The Good, Bad And The Ugly: A Painting Guide For Mech and Starship Wargamers

What are the correct Martian, Rebel, or X’thingion uniform and spaceship colours in the 25th century? The bad answer: we don’t know. The only right answer: if you research movies and the internet, good suggestions will pop up. SF colour guides follow strict codes and conventions. Below 1) a summary of familiar colour palettes combined with 2) an updated colour wheel 3) practical painting tips. With links to inspirational pictures.

It’s a generic painting guide for 6-15mm, although I wrote it as preparation for my own Dropzone Commander project. I will soon publish a Dropzone Painting Guide as follow-up.

Rule 1: Remember, SF follows archetypes

Yes, all spaceships and 3000 AD-tanks, including the form and the colour, are of course fantasy. The whole idea of explosions, sound and fire in empty space, 270 degrees below zero, no oxygen, is nonsense, (check this great video about the physics of space battles). And why would a spaceship need wings and an afterburner?

However, 50 years of comics and Hollywood movies have dictated the appearance of the archetypical SF cruiser, jet, tank, mech and walker. SF colours and patterns communicate: for example that a model is hi-tec or lo-tec; ‘human’ or ‘alien’; ‘good’ or ‘evil’; regular or pirate. Think. Why do the evil Tie-Fighters have big black shields while rebel fighters are represented as light grey, almost white, space jets with red lining – like medieval white knights? Why does black robed Darth Vader wear a WW2-German Stahlhelm? Your painted model will not convince if it doesn’t copy an archetype.

A catalog of 75 inspiring spaceship concept art can be found here.

Rule 2: silver, grey or black metallic are dominant

In the 1950’s the common image was the silver/ metallic flying saucer. Star Trek brought us space battleships in battleship grey, styled as flying saucers with delta wings and red lining. Star Wars was inspired by WW2 dogfight movies, thus featured jets with afterburners and wings (the Death Star trench run is a remake of the final scenes of WW2 movie ‘Dambusters’).

‘Evil’ hi-tec is often black metallic. Compare the Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the TIE-fighter and the black lined Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica. below.

Silver and black metallic radiate hi-tec, check the colours of your computer, phone, television and CD-player. Grey is a battleship colour common for space (battle)ships. White is NASA. Light grey with red lining is Star Trek and Star Wars. Often SF ground troops follow the same colour conventions.

Rule 3: Bright Colours For Manga, Transformers, 40K, Mech; Not For Classic SF

Bright blue, red and yellow are popular for GW toys and manga-inspired cyborgs. It’s fantasy, toyish, medieval knights in futuristic armour.

For the ‘classic SF’ like Dropzone Commander models I dislike this style, at least for human UCM and PHR. It might be excellent for large 15mm-28mm 40k models and Battletech mechs. If it looks like a transformer, walks like a transformer and talks like a transformer, paint it like a transformer! But if not…

UCM in red, found in cyberspace. How ugly. Sorry. The owner must have been influenced by Epic Armageddon, from GW, (below) which is definitely more cartoonishly sculpted than Dropzone Commander.

There is one exception to the rule and that is ‘rogues’. ‘Classic’ rogue and pirate battleships are often metallic with colourful parts, as a signal that they’re not ‘mainstream’ and not ‘uniform’, but ‘irregular’.

Resistance fleet

Rule 4: WW2 Camo Looks Fine, But…

Standard camo – olive drab or sand yellow basecoat or grey with a camo pattern – is a common painting choice in SF.

A Brigade Models 15mm SF Grav tank

It’s a perfect and very safe choice for semi-realistic ‘classic SF’ models. I’m not overenthousiastic, however. Standard camo may remove the futuristic look of a model, is difficult without airbrush and decreases the beautiful hard contours of a SF miniature, even more on small scales. If you go for it, try as a more creative, more contrasting, more ‘alien’ camouflage.

Brigade Models, 15mm. A nice two-tone contrasting camouflage pattern
Green Stuff Industries blog

Interesting variation: some hobbyists paint futuristic rectangular and square camouflage instead of standard cloudy stripes.

6inchmove blog

Notice how all painters above have accentuated the black lines between the panels of the models.

Rule 5: Superhero Colours Can Typecast Your SF Vehicles.

I’m a big fan of what I call the ‘superhero colour combinations’. When in doubt, I check this superhero colour theory link.

  • Strong heroes wear red and blue (Superman)
  • dazzling, energetic heroes red and yellow (Iron Man)
  • distant wise heroes / police types blue and yellow (Batman):
  • evil geniuses wear green/purple (Green Goblin);
  • dark clowny heroes purple/orange ;
  • true evil characters purple/orange/green/cold white – yes, The Joker, and Kingpin.

Grey and black give heroes and villains a darker, more gothic effect – compare classic Batman with modern Dark Knight-Batman. Earlier, I successfully used the superhero/villain palette for my Zombicide survivors and zombies.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor klingon spaceships
A Klingon spaceship. Orange, green, grey and purple

I also used it for my Scourge army. The Scourge are alien hi-tec bloodsuckers. Evil. My base colour for the dropships and vehicles is brown gold metallic – orange. I combined it with green – aha, evil. They didn’t look evil enough, so I added purple and white. Classic supervillain Joker/Kingpin. See below.

Scourge Dropship: almost a Klingon fighter, but upside down. Orange, green, white, purple.

Rule 5: Analogous Is Best For Mass Armies

I hadn’t painted fantasy / SF miniatures for a very long time so I needed to rediscover the painting style. I stumbled upon a helpful colour wheel from Sandwyrm. It’s helpful because it connects the colour wheel with Citadel colours.

I recommend to read his 3-part pictorial essay, with examples and comments. Summary:

  • Analogous colors are hues which are close together on the colour wheel. Miniatures painted in analogous colours often look fine. Analogous is the best way to communicate an intense feeling or unify a large number of elements like miniatures
  • Complementary colours occupy opposite positions on the color wheel. This is the best way of showing contrast, particularly if you paint most of your image or miniature with one color and some important detail with the other.
  • Besides a straight-up complement, artists will also contrast an analogous range of colors with a complement to that range.
  • If you highlight, add white. Because if you highlight analogous (purple with light blue as highlight, or orange with yellow as highlight, the result is less natural.
Here you see blue and cyan, two analogous colours, combined with complimentary red.
This Space Marine has the same colour palette as the Incredibles picture above: blue, cyan and red.

So, how many contrasting colours should you use for SF armies?

Not many Few. Try (mainly) metallics with analogous colours, maybe small parts in a contrasting (complementary) colour. I tried three-tone-palettes (orange/green/with too much purple for Scourge, blue-grey-red for UCM, but that was ugly. Somehow, too many or too bright colours on a small model are distracting. In SF-movies hi-tec planes and tanks never look like an African T-shirt. In the end, I limited the use of a (third) complimentary contrast colour to small parts of the model.

Paneling and analogous colours: a step-by-step-example

2002 Golden Demon winner Joe Wiedeman from Cincinatti published back in 2008 a spaceship tutorial instructable that I uncovered on TMP. The style was not suitable for my Dropzone dropships, but might be perfect for big space cruisers and battleships.

I noticed btw that in this example he is using analogous colours in the green spectrum, he accentuates panels and geometrical shapes. Thus, the spaceship has a ‘typical’ futuristic appearance and doesn’t resemble a mere WW2-in-space-plane. Thumbs up for his painting.

His step-by-step-pics below, from basecoat to finish:

Rule 6: Ink, Don’t Paint

I don’t believe in hypes so I don’t believe in GW Contrast Paint. Not as such. GW traditionally promoted painting on a black undercoat and sold their customers pigmented, opaque acrylic paint. They also sold inks. In 2019 they revived an old modelers technique known as ‘stain painting’, (diluted paint over a white undercoat) and introduced a new range of improved inks, the so-called Contrast Paints.

That said, I think that the fine lined 6-15mm models need very thin layers of paint. Thick paint eliminates the fine lines between the panels that are IMHO essential for the SF appearance. Even more with Dropzone, the models have very fine details. Thus I recommend to apply a thin light undercoat and a coloured wash – Contrast Paint.

But you don’t need Contrast Paint to contrastpaint. Instead of buying an expensive new range I use my old GW inks, and I bought Vallejo thinning medium to dilute my standard Army Painter and Vallejo paints. AP sells coloured washes btw with the same effect as Contrast Paint. Vallejo Model Colour is more transparent and fluid than Vallejo Game Colour or Army Painter.

In short: Contrast Paint is a good choice. Other options are available. Anyway, make sure that you ink the model and/or use very transparent colours.

Expert tip: I bought Vallejo metal medium. If you mix it with wash/ink, it will give a metallic look: chrome red, silver grey, etc.

Rule 7: Paint Reflecting Cockpits

All serious spaceships have serious reflecting cockpits. Blogger Four Realms of Chaos published a good 6-minute instructable on YouTube.

Rule 8: Never Forget The Plasma Effect

You better return to WW2-wargaming if you hate plasma guns because they are dangerous for humanity, bad for the environment or if you’re not able to paint plasma guns. But maybe read this easy tutorial here, first.

Rule 9: Buy decals

Decals on wings and tanks enhance the look of the miniature, and when camouflaged, even more so. Magister Militum sells WW2 aircraft and tank decals you can use. I bought SF Hammers Slammer decals from Brigade Models. Piranha sells Battletech decals.

Rule 10: Panels! Panels! Panels!

SF is all about blingbling, panels and contours. Extra lining, extra highlighting and extra contouring is advisable according to all instructables on the web. All painters in the instructables reline the panels with a dark wash and all advise to highlight the panels, instructable here. Dropzone suggests a nifty trick btw, to scratch off a little paint from the corners.

A Word About Dropzone Commander

I like large land battles in small scales. I play Napoleonic and WW2 in 6mm so 6mm SF seemed a logical choice. The 10mm DZC miniatures however are very well sculpted and I think that 10 (and 15mm) does more justice to the individual beauty of SF than tiny 6mm. The 50-pound (now OOP) 2-player set with 2 armies and cardboard scenery was a bargain and the boxed armies and discounted scenery sets still are. Not only for DZC, but for many available SF games, like Quadrant 13, Gruntz, Dirtside, Future War Commander or Dark Horizon.

Useful links

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We Always Have Paris

How a wargaming dad spends his summer vacation with the kids? Very much like other, non-wargaming dads, of course. In swimming pools and cycling through forests with non-wargaming mum. Last week I took the 2 kids to a quick midweek holiday to Paris, wife had to work (somebody has to pay the holiday:-). Again, we did a lot of things non-wargaming dads do with their kids. Eiffel Tower. Ferris wheel. Montmartre.

BUT I couldn’t resist to go to the Napoleon tomb AND the War Museum. Of course. I lectured them about Austerlitz and Waterloo. Actually, they liked it! (or pretended to, they know their dad) 🙂

And what did I find in one of the innumerable souvenir shops, while my daughter was looking for an ‘I Love Paris’-T-shirt? An excellent ‘Napoleon Crossing The Alps’-statuette, not meant to be painted, but I will paint it like I was David himself nevertheless.

Great holiday! As my other favorite hero, Rick in my favorite movie Casablanca said: “We always have Paris”…

How to paint ‘evil’ alien (Dropzone) spaceships

From the Late Night Painting Blog

Two years ago – then already long overdue – I blindly bought a discounted Dropzone Commander set. The box gathered dust on my shelves, but finally, more then 4 years after the peak 🙂 it’s party time! In this short blog I share my impressions after unboxing and show you how the effective Cartoon Supervillain-colour scheme can be applied to spacecraft. Any evil alien spacecraft, the palettes are universal.

Unboxing

Even post-hype this game is a bargain and still a must have. As you see above, the resin sculpts are beautiful, better than Adeptus Titanicus or 6mm SF, incredibly high standard. No mould lines, and glueing the parts was easy, perfect fit. A 28mm Bolt Action miniature is less detailed and harder to glue than these tiny spaceships, I discovered.

(more pics on the blog of Gemana)

In my original 2-player box (now sold out), sturdy cardboard scenery is included, Buy it asap! The highly useful set, discounted to only 20 pounds) is still available at TTCombat. 20 pre-cut buildings and 24 tiles is a bargain for all 6/10 and 15mm players. You can also download the buildings for free via TTC’s website. It’s useful for all modern and SF games.

The now OOP paperback rulebook is (was) gorgeous. TTCombat sells a new version 2.0. But the previous ruleset 1.1. can be found as PDF and you can still buy the ‘Reconquest’ supplements for a discounted 15 quid as a bundle.

It’s a simple, fastplay, but very cinematic game. DZC 1.1. had positive reviews in the past. Check Shut Up And Sit Down, for example, with tons of pictures. SU&SD wrote:

You will activate a battlegroup, you will use your ruler to move the pieces in it, you will shoot things by rolling some six sided dice to hit and then re-rolling them to damage. There is even a damage chart, although it’s a simple one. In other words, if you’ve ever played a popular wargame I keep having to obliquely reference in these columns, nothing here will surprise you.

(…)

Lots of games have transports, where you put your little things in bigger things to move them across the board. They are usually boring. But DzC makes the daring move of taking these transports as its central conceit. Dropships are absolutely crucial to combat. They are fast, they can pick up and drop off units in the same turn, and they can (usually) fly over intervening terrain.

(…)

I don’t know yet if I will become a regular DZC-player. If the game might disappoint me, I can play Quadrant 13 (an IABSM variant), Future War Commander (a Blitzkrieg Commander variant) or BattleTech with the same set.

Painting aliens as cartoon villains

Colours send coded messages. I experimented earlier with superhero and supervillain colour schemes for Zombicide. Disney and Marvel use the same colour codes: primary colours red-yellow-blue are ‘good’, secondary colours green-purple-orange are evil.

As you see the supervillain palettes give easy combinations that always work fine together for evil types.

Scourge: no monotone

Scourge miniatures are clearly inspired by crabs, scorpions, the octopus and other sea creatures. See below. I tried to find Octopus colour schemes, but they kept changing colours :-).

File:Octopus-vulgaris-4.jpg

Simple painting schemes and the official painting guide advise to paint Scourge purple or grey/metal and purple.

TT Combat

Purple is also an ‘evil’ colour. As you see above purple is combined with orange, The simpler painting instruction advises grey metal with purple dots. Although effective, monochrome or grey/purple colour schemes are often quite boring, IMHO.

Purple with green and/or orange?

Evil purple should be combined with evil green and evil orange, to make it arch-evil.

Dropfleet Commander The Scourge Battlecruiser Akuma/Banshee
Purple and green
Dark purple and brass orange, with blue

Like below: the painter below combined evil green with bone yellow

Image

I liked that two-tone-yellow/orange-green approach. However the miniatures look reptilian and non-metallic. Orange, in metallic version, is gold or copper. In steampunk pictures it’s often combined with emerald green, the paler, the more evil it is. A few internet pics to give you an idea.

Above a ‘friendly’ steampunk scheme. Evil steampunk is paler, with green fading to white. The octopus is a common steampunk icon. Spaceships images that I liked were very copper with green, pastel blue, and grey.

So the major colour scheme should be copper orange with pale green. I was tempted by the purple/brass scheme below but green/evil gold/evil copper is flashier 🙂

Brass supervillains: work in progress

I primed the vehicles grey and basecoated them with GW’s Gehenna’s Gold. Busy now with orange and other details, and shiny purple. They must radiate evil, from the first moment they enter the board.

Infantry in basecoat: German field grey combined with purple pants and brass helmets. White, purple, green, orange, thats vintage Joker, indeed. I will brighten them up and add pale greens and purple.

I haven’t decided about the UCM colour scheme yet. UCM are the human army in the game. So I might paint them in camo WW2, in a vintage dark/blue Batman colour as antagonist to the supervillain scheme or in stylish black and gold: the new Batman Dark Knight of John Player Special Formula One palette. I will post a full update when the project is finished.

Beauty Contest! Waterloo Again, In 6 Different Scales

What is the best scale for Napoleonic wargaming? Looking for perfection, I compared wargame pictures of one famous Napoleonic battle, yes, THAT one, to check what was the most ‘beautiful’, ‘realistic’ Napoleonic scale. 28-20-15-10-6-2mm (healthier men than me google for nude pics of Hollywood actresses. I search for model soldiers. I’m a sad man.)

I thought I would conclude that my beloved 6mm would finish first. Actually it’s not that simple. Check below.

Real Waterloo

(wikipedia)
(wikipedia)
From the 1970 Waterloo movie

28mm Waterloo

Edinburgh Wargames,

Waterloo in 20mm – 1/72 Airfix

Hougoumont diorama, Royal Green Jackets Musem
Willy Smout, with his 1/72 diorama (De Morgen), 10x4meter in his basement
Airfix Waterloo diorama at the Royal Green Jackets museum

15mm Waterloo

The Wargamorium

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

10mm Napoleonic

War Artisan (not Waterloo, couldn’t find a picture, but it gives an impression)

6mm Waterloo

Grymauch’s blog, Waterloo
Grymauchs blog, Waterloo

2mm Waterloo & Leipzig

The Dying Gaul
Forward March 2mm Leipzig
Mark Hornsby, Waterloo

Command & Colours Hexed Waterloo Board with Irregular 6mm

wargamehistory blog

Final judgment after comparison

28mm

The 28mm battlefield is a stunning view. Pictures and miniatures are excellent. Look below.

Penarth Wargames

The 28mm miniatures above are impressive. However, this goes with the assumption that 16-30 line infantry figures and 2-4 skirmishers represent 500-1000 real soldiers. Most Waterloo grand battles looked unconvincing to me. I have the impression that too many 28mm Waterloo wargames are nothing more than large phalanx battles with victory points Haye Sainte, Hougoumont, the ridge and Plancenoit. Correct me if I’m wrong.

For skirmish games like Sharp Practice 28mm is unbeatably beautiful, IMHO.

Amsterdam6shooters Sharp Practice game

20mm (1/72)

20mm/1/72 niniatures have better proportions. Compare the elegant cavalry below with the überfat bulky miniatures above.

Saddles & Sabres 1/72 blog
History in 1/72 Prussians at Waterloo diorama

The scale is popular for diorama’s. These are fantastic, btw, see above. The grand scale diorama’s are the best miniature porn I have ever seen.

I have doubts about the Waterloo wargame, though. Many 1/72 wargamers tend to use the same basing conventions as 28mm wargamers. So the unit size is the same. Often, gamers adjust movement and shooting ranges or place a few more miniatures on a base. I doubt if the 1/72 wargame battles with 16-24 figures look more convincing than 28mm battles with the same unit size. But 20mm with adjusted rates gives you more maneuvering space on the tabletop.

15mm

R Mark Davies

The 15mm games are really beautiful, I don’t know why you would play 28mm while 15mm is just as nice, good detail, easier painting… According to my sources on the internet 15mm gamers promote more miniatures per unit compared to 28mm and shorter ranges/distances, so you have more maneuvering space and more a mass battle feeling.

10mm

General de Brigade in 10mm

I started with 6mm when I was given a Baccus army as a present and never looked back. On second thought I must admit that 10mm is a splendid scale to represent a large battle while you still can see details. It might be even the best scale if you like a tactical Waterloo game with formation changes, squares, attack columns etc. Difficult to choose between 10 and 15mm.

Michael Cannon, 10mm

My beloved 6mm

Grymauchs blog again
Grymauch

A well-prepared 6mm tabletop, like above, gives me the proper mass battle feeling that Waterloo should have. Grymauch does a neat trick, he paid a lot of attention to his terrain. That’s the main lesson, the smaller the scale, the better the terrain should be. Compare his pictures with the dead view of a 6mm battle on a too empty board, below.

(Sorry Meeples & Miniatures, you did nothing wrong but others do it better)

Grymauch used 5-6 15x15mm bases per battalion = 30-36 cramped on 30x45mm. So visually, you have dense blocks on a small space and lots of room to maneuver on the tabletop.

And many bases and a lot of units to manage. As a consequence, Grymauch’s turns lasted relatively long IMHO, he wrote:

” I never actually timed how long each move phase took but I would guess on average it would be around 15-20 mins. When the Prussians had arrived it took longer but I doubt it ever exceeded 30 mins and that would have been moving a significant number. “

He was solo gaming. I played a 4-player Over the Hill yesterday against opponents, 6 bases per unit, and I grew impatient sometimes because 20-30 minutes waiting is slow.

So my personal conclusion is that very large 6mm battles like Waterloo should be played with dense blocks of units on relatively small unit bases and with an abundance of terrain. And preferably with ‘strategic’ or grand tactical rules instead of purely tactical rules with formation changes, because you otherwise lose track and lose gaming time managing the game/the grand battle. If your opponents have plenty of time, no problem. But I wouldn’t like it.

This looks fine, Meeples & Miniatures! Polemos units. I prefer even denser blocks, but that’s a matter of taste

So that’s my second lesson learned, the larger the battle, the quicker the rules should be. I would probably buy 15mm or 10mm if I preferred more tactical games and more detailed painting, but 6mm-players like me should stick to grand tactical rules like Blücher, Polemos and Volley and Bayonet.

2mm games

La Haye Sainte. Mark Hornsby

Hornsby describes the units in the picture as: “The troops you see are the (from left to right) 6 companies 1/95th Rifles (front), 6 companies 27th Dutch Jagers (rear), 6 companies 5th Dutch Militia, 6 companies 7th Belgian Line Infantry.”

I beg to differ, though. The miniatures are too small in my opinion, the bases look very similar. I don’t recognize te 1/95th Rifles. I see green pinheads. 2mm wargaming is landscaping, not miniature painting. Sorry.

Movement scales might be correct. Grand scale strategy, like pincher movements and central position, make a difference. In these aspects 2mm is superior.

Command & Colours

The C&C hex and blockgame gives us excellent game mechanics. With small miniatures it’s just slightly more imaginative than the block game. Here I miss the landscape. As a game it’s one of the best but it looks unattractive, it still looks like a board game.

So?

In the end love is in the eye of the beholder.

  • 28mm looks fine but subconciously gamers make great compromises if they play. Try a skirmish instead.
  • 1/72, 15mm and 10mm give a more convincing big battle look
  • 10 mm might be the best allround scale. You can zoom in to Plancenoit and play a tactical battle, or zoom out to the battlefield and play a corps game like Blücher. Just don’t bigbase them.
  • Densely packed 6mm units are best for grand tactical games (but let me immediately add that I had perfect 1/72 Blücher games)
  • 2mm and hexed board games represent the connection between strategy and tactics and don’t lopside ranges. Napoleon marched to Waterloo executing his favorite central position strategy, and lost because he split his army and had lost track of the Prussians. Capturing Hougoumont or not is just a footnote.

Stop rebasing or bigbasing! Simple sabot basing for 6mm Napoleons and Wellingtons

A common question in internet fora and Facebook groups is: how should I base my units so flexible that I can use them for tactical gaming, with line and column, and grand tactical gaming, big brigade bases that move and fight? 40mm wide? 30mm wide? 25mm deep? Internet debates can be endless and even toxic. I lost my hair finding an answer, but here it is. Three steps to heaven and hair regrowth.

FYI: when I started with 6mm Napoleonics in 2014, Black Powder was the dominant 28mm game and Polemos the ruleset promoted by Baccus. As a beginner I was not aware of other systems, like Volley & Bayonet. Since 2016 I have been playing 1vs1 Blücher, mainly, and Lasalle and Black Powder occasionally.

When I experimented with generic basing in 2014 I discovered that standard Polemos basing was not my cup of tea.

See above. Two Polemos big bases. My problem with big basing is that when you play a smaller, tactical game like Black Powder/Lasalle, such bases don’t look like dense columns, more like two lines. I wanted smaller bases that could be combined to make big bases. Besides, I wanted easy identification. Late Napoleonic 6mm Prussian cavalry in blue litewka look very similar, for instance. So what to do?

1) Copy the DBx method

So I copied DBx. The classic De Bellis system from Phil Barker set the standard in historical wargaming in the nineties and the 40mm (for 15mm and smaller) or 60mm (for 20mm and bigger) is still a popular base size. Barker introduced a system with different depths and placement of figures for easier identification. His system for 15mm

  • 40x15mm bases for regular close-order troops, (4 per base).
  • 40x20mm is used for more open order troops, skirmishers (2 per base).
  • 40x30mm are cavalry, light cavalry 2 per base, heavy cavalry 3 per base.
  • 40x40mm bases are for heavies like artillery.

Translated to 6mm Napoleonics this means 40x15mm for standard infantry, placed in close order; 40x20mm for skirmishers; 40x30mm for cavalry (in theory, well, see below); and 40mm depth for commanders and artillery. Light cavalry should be placed in a more open order than heavy cavalry

2) Find the common denominator in Napoleonic basing size

While losing my hair, I researched Napoleonic basing. Nathan Woolford blogged in 2013 about rule systems and preferred basing. Compleat Napoleonics also did some basic research on scaling for some popular rules below, more recently. Summary below, for multi-stand (a number of bases in line/column/square formation) and big bases (units represent brigades/divisions)

a) Base sizes for multi-stand tactical systems

  • Over the Hills is flexible, 4-6 stands per regiment
  • Lasalle is flexible, 30-50mm, perfect compatible with a 40mm basing system (link). LaSalle recommends 40mm x 25mm bases with 8 infantry figures on that size as standard
  • Black Powder has no basing size but the book recommends four 28mm miniatures on a 40×40 base, two horses on a 50×50 cavalry website. BP is unit based, the 4-8 individual bases are placed in different tactical formations, though
  • Napoleon at War (still people playing?) has a odd basing system, with 4 line infantry miniatures in a square on 26×32 bases, 3 cavalry on rectangular bases and 2 skirmishers on smaller rectangular bases.
  • Field of Glory Napoleonics has the DBA-system, above
  • General de Brigade (for 15mm) has 10-12 mm per miniature, double rank, that’s 36x25mm roughly.

b) Bigbase-sizes for grand tactical systems

  • Polemos is unit based and promotes 60x30mm bases, 2 ranks with 4 skirmishers. Grand scale Polemos is 60x60mm
  • Volley & Bayonet is 3x3inch = 76x76mm for infantry. Smallscalers often halve the basewidth to 1,5inch=38mm
  • Blücher & Grande Armee use 3inch bases, the cards are 80x60mm.
  • Snappy Nappy is flexible and recommends 40mm bases, two 40mm bases per brigade
Polemos
Storm of Steel wargame blog: Blücher base

So if you want to play Lasalle and Blücher, Field of Glory Napoleonics and Volley & Bayonet, Black Powder and Polemos you can choose either 30mm or 40mm. Depth is variable.

My choice? Baccus sells 20mm infantry strips. 40mm or 20mm is a logical alternative to 60mm then. My choice was 40mn, 4 strips/16 miniatures in 2 rows on a 40x15mm base. Thus I can represent dense infantry if I play a tactical game. Below a column of Russian infantry, arriving on a hilltop near Waterlovsk.

3) Don’t bigbase, sabot base!

I like the look of bigbases, however. So like DBx I glue a couple of skirmishers (4) on a flocked 40x20mm base. And if I put two skirmish stands together with four or six magnetized stands on a very cheap steel 80x60mm sabot base, I have a Blücher/V&B big base.

See? And transporting is simple.

My cavalry is also sabot-based. Basing depends on troop type.

  • I experimented with cavalry om 40x30mm bases, but 9 horses on a 4×30 rectangular base looks cramped. Baccus sells 9-horse-units
  • I considered 4/5 horses in a line on a rectangular 40×20 or 15mm base, but that looked ‘empty’ and harder to identify.
  • 40×40 gave me the option to place the cavalry in open or close order on a base, depending on cavalry type. See below.

I place cuirassiers and lancers in a V-formation, medium cavalry/dragoons in two rows with the officers in front and light cavalry scattered all over the base. For a big base I use 2 stands per steel sabot.

I glue artillery (1 cannon and crew) and commanders on 40x40mm square bases.

Comparison with other basing

I don’t want to lecture others about the ‘perfect base size’. 40mm might be a perfect solution for 20mm strips and a perfect solution for me. My 5 cents about the pro’s and cons of other basewidths:

Geen fotobeschrijving beschikbaar.
  • 20x20mm: Mark ‘Deep Fried Happy Mice’ Severin is using that system. “That way I can use sheet magnet movement trays for whatever rule set grabs my fancy this week…ooohh shiny!” Severins system is more generic than my 40mm, but appears too tiny to my taste. Somebody wrote on Facebook that small square bases “proved to be a pain when fighting Leipzig”.
  • 30mmx15mm: Leon Locke from Adler commented on TMP ” My French are on 30×15 bases for two companies ( 12 figs, 3 ranks)and two 15×15 for the elites.
    These bases can then be popped on movement trays/sabots that can be sized to a particular set of rules if needed. ” So 30mm is a good size for Adler, not necessarily for Baccus. Tiny H&R is single miniatures, should fit either 20/30 or 40, Irregular 6mm is 20mm if you cut 1mm from the basing block.
  • 60x15mm (half Polemos) might be too wide (imagine 6 Black Powder bases in line on a 6×4 table). Quoting Glenn Pearce on TMP: ” The other danger with company basing is just how big will your battalion be in line. The bigger that is the smaller your table will be”
  • 60×30 standard Polemos but with markers. “They are now in line”. My 40mm will fit on a 60mm sabot and I can change facing/formation to show the unit is squared, or in column. Besides I have 72 figures per regiment, denser than Polemos 24 per base. 6mm is about mass, IMHO.

So I claim perfection 🙂 However, as my last note, it’s all a matter of personal taste and choice. Whatever you like, use – I hate silly debates about toy soldiers. I just want my hair back.

The one-minute-speedpainter: 912 toy soldiers in 7 days

A couple of years ago a Dutch wargamer I know, mr Gladmountain, sold me his surplus Leipzig 6mm project: a late Prussian Napoleonic army with extra line infantry, that I added to my lead pile. You can never have enough Prussians, as Wellington said – in June 1815, I believe.

Last week I finally opened the box and counted hundred and thirty two strips Prussian line infantry. 4×132=528 miniatures. I fainted.

Here’s a guide how to speedpaint them, max one quick minute per layer. Nothing new for the veteran 6mm-painter, useful for the occasional painter. My full Prussian uniform guide can be found here.

Step 1: undercoat line infantry in grey

Adler writes about primer:

Its not really necessary. In the old days, when any old metal was used to manufacture figures a coat of primer was necessary (…) With the up to date metals now in use this is no longer a problem. If the figures your painting are maily one colour or have a lot of white a coat of primer is probably a good idea.

The Baccus tutorial on the other hand advises black primer! I tried both but prefer grey or for other armies brown nowadays.

  • I can’t recommend white primer, because you always forget spots when painting a large batch of figures, so I was endlessly doing fine retouches.
  • Black can dim the colours, 6mm colours need to be bright.
  • Blue is not advisable either, except for maybe blue coated Landwehr.
  • Grey on the other hand blends in. Besides, if you prime Prussian line grey you can skip the shako, bandolier and trousers later.

Step 2: Black Wash

Wash deepens the shadows. Baccus and Adler don’t recommend wash. Others apply a wash after block painting the base colours, but these painters have to repaint their dulled first layer. I too tried that technique. and felt like I was painting the same figure twice. So I switched to shading the basecoated figure before adding the block colours, not after.

The wash above was darker than I planned, I should have thinned it more. I still see more contours than with a black primer, though.

Step 3-9: block colours.

I work inside out, the deepest features first, layer over layer. So I started with the brown rifles and highlighted the bandolier (diagonal grey blanket or greatcoat) last (3. brown rifle 4 blue jacket 5. flesh 6. white belt 7. red cuff, facings, collars 8. silver bayonet 9. light grey bandolier highlight.

Cuffs and collars are red, belts white, bandolier grey. If lazy you can skip the collar, belt and bandolier; but the striking red-blue-white-grey contrast defines the Prussian infantry from a distance.

And that’s it!

I clocked my painting. One strip – 4 soldiers – can be painted in one color in 30-60 seconds. But let’s round it up to 1 minute per layer. That’s max seven minutes per strip, 70 minutes for 10, 700 minutes for 100, 910 minutes for 130. That’s max 15 hours, in other words, a couple of empty evenings otherwise badly spent on television. I think I spent 10-12 hrs on this particular project.

Sometimes it was boring and then I hated mr Gladmountain. I hated the 80 strips that he – innocently – had primed in blue. I also hated RED DOTS. 1 collar, 2 cuffs and 2 red lines on a blue jacket = 5 red dots per miniature x 528 = 2640 red dots. A chore. But well.

“before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water”, master Buddha said.

I felt enlightened when painting, but I must say I felt more enlightened when finished.

The zen buddhist in me painted another 33 strips of Russians with the same red dots, btw. that was 384 Russians, about 10 hrs.

But in the end, after 7 evenings painting, I have 66 stands Russian & Prussian infantry painted.

With the 42 Prussian infantry stands that I painted 2 years ago I have suddenly A LOT of Prussians and Russians. Leipzig, the 1814 campaign in France and Waterloo seem feasible after just a week painting! 912 (P)Russians down, only some Landwehr, cavalry and artillery to go.

Gladmountain, what did you do?

God Must Be A Toy Soldier. Here’s Why.

  1. First, I pray to my soldiers when I roll my dice to see if I can move or shoot
  2. I donate a lot of money to them
  3. I believe in my toy soldiers. I pretend they are real.
  4. I tell everybody I believe in peace, that’s why I play with soldiers instead of fighting real wars.
  5. In reality, though, I fight wars with others about the ‘true religion’. “Age of Sigmar/Bolt Action/Field of Glory? Are you stupid? That’s childish/not realistic/overcomplicated (delete as appropriate)”.
  6. I try to convert others to my religion. “28mm? You really should try 6mm.”
  7. I believe in strict rules. No shooting at me beyond your line of sight.
  8. I will forbid my daughter to marry someone who doesn’t share my religion.
  9. I’m part of a community and we have regular meetings to practice our rituals. My orations about the purity of certain rules are described as sermons, by certain non-believers, like my wife.
  10. I have ten rules. All major religions have ten rules.

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Amen!

ps: the goddess above is not my wife, unfortunately 😦 (photo Bethany Clarke)