Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Being Crafty


Most of my postings on the Repique Blog have been on rules concepts, game design, and wargame history, with a generous supply of AARs and Information on the rules that I have written and sell. I have hardly ever written on the hobby craft side of the hobby, as I have never thought of myself as much of a modeler.

However, late in my wargaming experiences, I have become more and more interested in the modeling aspects of the hobby. I think some of this has been my return to the 28mm figure that, along with the terrain, impedimenta of battle, and conversion possibilities has rekindled my interest in that area of the hobby. I've also found out that I seem to have a pinch of ability at modeling, and it is a very nice respite from the writing, reading, and gaming aspects of the hobby.

I've discovered a few things about modeling, that I'd like to share. If any of this is old hat to you, please excuse my new found enthusiasm, and eagerness to share what may be, to some of you, nothing new.

Foremost is the advice to take one's time at the projects. The big projects, such as the siege train model, and the general's carriage each took over a week to complete; Even the smaller powder wagons and limbers took a few hours each. I would also take frequent breaks and come back refreshed every time maintaining my concentration and precision much better than if I tried to rush through.

Always buy the best figures and models you can. Don't waste your time with less expensive "bargains". In many cases you're only going to do this unit or equipment once, so get the best figures. This applies to paints and brushes as well. I use a mix of Windsor and Newton and the Imex Brushes with the big triangular handles that allow such precise manipulation of the brush. My latest great addition is a 12 slot wooden laboratory test tube holder, which I bought for $6 on Ebay. It makes a perfect holder of my 3/8" dowels that I fasten my figures to for convenience when I paint.


The paints I use are increasingly Vallejo paints, which come is a wide range of colors shades and some very nice washes. I especially like their bottles which keep paints usable for extended periods of time, as many of my painting sessions are widely separated. I also mix in a number of paints used by model railroaders such as Polly S and Scale Coat-especially for my stand colors, where I use Penn Tuscan, and Red Oxide (Box Car red) for that deep red brown ground color.


Many of my figures are painted in Sri Lanka by Fernando. I have been very pleased over the years with their work, and recommend them highly. I usually send 10-12 units at a time, as the postage to and from Sri Lanka is expensive-and larger orders are more efficient. Each shipment includes the figures bagged by unit with and identifying label listing the exact contents by type (Officer, Regular, Sergeant, Ensign, Musician) and number. I enclose a grid with the exact colors for the unit's uniforms, and a color artwork of that unit. The more organized and specific the provided information, the higher the likelihood you will be pleased with the final painting.

My guard units, both foot and mounted, are usually painted to showcase level, as are my command stand personality figures. These are often beautifully done, and , other than mounting on bases and stands, require little additional attention. At most I may add a touch go satin gloss to horse haunches, and some minor touch-ups

My line units of foot, horse, and artillery are done to the collector's standard, which is usually above the typical wargame army quality, but I take the time to "improve" the job by adding some dry-brushed highlighting, and darker washes in cloth folds, etc. Just a light touch and a few minutes time can really make the unit visually pop. It also allows a chance to do any minor repairs for damage in shipment, or to correct any errors. Occasionally some figures are damaged in shipment either to Sri Lanka, or on the return. I usually do the replacement figure myself-carefully matching the colors and "style" of the original. In my last shipment two horses had been damaged in shipment to Sri Lanka ( My instructions are to not paint a damaged figure, but return the unpainted original). I ordered the replacement casting from EBOR and painted the mounts to complete the units.

Every unit has a standard or flag; usually infantry two, the national or regimental, and the Colonel's, and the cavalry one, the regimental. I love The Flag Dude's products, but he has quasi-disappeared of late, and I am using Maverick out of England, and a few from Flags of War in the UK. I use flag tops from Front Rank for all but the Flag Dude, which comes with Cravats and Tassels. You can find them on the Front Rank site under "equipment".


Several units, especially units of the train, headquarters scenes, limbers, and artillery pieces and, now, crews, I do myself. My main objection to painting scads of figures for units is the time required, and the delay, in getting armies to the tabletop. I also have never been fond of painting the same figure-over and over. Given that I am also doing a lot of writing and wish to have a life apart from wargaming, I must plan my time use.

This combination method of pro-painted and personal painting allows me to assemble a large force over a limited period. My WSS army is planned to include 24 foot, 16 horse and dragoons, and eight guns, plus 12-16 command stands in both the French/Spanish/Bavarian and the English/Dutch/Austrian/ Allied armies. That's a total of 48-16 man foot units; 32- eight figure horse units, 16 artillery pieces with five crew each, and roughly 24 command stands or a total of 1128 figures! I have personally painted an additional number of units including a Siege Train, Louis XIV Wine Wagon (scratch built), a general's carriage, a large and small powder wagon, and a pontoon wagon, plus nine battalion guns with a one man crew, 18 casualty figures, four artillery batteries and crew, and three of the seven limbers, adding an additional 60 figures, 4 oxen, and 14 horse to the army. All of this has been assembled over the last 4 years, which would have been impossible in any other way. It also allows me to enjoy, for the first time in my wargaming experience the joys of LARGE games with many figures.

My approach in mounting the figures is straight forward. I use Litko 3mm thick plywood stands. They are absolutely excellent. They absorb paint well, are very rigid, and will not warp. Their thickness allows them to be moved and picked up with a minimum of handling the figures. This is important for long-term preservation of the figures. Thin stands are simply not either as protective, or, I think, as attractive. Litko offers a wide range of sizes and shapes. I have grown found of using 2" squares for Cavalry and infantry HQ stands, 2"x1" stand with three foot per stand for infantry, and a 3" hex for Artillery. My command stands are all 2 1/2" circles which I customize. Each stand shape denotes a certain unit type.

I paint the stands, as I noted above, in a deep red brown. This insures that anywhere not fully covered by the terraining, or then is revealed by some terrain materials being lost during play is revealed as deep, loam colored earth.

The figures are attached by using a substance called "GOO". This stuff is simply wonderful. You put a small dab on the figure base and stick in on the painted stand, and leave it overnight and the figure is very attached! Goo is waterproof, and takes terrain well. The best part is, if you ever want to remove the figure a simple Exacto knife-edge under the edge of the figure base, and pop! it comes off with no damage to the stand or figure! This stuff is what you want to use.


The terraining materials I use are primarily Woodland Scenics that I get at the local model railroad store. Again these are first rate products. I have two approaches, the most common is to brush on Woodland Scenics spray on liquid white glue, which dries clear, and then sprinkle on one or two contrasting textures of ballast, or grass in either summer or burnt grass tones. A touch up with some added liquid glue, and when dry spraying the whole stand with Dull coat, usually fixes the stuff rather well. Sometimes I add some larger stones, or twigs with Scenic Cement, which is a thicker adhesive. I go for some dramatic contrasts of texture and color, and often use static grass, which, when correctly applied, can look great!

Lately, I have moved to using thick scenic cement over the stand, and then a thicker application of fine ballast. After it dries I applied a thinner layer of grass or static grass using the thinner liquid fixative. This is then slightly touched up with some ochre or brown dry-brushed paint. The main thin I'm trying to avoid is the "muddy" overdone look that some terraining methods produce. I like a lighter and brighter coloration that highlights the figures, rather than the dark somber and "thick" terraining I see on many figure stands.

I am now working on some sapper and engineer bases and am planning to use Shaper Sheet and Shaper Plaster to create the trench and circumvalation line scene. This is new from Woodland Scenics and allows you to create and shape a terrain quickly and permanently , once you are pleased with it. I'll let you know how I do with it.


These little scenes such as the Siege train, Wine Wagon, and General's Carriage add a lot of color to the game, and I'm working hard at house rules for their use, but even without a real role in the game I love seeing them on the table. One of the details I love adding to the various train elements is all of the harnessing. It really makes the models stand apart from the average, and is not at all difficult (though some patience wis required). I use .10 flat metal wire-again from the model RR shop- and hold it in place with superglue, paint it in leather tones and you're done, and the model looks much more impressive. Adding curtains, mounted trumpeters/heralds, Marlborough's runners, or Cadogan's dog to his stand also adds a lot of character to a model. It takes a few minutes more, and add a great deal to the visual appeal.


But, one of the key things I do for every unit is to provide the HQ stand with an identifying placard as to the unit's nationality/name/type. Very early in my wargaming with the regular group, it became obvious that they had no idea what each unit was, and that was maddening during play. I decided to label every unit. I looked at how this was being done by other gamers and decided that I would take a different approach. I wanted the labels to be readily readable from a distance, but to not intrude too much on the aesthetic of the game. I wanted all the key information to be conveyed in as few words as possible. I wanted the end result to be attractive and integral to the HQ base or the command stand base.

Too many words make for a crowded looking label, and smaller type that does not read well. A vertical label at the back of the stand is tough to read by a standing player, and projects upwards above the stand too obtrusively. Too many labels just look "stuck on" to the base, and those that are on the top of the base are again obtrusive. I wanted the label to be a part of the base, and not a jarring addition. It also had to fit the existing bases securely and not do the existing basing any damage or require extensive repair.


My solution was to create a label base from standard balsa and bass wood shapes and strips. Using a triangular strip of 5/16th Balsa and a matching strip of 3/16th square strip as abase and a 2/16th by half inch bass wood strip for the face of the attachment. I used a very nifty tool called The Chopper II to cut identical 3" length pieces which were glued together using Sig Glue ( a form of Ambroid). The reinforcing strip was glued to the triangular body using a 3mm square as a jig to get proper spacing. It was then faced with the bases wood strip as the base for the label. The entire assembly was left to dry and then painted the same tuscan red as the stand. Later, the facing surface was given a coat of gloss varnish. It was then glued to the back of the HQ stand using Sig glue with the wedge and 2/16th strip forming the attachment surface. It was a firm connection with support on two different axis. The HQ stand, with four mounted foot, or two horse could be picked up using the label as a handle!

The label was created in Word using the table function and then printed on 4x6" GLOSS photo paper. Each label was then cut out and glued to the label holder surface.


Each label designated the nationality by the color of the label and text. The British were bright red with gold, The French a maroon red with gold, the Dutch orange with white text. etc. Each label named the unit. Under the regiment name in smaller text and italics was a statement of unit type and arm-guard, elite, line, along with unit type of infantry, cavalry-light or heavy, dragoons. Artillery would list a battery designation and gun weight. Command stands would list the commander's title and his given name. The command stands were somewhat differently constructed. More details may be found at the blog entry "Crafting Special Units" of December 5th, 2013 and in blog entry "In Hospital", of 1/27/14.

I added these labels to my units well after many were already built with no problems, though it initially took a bit of time. Now it is just part of the basing Process. Note that the 45 degree angle of the label makes it easy to read, the color immediately indicates nationality, and the low profile may barely be seen from the front.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful, and I am now doing some projects, such as the sapping stands that I will report upon when they are finished.