Thursday 29 February 2024

What to do Now?

I know that many gamers live by the rule that the number of unpainted figures must always outnumber the number of figures you paint, regardless of the number you paint, but I have never been one for maintaining a large lead pile. Maybe it is my experience early in my working life as a buyer for a large wholesale organisation where my boss drilled into me..."stock turns, son, keep the stock turns high, that's the key to a successful business." Maybe it's the 'just in time' protocols of my current workplace. Maybe it's that frugality that comes from my Scottish grandmother. At various times in the past it was because of economic circumstances. 

Whatever the reason throughout the 54 years of my wargaming life I have always ordered just what I knew I could paint within a reasonable time period. In recent years I have turned this into quite a science with orders being timed to take maximum advantage of the credit period of my Visa card and to arrange for them to arrive just before the last item of the previous order left the painting table. It also allowed me to plan more carefully and take advantage of  the post free options that provided me with a 20-25% saving on base cost that would have pleased my grandmother no end. Of course all those plans fell apart during the pandemic when postal services fell behind and there were a few occasions of a completely flattened lead pile which compelled me to allow a greater buffer for a while.

The key to my success has been my project planning. Now this doesn't involve full blown planning with gantt charts, but it does involve a spreadsheet that extended out some three of four months detailing what and when was being purchased and and determined how long a purchase would take to paint at the rate of six foot, three mounted figures or one gun set per day. In fairness I always this obsessive, but when I was building my Crimean War armies (which were required for a specific game on a specific date) I needed to ensure that I figures arrived in a way that I could get them all painted in time while not stretching the finances and incurring the wrath of the Domestic Controller.

Now I find myself in an odd situation. For the first time since 2016, when I started managing a project plan, my schedule looks like this:

As you can see after 20 February there are no figures on hand, no purchases and no new projects on the books.

There are a few items outstanding in existing projects, namely:
  • Franco-PrussianWar
    • Prussian Generals
    • French Generals
    • French Dragoons
    • French Cuirassiers
  • Napoleonic Swedish
    • Generals
  • Napoleonic Ottoman 
    • Commanders
    • Artillery
These items are not yet released and no date for the release has even been hinted.

I am serious about living up to my resolution to cut purchases, but with nothing on the horizon, what to do? How will I fill my evenings?

I do have a few hobby related projects to work on. The main one is to complete the work on my games table, but due to constraints on health that can't be done probably until April and it is certainly not an evening task.

The table creates more opportunity for terrain work because by expanding it by one tile on each axis creates an issue with the quantity of terrain tiles because it means that to cover the whole table I will need 60 tiles whereas my current table only requires 45. The issue is that my current count of tiles is 70 and twenty of those are rivers or streams, so unless I want a river or stream on every table I need to add more tiles - 20 of them, twelve or fourteen of them to be just plain and the remainder plain with a road section, but again those are not an easy evening task. 

I do have a few rebasing and small terrain projects to undertake which will keep me busy in the evening for a while - although it is unlikely that they will keep me busy until those outstanding items get released.

Monday 26 February 2024

The Final Hill

As mentioned in my last post about hills, I had enough materials on hand for one more hill, but I wanted something unique and multi-purposed. I wanted a basic 25mm (1") high hill with relatively gentle slopes on which I could mount three different tops:
  • A further gentle slope rising gently up to maybe another 25mm (1")
  • A wooded area on the crest
  • A rugged rocky crest with maybe two positions where troops could take post
The three tops could all used as stand alone pieces, but could also be 'plugged in'  to the main hill.

First thing to do was to cut the base of the what will be the main hill from a piece of 4.75mm (3/16") MDF that has been laying around for years. I cut it in a rough ellipse measuring 445mm (17.5") on the long axis and 350mm (14") on the short. 

I then sketched and cut the basic shape of the top area that is 240mm (9") by 200mm (8") from 3mm (1/8") MDF and then marked a line about 6mm (1/4") inside the outer edge. I bolted two more pieces of 3mm MDF to that piece so that they would not move and cut along the inner line with the jigsaw. The end result is a 6mm ring and three identical pieces that will be the top variants that will plug into the ring with a blade width tolerance.

I then cut three pieces of 25mm (1") polystyrene: one for the base and two for the tops. 

I then bevelled the edge of the base with a rasp to about 30 degrees as I had done with my other hills and glued the polystyrene to it. At the same time I positioned and glued the ring on top of the polystyrene of the base unit.

I also glued one of the smaller pieces of polystyrene to one of the tops.

Next I looked at the piece that will have the wood on it. With a hole saw I cut six irregularly spaced 35mm (1.5") holes from the plug, keeping the discs from each cut.

I cut and glued a piece of 0.5mm steel plate to the underside of the piece. Why? Well the trees will be fixed to the discs saved above and rare earth magnets will be embedded in the base of the disc so that they will lock into place, but can be removed for more easy storage.

This is a technique I have used before with woods (link).

All the glued items were then left over night to set.

The next day when all the glue was set I shaped the polystyrene of the base with a hot wire cutter. I also needed to apply some filler so that the slope extended evenly to the top of the ring. 

I shaped to rounded top and cut the irregular, rocky one.

To the edge of the base of the wooded top I fixed felt with an overlap of about 3mm (.25"), trimmed and drybrushed it. This will help it merge with the base when plugged in.

The floor of the wood was textured with sand, painted and various pieces of twigs and a mix of flock textures were added around the edge.

The trees were fixed to their discs, appropriately painted and textured, then their foliage was added, using the coconut matting and foam flock technique described here. Rare earth magnets were glued into their base. Finally I added a few stones and more foliage around the edges of the base.

For the rugged top I cut the polystyrene so that there were two added levels plus a gentle slope to access each level. A papier maché of toilet paper and PVA glue was added to some of the smaller near vertical areas, which were eventually painted in earth tones, and glued and drybrushed patches of felt on some of the flatter parts. Sand was added and painted in other areas that weren't going to be part of the rock face, which as usual was made of garden bark.

Finally the base and the round top were covered with felt and drybrushed.

I know that it makes placing figures on them easier, but I am not really a fan of flat topped hills, but just as I finished the three plugins I decided to make one more for variation - a plain flat top that creates a plateau.  This piece of the only one of the plugins that can't be used in isolation as an individual feature. 

Below are the various combinations of the modules plugged into the base.

The round top

Above and below the rugged top

Above and below the wooded top

The flat or plateau top

I did briefly think of extending the flexibility of this piece one more step by hollowing out the centre of the main hill and making it into a volcano, but that would have been silly...or is it? Were there any active volcanoes in Europe, on the east coast of North America or in Paraguay in the 18th and 19th century? Etna and Vesuvius are the only ones I can think of...

Saturday 24 February 2024

Grenadier Battalion Portener

Here is the second Austrian Combined Grenadier battalion, Portener.

Consisting of two companies each of regiments number 40, 44 and 46, with facings of pale blue, red and dark blue respectively.

This time I have done a 36 figure unit. I like the meatiness of the big battalions.

This concludes the mini expansion. 

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Grenadier Battalion Berger

With the completion of the Ottomans I am moving to another, much later, Napoleonic subject - 1813-14 Austrian German Grenadiers. I am creating two battalions, using the Victrix grenadier set.

Since all Austrian grenadier battalions are combined battalions, Battalion Berger was built from the companies of the 15th, 28th and 57th infantry regiments. This, of course, means that the facings of the companies differ within the battalion and in Berger's case those colours are madder red, black and purple.

Now my normal line battalions are 36 figures strong, in six stands, but the combined grenadier battalions appear to have been smaller, around 700-750 men so I have done Berger as a four stand unit.  One stand is a command stand of a mounted officer, foot officer, standard bearer and drummer, and then there are three rank and file stands, each of which bears the appropriate company facings. The four figures of the command stand are a mix of facing colours.

The next battalion will be a six stand unit.

Monday 19 February 2024

Mamelukes on Parade

Following up on my promise of a parade, here is the whole of the Ottoman collection.

First are the five new Mameluke units and the Delis (left rear)

Next are the eight new units of foot.

Then the full cavalry contingent...nine Mamelukes and the two light cavalry to the rear...

...and the whole force

There are a few more items needed to complete this army - some commanders and some artillery - so watch this space.

Friday 16 February 2024


So the Mamelukes are finished...five new units added to the four I already had, making a total of nine.

I had intended to make this unit a much more subdued mix of hues and in truth it's not quite a bright and bold as the previous unit. In fact the first figure I worked on was the leader who was given a black cape, black turban and I intended to give him black pants on a black horse - a sort of Mameluke Johnny Cash...the man in black. In fact I toyed with the idea of a Johnny Cash unit - the whole unit in black. But I relented and gave the leader red pants and a yellow it was back to the least there is a greater proportion of chaps in white shirts that tones them down a bit.

The would be Mameluke Johnny Cash

I do intend have a parade, but am a bit short on time this week, so I have to hold off for a few days.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

More Fellahin

This is the third and final unit of fellahin.

Again these are the easiest figures to paint.

This completes the infantry contingent of my Ottoman army.