DBA Army III/25b: Arab Conquest

Here is another Essex DBA army pack: III/25b: Arab Conquest.

The army is evenly split between mounted and infantry: a cavalry core is supported by warband and bows (or psiloi, if that’s the way you roll).  The army list I’m most likely to play is: 5x3Cv (gen), 1x2LH, 4x4Wb, 2x3Bw. 

I liked my color scheme until it became too montonous.  I intended to go primarily with offwhite/tan, grey-blue, and red, and fill the rest in with various browns. But when it came time to paint some shields, I was at a loss.  The brighter blue wasn’t too bad, but I think the green was a mistake.

Luckily I don’t have strong feelings about this army.  It took a while to get motivation to paint it, and now that it’s done I’m happy that it’s finished and not upset that it’s not what I’d prefer.

I used the same basing technique as on my Early Bedouin army.  The metal bases have a layer of spackle with sand dusted on top. Then I paint them with Vallejo Middlestone, followed by Yellow Tan and finally Buff.  It’s a bit weird, but it ends up working well especially after I apply the static grass patches in green and yellow.  I based the Bw, Ps, and LH elements prior to painting them, but based the Cv and Wb after they were painted.  Spraying with varnish keeps the sand in place before painting the bases, which is convenient.  However, overall I think the basing on these is a huge pain in the ass.  I’m not likely to continue with this technique in cases where I’ll be using grass-like flock over the entire base.  I’d prefer to do selected spots of dirt/sand on an otherwise grassy base.  It’s a lot less messy and requires less touchup than applying spackle to bases with already-painted figures.

I tried another new technique with these figures, and I’m very happy with the results.  The red tunics and head wraps are done with Vallejo Transparent Woodgrain, a dark maroon-red.  I applied this in a single coat over the white-primed figure, and it did an excellent job of darkening the shadowed areas while leaving the highlights lighter without any additional inking required.  Adding a bit of water to thin it out produced no ill effects.  This is truly a transparent (or translucent) paint: adding more layers of paint darkens the color significantly instead of reaching a final tone the color of the pigment.

If I were picky, I’d change a few things about this army:

  • I think the warbands would be better off using spears rather than swords
  • I’d research more appropriate colors
  • I’d look into the possibility that my cavalry stands should have mixed figures instead of identical figures on each base
  • Overall, the cavalry seem better suited for use in the Crusades period

However, I’m not picky.  Lucky me!

I still have an arab tent camp to paint, but otherwise this army is ready to bring to Historicon 2010.

Painting Workspace

Neldoreth started a thread on the Fanaticus forums about the workspace we use for painting miniatures.

My main workspace for painting miniatures and other modelling work is a nook in our attic dormer: probably 7’x8′ and 6′ high.  I use the rest of the attic for gaming space and general storage.

Points of interest in the first image include:

  • My paint shaker: a converted electric knife
  • O scale model railroad buildings destined for use as Malifaux terrain
  • Games Workshop boxes are good at catching excess flocking material
  • Elmer’s glue by the gallon? I may as well buy a horse.
  • Yes, there are other hobbies stored on the shelves.
  • The card table provides supplemental horizontal surface area, as well as a workspace when friends come over to paint and watch crappy movies.
  • Crayola Model Magic! It’s excellent for building hills and other terrain features out of a flexible, moldable 3D material.

It’s probably obvious that I lean towards the “a clean house is the sign of a misspent life” school of thought.  When I organize my workspace, it is almost always as I’m planning or about to start a new project, and not when I’m finished with the previous one.  Organizing my workspace and organizing my plans for the next project go hand-in-hand.  If I don’t need to put much thought into the next project, I also tend not to put much effort into preparing my workspace for its execution.

In the second photo:

  • This is an Ikea Jerker desk, one of the best computer desks made by man.  With independent height adjustment for the keyboard and monitor, this desk provided the best ergonomics available to mere mortals.  Luckily, with my adoption of a laptop and console gaming, I don’t need it for programming or gaming anymore.  The only downside of the Jerker is its lack of drawers.
  • Although I built a paint rack from MDF and pine, I obviously don’t use it as much as I could.  I’d benefit from a table top model instead of putting it against the back wall.
  • The only projects visible here are either not mine, or haven’t been worked on in years. 
  • Yes, I use inexpensive brushes in high volume, except for a few “special” brushes.
  • Craft paint is fine for terrain, grey, and black. Modern GW washes and Didi’s Magic Ink are good for shadows.  Other than that, I use Vallejo paints almost exclusively.
  • Yes, I have piles of unpainted figures.  The fact that you can’t see them is a good thing.

There you have it!  They aren’t the tools of the trade, because this is no trade.  They’re the tools of fun!

Magister Militum Elephant: SEL009


Here is a 15mm elephant sold by Magister Militum and sculpted by Chariot Miniatures, SEL9 or SEL009: “Elephant: Driver and Pikeman Astride.”  Judging by the pictures on the Magister Militum site, this elephant is available with alternate head sculpts.

The elephant is smaller than Essex elephants, and has a much more dynamic pose. It’s in scale with its crew, which are also smaller and slimmer than Essex 15mm people.  It’s appropriate for use in Alexandrian and early successor armies.

The elephant came with two pikemen, but I only used one.  There’s no reasonable way to put two pikemen on this beast except back to back, and they don’t fit well that way.

I really like the way this elephant assembles.  It doesn’t have any base, which is fine since elephant feet are so large.  The two halves of the body and the head all have pins to hold things together while the epoxy dries.  This works much better than the Essex assembly technique.

The pikes are much longer, thinner, and more flexible than Essex pikes.  I don’t expect it to last very long, and it’ll probably be hard to drill out and replace with wire.

Essex Elephant: MEPA36

I’ve finally finished painting a few more elephants.  This one is a 15mm Essex MEPA36, labelled MPA36 on the package: “General in howdah with umbrella holder mounted on elephant with driver.”  I intended to use this as a general element in an Indian army, but I think the howdah looks more like it should be used in an Alexandrian successor army.

This elephant comes with the same driver and body as the Essex MEPA23 elephant.  As with all Essex elephants I’ve seen, the pose is very static. It’s more like an elephant on the march than one being shot at by arrows.  The howdah is a crenellated box with woodgrain on the lower parts and no texture on the crenellations.  It appears to be held on with leather straps, but the straps aren’t continued onto the body.

This time I took pictures of the unassembled elephant as well.  You can see the three part body and head, three crew, and howdah.  I assemble with epoxy and use greenstuff to fill the gaps.  I painted this one with the howdah and driver on the elephant, and the other crew separate.

Scratchbuilt: Mongol Trebuchet

This is the traction trebuchet (human-powered stone thrower) I built for my DBA army IV/35: Mongol Conquest.

I purchased a Perrier (traction trebuchet) model from Museum Miniatures, but it’s way too big to fit on a DBA 40mmx40mm base.  I also think it’s stretching the upper size limit of historically used human-powered trebuchets.  So, I decided to find a design that would fit on a base and scratch build it.

The crew is from Museum Miniatures, and was originally intended to man their trebuchet.  These guys are monsters: they stand about as tall as the rest of my Mongols, but those guys are riding horses!  The only reason they fit in with the rest of the army at all is because they’re on a separate base with a big machine.

The catapult itself is constructed from balsa wood, thin brass rod for the pivot, and thread for the small ropes on the throwing arm.  The pulling ropes came with the crew figures.  The stones are round pin heads.  I used greenstuff to build up the cloth-looking sling around the loaded stone.  The base has sand glued on, and it’s finished with some flock and static grass to match the rest of my Mongol bases.

The design of this trebuchet was based on an image I found online of a reconstructed Mongol traction trebuchet in a museum, as well as images in Osprey’s Siege Weapons of the Far East (1).  The reconstructed trebuchet has no size reference, but looks about 6′ high judging by the sign placement on the wall, which seems too small.  The images in the Osprey book are primitive contemporary drawings which make it look as if the catapult should have a hundred crew pulling its ropes.  I opted for something in between: small enough to be relatively portable but not so small that you’re better off not bothering.

The Mongols used a variety of siege weapons as they expanded their empire.  They learned how to use gunpowder when they conquered China, and gained a lot of experience sieging cities.  I wanted my Mongol army to represent the time of the European invasion: the early 1240’s when the Mongols defeated Russian, Hungary and Poland.  Accounts of the campaign in Europe describe the use of stone-throwers, but don’t mention the rockets or cannons that were used elsewhere (and later) by the Mongols.

In retrospect this design is possibly a bit too tall for the size of its base; and clearly it’d need a larger crew.  But it’s a lot more usable in DBA than the Museum model.

DBA Army I/6c: Early Bedouins

I purchased some DBA army packs “not for a squeamish General” from a denizen of the Fanaticus forums.  These are packs assembled from mixed manufacturers, and might not contain all of the army’s options, but they’re playable and inexpensive.  The first I’ve painted is Early Bedouin.

I have no particular attachment to this army, or I’d have gotten a more quality-controlled army pack.  It’s also an easy paint job, so I decided to do some experimentation and try some new techniques.  In the past, these experiments have succeeded, so I forget that sometimes they don’t.  Although not everything went as smoothly as I had hoped, it’s a playable army that looks basically fine in the end; but it’s not my favorite paint job.

The infantry are all Essex Midianite figures, appropriate for the Early Bedouin (c) list. The light camelry and camelry that match it are also Essex, but they originally would have two riders per camel. The other non-general camelry stand is from Falcon Figures.  They’re the worst figures in the lot: the camels are far taller than the rest, and are smooth like dinosaurs.  The men look like pudgy cave men with poorly defined faces.  I don’t know which manufacturer made the General and companions, but their armor, robes, and turbans are definitely out of place in an army this early.  I can only assume they’ve faced some Persians and Medes and stolen their fashion magazines.

Unfortunately, the army pack came with 4 oddball figures for the Auxilia: a Nubian, a few Philistines, and an inappropriately elaborate standard bearer.  Luckily it also came with twice as much Psiloi as was required, including some slingers that were easy to convert into additional javelinmen for the Auxilia.  The guys holding their javelins low were originally slingers.

I used only bowmen for the psiloi, to make it less obvious that I converted slingers for the Auxilia. 

I tried a new technique on the bases: I used spackling compound to blend the individual figure bases smoothly into the base, and a dusting of sand for texture.  For both the psiloi and auxilia, I based the figures prior to painting them, and this worked out great. Thanks for the idea, JM!

The color progression for the sandy base came from a Flames of War article about desert basing.  I chose the Middlestone/Tan Yellow/Buff colors.  Unfortuantely this didn’t do what I intended, but it looks fine in the end.  Middlestone is very green, and Tan Yellow is pinkish (flesh colored).  Buff goes well with Middlestone, but the overall effect is not “sand” if you look at it closely enough.

This is my first army with Camelry and Light Camelry.  For these stands, I painted the figures first and then applied spackle after basing them.  Unfortunately this resulted in a few white spots on the camels’ legs, but overall it worked well.  I could’ve painted the Light Camelry when it was already based, but probably not the 3 camel stands.  To affix the sand to the base before painting, I sprayed with dull varnish prior to painting.  Usually the primer takes care of this, but not if your figures are already painted.  I used Army Painter dull varnish for the first time on this army, and it came out almost as dull as Testors Dullcote at a lower cost: that change was a success.

The other thing that didn’t work as well as I had hoped is the flesh color.  I started by trying a new color, Vallejo Dark Flesh.  I prefer Tan Yellow for a middle eastern flesh color; Dark Flesh is too orange.  The inking didn’t work well either.  I used my now-standard Didi’s Magic Ink, which usually works well, but it needs to be applied over very dry paint.  I applied it too soon after painting, and it pooled and caused some very dark spots.  I mostly fixed these problems with Tan Yellow highlights, but the shading is a lot more harsh and messy than I prefer.

I look forward to seeing this army in action!  With all these light troops I don’t expect it to perform particularly well against any random army, but I can’t wait to see what the Camel General can do against enemy mounted: it’s even odds against an elephant.

DBA Army IV/35: Mongol Conquest

I haven’t finished painting a DBA army since February?  Weird.  I blame it on the goblins.

I chose to paint a Mongol Conquest army to participate in the Baltic Crusades themed campaign event at Historicon 2010. This is a fairly one-dimensional army in this configuration: 3x3Cv, 9x2LH.  The figures are Museum Miniatures from their Mongol line.  I also purchased a traction trebuchet model from Museum for the artillery option, but it was way too huge to fit on a DBA base.  A future update shows the alternate model I scratch built.

I used medium cavalry with swords and bows for the Cavalry elements.  They’re helmeted, but otherwise look very much like the light horse archers.

Painting this army was an exercise in finding all my different shades of brown paint.  I used a grey-blue and dark red for highlights, based on images in the Osprey Mongol Warrior book.

There are two cavalry poses (MG09BP, MG09CP) except for the general (MG01P) and standard bearer (MG02P), and three poses for the light horse archers (MG06P).

This will be another challenging army to play (along with the Skythians).  Maybe I just like losing.  I’m not very good at playing light horse armies yet, but I want to be.

The surface of these figures is glossier than I prefer. This time I used a few base coats of semi-gloss varnish before topcoating with Dullcote.  I probably should’ve waited longer before the dullcote layer.

My next DBA army is already in the works, so it won’t be 2 months before that one’s finished. I also need to paint one more army before Historicon for another theme.

Malifaux: Ramos’ Crew

Wyrd Miniatures makes some very nice miniatures.  They also make some really creepy ones, if that fits your tastes.

Personally, I really enjoy the steam punk elements available in their line.  After perusing their miniatures for quite some time, I settled on purchasing Ramos the Steampunk Sorceror and his crew.  He builds robot spiders out of scrap, and sends them off to do his dirty work.

I started by painting the arachnids.  Assembling these figures was a big pain in the butt, and there was almost no gluing surface at all.  They were definitely designed as display figures and not gaming figures.

The spiders are painted black with metallic dry brushing.  Except for a few lights and lenses they’re very straightforward.  In real life they have a nice monochrom metallic look that doesn’t come across well in images, and they have just enough color to be interesting.

Three arachnids on a single base are a Swarm. 

They can break up into individually based spiders for more flexibility. They can explode!  And Ramos can summon new ones when the old ones die.  We’ll see if any of this is worth doing, once we actually play the game.

The larger Brass Arachnid is Ramos’ totem: basically a magical familiar, but his is appropriately a spider.  This guy is quite large for his 30mm base.  I like the model a lot, though the paint job looks better in person as usual.

All the bases are from Dragon Forge’s Wastelands II series.  I intend to find some long grass to tune the bases, but can’t seem to get it locally.

I chose Johann, a mercenary, for my other main dude.  Although he’s usually part of a different crew, his special ability allows me to take him with Ramos as if he were also an Arcanist.

I painted Ramos (above) and Johann using a blending technique for basically everything except the metallic portions and the base.  I’m very happy with how they turned out, especially considering how long it’s been since I’ve tried to do a good job on a 28mm+ figure, and also considering the amount of time I spent on them.

These figures are just enough to play a 25 point game, which is kind of small.  I’ll provide some feedback on the rules once we try it out, but I’m very hopeful.

New Hops Trellis

Spring has sprung a bit sooner than I anticipated.  I saw the hops buds peeking their noses out; it seemed like only a week or so ago.  Now all of a sudden they’re 3-4′ long.

I decided I needed a higher hops trellis this year, since last year’s yield wasn’t that good.  I suppose another way to look at it is: I haven’t actually used last year’s hops yet, so what does the yield matter anyway?  But where’s the fun in that? This is all about the process and not the result.

In past years, I saw others’ complicated trellis systems, but didn’t think much about building anything similar.  But I brainstormed a bit since last weekend, and came up with a plan for a taller trellis that lets me lower the top beam for picking. 

My previous trellis was made from 1″ galvanized pipe, and it seemed strong enough.  It was about 9′ high in the center, with twine running horizontally from there.  However, the main hops bines don’t like to grow horizontally, so that was mostly a waste.

The new trellis uses a 12′ 2″x4″ with a metal ring on top, screwed to my fence post.  A rope is attached to the top beam, through the ring, and down to a rope cleat mounted on the post.  I raised it above the ground somewhat, so the total height is closer to 13′.  The twines are tied tightly to the top beam, but they’re lashed at the bottom so I can tighten or loosen them there if necessary.  I also left a small amount of slack in the main rope in case it needs tightening. The twine goes slacker and tighter depending on the weather, and needs adjustment throughout the season.

Until the hop bine grows to the top, the weak link is the twine.  The bines are much thicker than the twine, so once it reaches the top the main concern will probably be with the pulley ripping out at the top.

Unfortunately, many of the strongest looking bines had their tops broken off before I could train them.  I cut a lot of spare bines off, and trained about 7 bines up the twine.

We’ll see how well it works as the season progresses, but I’m happy with how inexpensive and easy this was to set up.