Sunday, 27 September 2009

Bavarian 1st Regiment 1812

Here's the finished Bavarians (though their bases aren't finished yet):

Bavarian Regiment 1, König (bases unfinished)

Please not that the 'original' size shows lots of bad cropping artefacts - my mistake :).

Painting log: Bavarian Napoleonic regiment 1

Finally, they're done. 24 Bavarian infantry, painted up as the 1st Regiment, _Konig_.

These guys took me longer than I expected, which is probably normal due to the large amount of detail that goes into a Napoleonic figure. Therefore, I'm going to award myself 1,5 points for each of these, giving 36 points for the entire unit. This is not cheating, I feel, as the painting point thing is supposed to give one a measure of one's painting throughput, and is thus directly related to the time it takes to paint one figure. These figures take me about one and a half time to paint as others, so 1,5 points it is :).

I am considering doing the next Napoleonic regiment in two batches of 12 though -- I found my enthousiasm lagging at several points during the painting of these. 24 sets of leather webbing (in white!) might be a bit too much. We'll see.

Oh yes, pictures to follow tomorrow, as usual.

Next up for painting is a unit of 24 Roman auxilia. As I'll be doing these with 'the dip', painting 24 in one batch won't pose the same problems as did the Napoleonics, I hope.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A lesson in paint dilution, or why white is a b*tch to paint

As you know, I'm currently painting Napoleonic Bavarians. When your average wargamer thinks of Bavarians, he thinks of cornflower blue coats and lozenged flags. But there's also a lot of white (a colour normally firmly planted in the Austrian camp) in a Napoleonic Bavarian uniform: the trousers are white, as is all of the leather webbing used to hang various pieces of kit on the Bavarian soldier.

If you would ask me which colour I dislike most when painting, the answer would be white.

To tell you why, I need to take a little detour and talk about paint dilution. Some of the comments I get from people who see my paint jobs is that the paint looks very smooth on the figure -- that's because of paint dilution. I never (well, almost never) use paint straight from the pot. Whichever paint I have used (these days, I only use Vallejo and Foundry paints) over the years I've been painting miniatures, I have always diluted it with water before using it. The reason is that I like my paint to have a certain consistency when applying it, and with me a number of other painters out on the web (and even the vaunted Kevin Dallimore as stated in his book). The consistency I'm after is the famous 'milky' or 'single cream' consistency everyone talks about when you do some research on the web.

Paint with the right consistency should flow easily off the brush onto the figure. Paint that is too thick does not flow easily and leaves 'ridges' when applied, paint that is too thin does not cover well and has a tendency to 'escape' and run off into depressions on the figure (areas that really should be shaded). With most paints, I can now pretty easily achieve this consistency and keep it while painting under hot lights (one needs good lighting while painting) by periodically adding more water. But white is a different story.

This has something to do with the pigment used in white paint (as an aside, maybe I should use my years of studying chemistry to figure this out :) ). The 'right' consistency for white paint lies on a razor sharp edge between too thick and chalky and too thin and useless. It is very difficult to get the paint to the right consistency and even more to keep it there. I have learnt to put only extremely small amounts of paint on my palette (well, ice cream container lid) so that when I muck it up, I can just wipe it off and try again without too much loss.

And even then, the right consistency is soo elusive that I usually consciously overthin the paint as that's easier to handle -- you have to be careful not to let the paint run off and need two layers to cover, but it works that way, and the alternative (using it when too thick) would not result in a nice smooth covering.

But still, it means that any figure with an appreciable amount of white (and believe it or not, the major colour on the Bavarian figures is white, not blue) takes longer to paint than the same figure in other colours.

I think my next battalion of Bavarians will be in campaign dress with lots of non regulation trousers :)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Miniature photography part whatever: new photo setup

One of the consistently high-scoring search terms that brings people to this here blog (except for the ones looking for pictures of real tiny men, that is), is that of miniature photography. I have written (or waffled on) quite a bit about this subject -- take a look at [these entries]( to read up on them.

As others will agree with me, the most important thing when photographing miniatures is not the camera or the post processing software, but simply light - the bunch of photons of various frequencies that bounce off of (or are absorbed and re-emitted at a different frequency by) the miniature and are captured on the camera's CCD (or film if you're inclined towards the analog side of photography). Specifically, one can never have enough of it. By far the most common 'mistake' in photographs of miniatures (including many of my own) is that there was not enough light when they were taken.

Now, if you're lucky, you can use daylight for your photographs, but you need good daylight. Diffuse, uniform and stable daylight. Hard, direct sunlight means harsh shadows and part of your miniature invisible in the shadows. As most of us work during the day, the only time we have for photographing miniatures is evenings, and it tends to be dark around then. Especially if you're anything like me and want to show off a freshly painted miniature when it is still that - so freshly painted that the paint is not completely dry yet. And as miniatures tend to be finished at the end of painting sessions, it is invariably late at night and dark at that time -- so no sunlight.

The second option is coming up with some kind of 'studio' setup where you have a number of lights shining on the miniature to be photographed. Over the years, I've had lots of setups, but they all suffered from the fact that they need some time to piece together. I have to clear the painting table, find a way to prop up the background paper, find and set up the lights, place the miniature, .... Too involved, which means that often I did not bother and settled for lesser quality photographs.

However, today I stumbled upon the (for now) perfect combination of ease and convenience -- my scanner (well, actually all-in-one printer). I can use the scanner bed as my 'studio', and the scanner lid hinges open to support the A3 paper I use as a background. Add two spots and the studio is done! Just put the camera on a tripod in front of it and we're done! The entire thing (as the spots live next to the printer when not in use) sets up in no time at all. Here's a photo of the thing in use:

The setup

And here's the result, with only the white balance adjusted (the light of those spots is very yellow):

The result

So next time I'll have to set the white balance manually before taking the photograph (so I don't need to do it in a photo editing program afterwards) and I also think I'll lift the camera up a bit higher, as now it photographs from just below the miniature instead of head on - and you start to see the shortcuts I take to paint the miniature fast that way :). BTW, the fusilier in the photograph is still a work in progress - the metals, musket and black still need to be finished.

The final step in lighting for miniature photography is a light tent, of course. Maybe that's next :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Napoleon rules by Wargames Foundry

Some time ago I bought the [Napoleon rules]( by [Wargames Foundry]( and have been promising a review of them for quite a while now. This is that review :).

Having previously bought Kevin Dallimore's painting book from them, and having seen some full colour samples on their website, I knew that, at least in terms of amount of 'wargames porn', the book would be worth its fairly steep price of €37.

In that respect, I was not disappointed. The book is well laid out, with full colour pages throughout the book and one or more photos of well painted miniatures on the vast majority of pages. In addition to photographs of just painted miniatures, there are also dozens of photos of (probably posed) games in full swing -- both very inspirational and reassuring to the army painter amongs us as these show figures that have been painted to a much more sensible table top standard. As to sheer visual impression alone, I would even hazard to put forward the opinion that the book is worth its prize (an opinion that, given what is to follow a few paragraphs further down, might be seen as slightly surprising and even contradictory).

One area I particularly liked, a bit contrary to my expectation, is the tutorial section on painting. It shows a figure (a French Old Guard grenadier, arguably the iconic figure of the period) being painted by Kevin Dallimore in full-on three layer style with good close ups showing the 'difficult bits' such as the face. Educating stuff, and in my opinion even better than in his own painting book (that, I felt, was occasionally somewhat lacking in this last respect). Even better, in addition to Mr. Dallimore's tutorial there's also a nice bit by the author himself on his style of army painting. Not that this is much more than 'first do this on twenty figures, than that and after that another thing', but is nevertheless refreshing to see a section on army painting in a general wargames book.

Now to the quality of the ruleset contained in the book. Unencumbered, unphased and even undaunted by my [earlier record]( in [reviewing rulesets unplayed](, I will continue to offer bold statements totally denuded of any practical background and say that the rules as written are unplayable. From the way the rules are written and presented, it would certainly seem that they were never playtested in an environment where the rules author or someone familiar with the rules was not present. While it is easy to explain in person what the idea behind a certain rule is or how to handle a certain situation on the tabletop, it is something else entirely to have to write this down in a way that makes that same intent clear to someone who has only the words as written as a guide, and might even be a complete newcomer to the Napoleonic period or even wargaming in general. I think (though I can never be sure until I play them - they might miraculously turn out to be of the utmost
clarity) that these rules as written fail in that respect.

This is just an impression from two readings of the rules, and I'm not an expert on the Napoleonic period, so I'm willing to be proven wrong on playing these rules, as always.

However, I do have a big issue with the book in an area that I *am* somewhat familiar with - that of painted miniatures, and photographs thereof. The (often half-heartedly finished but nevertheless quite instructive in places) reference section is larded with pictures of large (for contemporary gaming, not the old style big battalion games) units of well painted figures. Of course, Foundry being a miniatures company, they want to sell miniatures, which is a big part of the reason these photographs are in there. And while the reference section sometimes skirts dangerously close to the line between reference and miniatures catalog (or, for some of the belligerents represented, leaves the line dwindling in the distance, well and truly crossed), _in se_ this is fine. They are a miniatures company and get their profit from selling miniatures. Nothing wrong there.

So, when I first browsed through and subsequently read the reference section, I ogled those pictures and admired the effort that must have gone into painting so many figures (an effort that I can now appreciate even better, being in the process of painting Napoleonic Bavarians). And then I looked again. And again. And felt cheated. Every single photo of a unit that I subsequently examined has had copy paste work done. For example, if a unit consists of 6 bases -- one command, 3 fusilier, 1 grenadier and 1 light of flank -- in all of the photographs that I examined (and I'd almost say all of them - though I haven't checked) the similar bases (e.g. the three fusilier companies) are identical to the pixel. _They have been copy pasted in a photo editing program_.

And it gets worse. There are pictures, e.g. the unit of early Austrian "German" infantry on page 159, where even within an individual base, _every single figure is a copy of the same figure_. The photo mentioned has exactly four individual painted figures on it, the remaining 28 are copy paste clones of the same figure.

Now, I might be wrong about this (though I doubt it). The reason I think these are copy paste clones is twofold:
  •  If you look closely at some of the photos, you can see the cropping artefacts one gets when cropping the background out of a photo
  • Every figure on these bases is painted exactly (and I mean _exactly_) the same, with every paint stroke at exactly the same place with exactly the same thicknes and exactly the same hue. Unless these were painted by a machine (and even then) that seems impossible.

So, we have here a company that is so eager to sell its miniatures that it rushes out a rulebook advocating large(ish) units (nothing wrong with that in itself) but subsequently cheating (in my view) their customers by not even bothering to paint (or, more precisely, have painted) these figures themselves. Instead, they paint a few and then copy paste their way to full units. This is not good in my opinion.

Now, while that has not stopped me to buy Foundry miniatures (hey, one has to keep feeding the habit, and they had a sale on) or even to play the rules, it nevertheless is something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's not a capital crime, but it nevertheless is further proof that Foundry has well and truly fallen from its perch as the nec plus ultra of historical 28mm figures.

Feel free to discuss in the comments :)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Nelson's column at Trafalgar (and some extras)

As promised, here are the photos (notice that I was too lazy to remove my kitchen table from the photo :) ):

Nelson's column - 1

Nelson's column - 2

Additionally, here's todays workbench pic:

Bavarian infantry

For some reason, these already look the part, even though there's only two colours of paint on them. I'm doing these a full regiment of 24 figures at a time - I'm curious to know where my upper 'army painting' limit lies.

Painting log: British fleet at Trafalgar, part 1

While the smell of varnish is still in the air, I'm calling these finished. 16 ships, being Nelson's column along with four frigates and _Africa_ that was in neither Nelson's nor Collingwood's column. Add another 16 points for a total of 26 points this month.

Pictures will have to wait for the varnish to dry.

Next up are the first battalion/regiment of the Bavarian Napoleonics. They've been cleaned and primed and are set for their first layers of paint tomorrow. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy these figures were to clean up - these being old figures I had expected them to suffer horribly from flash and mould lines -- something I hate removing. However, apart from the obligatory flash at the tip of the bayonets these figures were clean as a whistle. Good job by Foundry!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Work in progress: British fleet at Trafalgar

The unresolved black blobs in the picture below are the second batch of my Trafalgar figures, the British:

Work in progress: 1:3000th sailing ships

They're cleaned and primed and have just been glued to magnetic sheets (some magnetic tokens I got way back at a Napoleonic game). They'll probably be painted in two batches, one batch being Collingwood's column and the other Nelson's column, _Africa_ and the frigates.

After that, as the Swedes have not arrived yet (though it seems that Bill from Musketeer has every reason to be behind on his mail order) and the Bavarians have, I might well paint up the first Bavarian battalion. Or the Orc Uncharted Seas fleet. Or some more Romans. Or some Swedish vignettes. Enough work :)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Painting log: modern British 1:285 infantry and support

First finished figures for this month:

1:285th modern British infantry

And yes, they *are* painted, it's just that between the still black bases and the crappy phone camera, it doesn't really look that way.

There's 8 infantry stands, 4 mortar stands, 6 snipers, 4 Milan AT and 4 Blowpipe AA. As these have a very basic paint job only (there's literally only three colours on them), I'm giving myself 10 points for the 26 stands. 60 to go for the month :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

How I organize my painting ...


One of our loyal readers asked me what setup I use for miniature painting. The key is portability. I get less painting done when I have to go to a seperate room and be isolated from the other housemembers. Instead, I try to take my painting wherever my presence is most appreciated. That could be the kitchen, the living-room, or even in the garden.

To make things portable, I do the following:
1. A workstation containing all the tools. For this, I use the paint station from Games Workshop.
2. Something to organize your paints. For that, I use a paint rack from Miniaturicum.
3. Some discipline in not trying to work on too many projects at once. I also find it useful to have an old CD-rack to organize work-in-progress.
4. Don't put everything away after a painting session, but store it somewhere 'as is'. If I feel like painting, I take out the paint station and the paints, and in less than 5 minutes I'm working on whatever I left a few days before.

I sometimes even paint for only half an hour or so. Having everything ready at hand saves time in setting everything up. Granted, this may not mean much, but several such half-hours during an entire week can really get things accomplished.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Free Kriegsspiel


I have always been interested in Kriegsspiel, the wargaming exercises developed by the Prussian Military in 19th century.

For several years, I did own a copy of a translation of the original kriegsspiel rules, but I never used them, since I didn't have appropriate maps. However, last year I bought the mapsets from Too Fat Lardies. Alas, we didn't find the time yet to try them out. One of the reasons for that is that the rules of Kriegsspiel themselves are somewhat arcane and complicated, and it wouldn't pay off to invest time in learning a game with a steep learning curve.

So, I was very much interested to see that John Curry has republished the 'Beitrag Zum Kriegsspiel by the Prussian General J. von Verdy du Vernois. Published after Von Reissewitz' version of kriegsspiel, the booke xplains why playing kriegsspiel with a minimum of rules - and more in a freeform manner - makes a lot of sense. I haven't read the book yet, but will do so the coming days.

In some way, free kriegsspiel is very much related to gamesmastering, something most wargamers are familiar with through roleplaying. We also employed the concept in a demonstration game at Crisis 2005, and of course matrix games are also based on the same idea.

To the members of my gaming group: be prepared for a kriegsspiel scenario!