hills
  9. Trees
  10. Walls
  11. Fences and Screens
  12. Hedges
  13. Gates
  14. Cultivated Fields
  15. Roads
  16. Bridges
  17. Defences
  18. Buildings

The author, Paul Davies, will be recognised by many for his regular series of “how-to” articles in Wargames Illustrated. Throughout this book however he has combined techniques he had illustrated before and added new ones such that most wargamers should have little or no trouble constructing their own terrain by following his guidelines presented here.

As mentioned, I have the hardback version and it looks like only ePub and Kindle versions are currently available from Pen  and Sword.  I certainly will unashamedly be stealing some of Davies’ ideas when constructing my next batch of terrain and I am glad to have the book in my library (thank you Anthony). I do recommend this book to wargamers.