Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mid War Plastics At FlamesCon 2016

Its pretty traditional these days for Battlefront to bring a few rapid prototypes of some of the new plastics we can expect to see over the coming months. This time was no exception and we had a few of the new Mid War plastics we can expect to see on shelves in early 2017.

The models are rapid prototypes based on the CAD data that will go to the toolmakers, assembled and then given a quick coat of primer. They are used to make sure that the model will look right and go together correctly. Much easier than staring at 2D printouts of components.

There were also a few new goodies for the East Germans in Team Yankee. These are traditional metal/resin models and are looking awesome!

Ahh, 2017 so many projects for me to start.... will I finish any of them?

Friday, October 21, 2016

FlamesCon 2016 is coming!

FlamesCon 2016 is happening tomorrow! Whoops, where did 2016 go? I seem to have blinked and we are at the end of the year.

So... I picked up a Soviet infantry army off a couple of friends and it looks lovely. I've been wanting to paint one up for about 15 years since I first saw a massive Mid War Soviet Militia Battalion. I even thought I'd get it painted next year, but when the opportunity came to grab one that was already painted I took it. I'll put some pictures up another time but it is pretty massive! Maybe not massive compared to some Soviet armies but pretty big compared with any other FOW army I've ever painted.

Needless to say I thought I'd take it along this weekend and try it out. The list I am taking is a little static - I'm easing myself into the complexities of running a big Soviet horde by taking a small Soviet horde with plenty of guns!

With a weird number of platoons (7) and a lot of expensive toys it is probably not a traditional Soviet list but I've also wanted to try a Soviet Gun Line... I expect to come out in a body bag in most games but lets be honest as long as plenty of enemies die Stalin will be happy!

My plan is to leave each objective defended by some anti-tank guns and artillery, whilst the infantry hold the centre and one flank leaving me with some options when it comes to counter-attacking. Time will tell if it was a good plan or not!

Good luck to everyone else heading to FlamesCon and I'll no doubt have some pictures from the weekend up sooner or later!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Time To Hit The Beaches!

It is going to be a very busy week in the Studio!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Painting my Team Yankee Petrol Station

Its funny what you get excited about when a new project rolls through the Studio and in the case of Team Yankee I'm on a real high about the terrain. I've been mucking about with making some terrain bases (more on this later) for me to put buildings on, making up car parks etc and painting up my Petrol Station.

The original inspiration to do a little work on it came from Casey who whipped up some pump signs and posters to decorate your station. From here I did a little digging and found a wonderful reference photo of a Lego Shell Petrol Station and decided that would be my inspiration. 

Painting the station was actually quite easy. I have a pile of different widths of masking tape thanks to a few earlier projects and I just progressively masked and spray my colours on. It's important to leave each colour to dry thoroughly before masking for the next stage, to make sure the tape doesn't pull off paint that hasn't cured fully.... I learnt that one the hard way.

The station passes the table top test but if you look a little close you can see places where the colours have bled under the masking tape. But on the table it looks great - especially with an M1 about to drive through!
First pass with the masking tape.
Last colour going on.
Finished with some posters added. The Pepsi poster was attacked with a knife to make it look faded and ripped.

Whereas the Coke poster is untouched and new!
Finished, on the table.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tablescapes Urban Tiles: Base Coats

I've been struggling to do anything major over the past month or so but I've been able to chip away at my Secret Weapon Tablescapes Urban Tiles every now and then as I only needed to pop out to the garage to 5-10 minutes to spray a colour half dozen tiles. Over the course of a couple of weeks it mean that I have gone from Black Primer, to Dark Grey all over, to Medium Grey on the sidewalks and a light patchy dusting on the roads.

Next up is to paint the metal bits with a gunmetal colour and airbrush a lighter grey on each of the individual sidewalk tiles - that is going to be the really time consuming part. Once that is done I'll put some road markings on, must first experiment using a mask made from CCG cards worked badly so I will be picking up some low tac painters masking tape and trying again. After that I will mix up a few batches of oil washes - one brown, one black and one brown/black and apply liberally... at least that is the plan!

Cheap spray cans from my local Bunnings (NZ DIY store)
Laid out in my garage. Don't skimp on the newspaper surround. I have a large "overspray" of black and grey paint on the concrete now. Luckily its just the garage.
Sold coat of the dark grey spray on the tiles.
After the dark grey I used the plastic lid from an FFG Imperial Assault Carrier packaging to mask off the footpath and gutter whilst spraying the light grey on the sidewalks.
And I made a mask out of two old Battletech CCG cards and a lot of packing tape to help with the corners
And this is what 6 (out of the 32) tiles look like. Right now they all look like this (except 2 test ones) so I have a lot of airbrushing to do.
Each one of those tiles will need to be airbrushed using another card template. I've made one for the smaller "plaza" sidewalk tiles and I need to make a second one for the bigger sidewalk tiles.
And each square gets airbrushed from a different direction so that when a table is laid out the hightlighting of each individual sidewalk tile blends it all together.
Once it is all done, I still need to find some fairly generic 28mm buildings that I like to finish the whole thing off.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Painting MERDC Camouflage

One of the things that really interested me when it came to painting a US force for Team Yankee was the opportunity to give them a really unqiue camo scheme - commonly known as MERDC (Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center).

The thing I found particularly interesting about this scheme is that the template is the same regardless of the theatre of its use, only the colours change. The benefit of this is that it makes it relatively easy to paint your vehicles in a historical scheme.

Of course, the downside is that all of your vehicles (of a type) need to look roughly the same. Realising this, I decided to take what many might consider the path of most resistance, coming up with some painting masks that would let me cut out either the Forest Green or Field Drab sections (I’m painting a force in the Winter Verdant MERDC variant, like the Battlefront studio US models pictured in the Team Yankee book) and airbrush that colour over a base of the other one.

The MERDC Templates
Before I could start making masks that I could use for airbrushing I needed to find out what colours are meant to go where. Aaron (the resident BF painter and font of knowledge) was kind enough to lend me his book on MERDC and some internet searches gave me a wide variety of material – thank goodness for the internet and large scale modellers! 

you can download a set of templates from the BF website here... (right click, save as...)

How did I make my masks?
I started out with the M113, because it met a couple of important criteria:

  • I needed a decent number of them, once you include a Mech Platoon, ITV Platoon, VADS Platoon and potentially Mortar Platoon in a force. 
  • It’s a box with tracks! The templates work much better on nice flat sides.
My first plan was to get some thin clear plastic sheet, overlay it on a print-out of the MERDC template, and cut out the appropriate bits. For the M113 I chose to cut out and spray the Field Drab, after initially basecoating the whole vehicle Forest Green. However, I found that in practice, clear rigid plastic was just too tough to cut precisely enough, even in very thin sheets. In our stationery cupboard I found some clear plastic document wallets made out of a nice soft plastic and therefore easy to cut. They were not very rigid, though, so I ended up building a frame out of some plastic card.

This worked really well, and the frame held the mask in place on the vehicle, making it easy to spray that face of the vehicle, quickly move the template to the the next one, spray and so on. Then I would grab the template for the next side and keep going. I did find that the front and rear faces had so much stuff on them that it was difficult to make a mask for them. So for these two faces I used blu-tack to make a mask instead.

Using this method I was able apply the Field Drab to six vehicles in about an hour, including blu-tacking the front and rear faces – not bad, compared to painting the pattern freehand!

Paper masks
I sent my original template to Evan (our sculptor) to try out. He took a simpler path, where he just printed out the template, cut out the Forest Green areas and then folded the paper over the vehicle. I had considered this approach, but my original concern was the durability of the paper versus plastic. I wanted my templates to be reusable over as many vehicles as might be needed.

But Evan's experience was that as he airbrushed the model, the dried paint actually helped to add rigidity to the mask. He found that with a couple of very small pieces of blu-tack were enough to hold the mask on to the model, leaving his hands free for easy airbrushing.

Cutting a paper version is definitely a lot faster. Whilst I have not yet tried it through to completion, I experimented with cutting one out for this M109, and it was pretty quick. As you can see, I have decided to combine the paper mask and blu-tack, as the majority of the surface is nice and flat.
Once again, I would blu-tack all the vehicles I planned to paint in one go, to help keep them looking the same. Plus, you do not want to be fiddling around with wet blu-tack and transferring paint everywhere.

Tips for using the masks
Commit to the process before finishing your assembly.
Certain items – cupolas, MGs etc – will get in the way and make it very difficult to lay the mask over the vehicle. So I would avoid or delay gluing them on to the vehicles if I was going to use a mask. I still hadn't made up my mind about using masks when I assembled my first vehicles, and now my M106 Mortar Carriers are going to present a challenge, as they have their baseplates and cupolas attached.

Print twice, cut once.
Planning is your friend. Before basecoating the vehicles, take a close look at the templates and work out what sequence of colours will work best. For the M113s the Field Drab areas seemed like the best choice to cut out, whereas for the M109s the Forest Green seemed like the best choice to cut out, avoiding a mask consisting of four or five tiny pieces. Decide on the sequence that will work best for you. But definitely try cutting some masks out first before you deploy the paint. It is also worth having a second, intact template printed, to guide you with painting the Sand and Black areas later on.

Always make sure you leave a frame around your masks (i.e. make the masks bigger than just the painted area) this way you wont get overspray on the other faces of the vehicle.

Paper or plastic?
They both have pros and cons. My plastic templates will last forever, but cutting them out did take a lot of time and effort: two or three evenings of thinking, planning, as well as some trial and error. With the benefit of practice, I am confident I could now do a set for another vehicle type in an evening. Paper is less durable, but much easier to work with. Cutting a set of masks for the M109 out of paper only took me about an hour, once I had decided how to sequence the colours.

Blu-tack is your friend.

If you decide to use paper masks, use blu-tack to help stick them down, so they don’t blow off with the air flow from the airbrush or let too much paint overspray underneath. You can also use it to mask fiddly areas where a paper or plastic mask is too much trouble – in which case, don’t forget to blu-tack all of your vehicles in one go, to save time and to make it easier to keep all of your vehicles looking consistent.

Take the pressure down.  
I turned my compressor down quite low to avoid the mask flying off or, in the cases where there was equipment making the mast sit above the vehicle, reduce overspray making its way under the edges of the template.

Masks won’t do everything.
There are just some areas where the masks won’t work – like the rounded corners of the M109 turret. My plan is the mask the top of the hull and turret, and side of the hull, then use blu-tack for the rest.

If you put the turret on hull (once painted) you can blu-tack the turret sides and use the turret top and hull side to help make sure your colours start and end in the right places.

And of course, once your templates have done most of the work, you can always use good old-fashioned freehand painting (airbrush or brush) to fix up any messy or incomplete areas.

What's next?
Finally, paint the Sand and Black strips on and you are done, ready for weathering, washes or whatever else you want to do. 

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to at least try experimenting with the masks. I am certainly sold on the idea for vehicles where I think I will be painting a decent number of them, as the time invested up front pays dividends later. Especially since I now have plans to paint some New Zealand M113s in the Red Desert scheme!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

So what’s the plan for 2016?

This year is already looking exceptionally busy on all fronts (whether it is home, work, or hobby/gaming) and whilst I should set realistic expectations of what I want to achieve, it is far more fun to dream of doing more.

Team Yankee
Let’s be honest I am pretty excited about Team Yankee and all that it entails. My copy of Team Yankee (along with a host of other great “Cold War Gone Hot” books) were read over and over again way back when and the chance to return to some modern gaming using our figures is too appealing to pass on.

Americans: I’ve been chipping away at my US force for a while now and making slow progress. They are largely assembled and some parts are painted. I think I just need a burst over the course of a weekend to really push them along. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if this year’s FlamesCon had a TY event as part of it!

Soviets: On the list somewhere – who doesn’t want to paint up 6 Hinds and then terrorise their opponents. I’ve managed to hold off since I haven’t finished my US force and because I haven’t really worked out a hook for the force yet. It will come though.

Germans and British: I’m in… end of story! I have a plan for the British but still need to work out something for the Germans.

Other nations: I spent a little time over the Christmas break assembling some more of the Syrians and I figured that I could proxy their T-55s for Soviet T-72s until I work out a list that appeals.

I’m pretty happy with how the first couple of test Tablescape pieces have started and whilst there is still plenty to do to finish them I’m going to push ahead and get the rest of the pieces airbrushed up to the point where I can start putting oil washes on them – primarily so that I can mix up a couple of batches of different oil washes and not run out half way through and need to remix.

The new Team Yankee terrain also has me pretty excited and I am planning on doing a short article for the website on enhancing the Petrol station with a couple of easy steps; painting the pumps white and roofline in yellow with a red band, putting some product posters up etc, and maybe making a base that it can go on alongside the road.

Yeah, you know the drill…. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but let’s see if I can get my first 50 points finished this year…

US Marines
With the Pacific book Gung Ho due our shortly I am definitely planning on building a Amphibious Tank Company with the intent of taking the basic building blocks of it (i.e. the first 1000 points) to Panzerschreck later this year.

Sounds like a full year’s work, anything else?
Probably… who knows what will strike my fancy part way through the year and completely distract me? I’m still keen to paint up my Armada fighter squadrons and there will be a plastic Berserker kit for Warmachine that would go nicely with Karchev. Not to forget the thing, with the thing… (and so it begins!). 

What about Tanks!
Too early to say much about this one, but it is coming soon, it’s cool, and along with the rest of the team here I helped to design it. Definitely going to be painting a few Pershings just for this project!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

So what about that 2015 eh…

Looking back 12 months ago I can see a year filled with a measure of confidence and a hint of common sense. Did I manage to achieve anything from my plan?

Flames Of War 
Yeah, let’s cut to the chase there and say… no. Most, if not all of the items on my list did not progress very far at all. I still want to do my British Comets and got to see how good a list they can be when handled well at FlamesCon last year. The Masters were a wish that I never even came close to achieving after only heading out to a handful to tournaments. I feel a bit guilty about that given I work for the company but I do get to spend my days thinking about all sorts of Flames Of War goodness that it's nice to have other things on the go.

Dust Tactics 
The hiatus continues on the Dust front. I have my extra Steel Guard units now (Thunderbolt and Lightning) but haven’t had the enthusiasm to get them primed and painted. I blame Victor for not organising some games for Andrew and I.

WarmaHordes – aka The Year (Decade) Of The Troll.
I actually did a decent amount of painting last year! I didn't finish my 50 points but I made more progress on it than any preceding year. My friend Chris Baker gave me some wonderful pointers on airbrushing 28mm figures and I was able to do a pretty decent job of remembering some of his tricks. Certainly the army (half finished) looks really good and given a concerted effort I think I could push my way to 50 points for the next big tournament that I am likely to get too (in August/September). I also took the half-finished force out to Lords Of Ruin in Wellington last year and it was excellent. Almost every game ran the full time on the clock making for hard fought, exciting games where I felt like I had a chance to win – unlike most of my WarmaHordes games. The recent nerf to Warders has dented my enthusiasm a little, but being competitive in WarmaHordes is not a priority so I am sure I will bounce back.

X-Wing (and Armada)
Loving it. Having less hobby time now than in the past I am really enjoying the casual nature of the game and the low requirements (i.e. zero) on my hobby time. I took 3 Phantoms to the NZ Nationals last year and had a blast. It was not a very competitive list (could have been the Squadron Leader?) but it really surprised a few opponents. The NZ meta is quite variable with a good mix of lists, so vs low pilot skill hordes it was awesome, whereas elite high pilot skill squadrons it suffered. Taking such a wacky squadron made the day loads of fun. Looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings after the release of The Force Awakens.

Building Battlefields
Yet another year went by on this front… in the middle of 2015 BF moved offices and we lost our massive gaming/hobby space and I have not been organised (or incentivised?) enough to make a space at home where I can leave everything laid out for a while as I paint and flock up a pile of stuff. I still want to tackle all my Battlefield in a Box product though and get them all flocked up as the roads and forest bases (especially) look better with a little flock on them. I did spend some time on my Tablescapes Urban Tiles and the sample tiles are coming along nicely!

So What Happened?
I was sitting on the train heading home one night last year and found myself getting annoyed at how little gaming and “hobby stuff” I’d done over 2015 and I realised that there were a number of things getting in the way.

1.    “Life” –The average week day looks like this; Get up, shower etc, organise breakfast for my son, walk to train, catch train, walk to work, work, walk to train, catch train, walk home, have dinner, play with my son, bath (for my son), put him to bed/do dishes and tidy up, and bang, its 9pm at night, watch TV or play some World Of Warships to decompress after the days activities and it is off to bed. Another day done. Weekends have more time spare but 70% of the week looks like this.

2.    “Laziness” – Looking around my traditional gaming group (which goes back over 20+ years to university days) that instead of gaming we tend to sit round playing Clash Of Clans during our usual catchups. Instant gratification, no effort, and when you are all playing in the same Clan you get a similar feeling to tabletop gaming where you can discuss raids, plan for Clan Wars etc. Our “group” decision was that this year we will make much more of an effort to put down the tablets and play a game or two a month. So far it has worked.

3.    “Kids” – My son is three and a half and loves playing with dad so there is plenty of time kicking footballs, playing with lightsabers, watching Thomas the Tank Engine etc. We have also recently added another member to our family and as time passes I am sure he will want to do the same thing. Bottom line, less time and less energy for hobby stuff.

4.    “Work” – Some (or more than a usual amount) of my blog energy last year seemed to be directed towards stuff for work. Whilst there was no one project that consumed it all, it was a thing here, an article there, and some painting for that. 

I am envious of my friends that have similar constraints on their time but still seem to do it all. Guess I need to train up the kids to paint.

So Whats The Plan?
I’ll cover this in another post but I am heading into 2016 with a realistic take on things, but still deluding myself that I’ll get a lot done. Team Yankee, Terrain, Trollbloods, and US Marines are all on the schedule for this year and that’s taking into account an almost four week old baby at home.

However the one New Years resolution I plan on keeping is that this year there won’t be so many posts on the blog starting with “So its been a while since I posted anything…”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A visit to the Great War Exhibition

On the same day that we visited the Scale Of War exhibit at Te Papa we also went along to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson).

The staff at the Great War Exhibition went to great lengths to talk about the different way that they chose to talk about the differences between what you would see here, and at Te Papa. The focus here being more about the war as a whole, but with some exceptional coverage of Gallipoli at the end.

I didn't take as many photos as I'd liked to as the lighting was very mood enhancing (read dark) - but that means there wont be as many spoilers for when you go to look for yourself!

The Exhibition is inside the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, a short walk from the National War Memorial.
The first stop in the tour is a small Belgium village, where you can learn about the root causes behind the war, as well as set the scene for the rest of the visit.
A selection of weapons. Walking around there are plenty of examples of various weapons from machine-guns down to trench knives and fighting implements. Walking around there were plenty of things to stop and look at.
A cutaway of some defensive works. Opposite this was a model of a Big Bertha Howitzer (too large and too difficult to get a decent angle for a photo unfortunately).
Moving into the next room you are confronted by an artillery crew galloping at full speed, a converted bus moving troops around and a French biplane handing from the ceiling.

And just opposite were a selection of uniforms so you could see how different the armies looked at the beginning of the war.

Located around the exhibit were some really interesting little signs that talk about phrases from the Great War that are still in use today. There were quite a few that came as a complete surprise. This was one of them.
And by the sign about Bangers, a life size trench with soldiers going about their daily activity. One of the things I really enjoyed about the place was that there were very few physical barriers (other than glass cases) so you could get really close and even lean into the exhibits. Looking closely these men were lifelike enough that if they talked back to you, you would not have been surprised (shocked yes!).
Here a Mark I tank lumbers over a German trench line, underneath it German soldiers scramble to not be crushed. Nearby there were also a couple of small boxes that you could open to get a whiff of the various types of Gas used.
The next room had some examples of the use of camouflage. After this we ended the "Great War" section of the tour where you come across the final example of the human cost of the war where we see an old man, sitting on a bench with his grandchild, his arm lost during the war (and in an earlier part of the exhibit as it happens).
Moving on into the Gallipoli section of the exhibit we see walls covered in colourised photographs and stories from and about the men serving. Throughout the museum there were a lot of these photos, but it was here in the Gallipoli area that the walls were covered in them. Whilst I can understand why the Imperial War Museum (and others) guard these images so closely as the licensing of their use no doubt helps cover the cost of running their exhibits, it seems a shame in this digital age that they are so difficult to see unless there is something special like this.
British and German field artillery and machine-guns.

As a gamer this was the part I was really looking forward to this - 4,000 54mm figures painted by wargamers all around New Zealand, originally sculpted by the Perry Twins and installed on this massive diorama of Chunuk Bair. The scale of this was staggering and basically impossible to get a decent angle for a photograph to show the size. The figures though should give a good impression.
What really stood out to me were not just the lines of men charging up and down, attacking and counter attacking, but it was also the number of little vignettes in the middle of all the action. The one that I wished I had gotten a photo of was that of Cyril Bassett (who was to be awarded a VC for his actions) moving back and forth ensure that telephone lines were kept working.

The two Exhibits were very different in what they chose to focus on, and how they delivered the information. Each one had their strengths and weaknesses but together they provided an amazing way to spend an afternoon along with a much deeper appreciation of the events that happened so far and so long ago! I think the Te Papa exhibit was my favourite of the two as the 2.4x figures were just so amazing and I felt I probably absorbed more information there. However if you can make it to Wellington, just do it!

For a bit more information check out the Great War Exhibition website.