Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Malakand Field Force prep P.5 - More Colors, prep, painting

As I have slooooowly made progress with this project, part has been working on colors. Painting anything this large requires a bit of thought, as the colors can be a bit darker as the figures are so big they'll appear a bit more true to life. Also, I have to remember to not take these little toy soldier types too seriously, as even neatly painted they'll still have that old-school feel and "realism" will be taking something of a back seat, anyway.

Below, the base coat for the British Khaki: Vallejo Dark Sand.

Roan for a horse? What do they say about red-headed girls...?

First camel - don't let his nose under your tent...

French officer, attached to Brits as a professional courtesy - but whose side is he on?

Serious preparations - first, I had to re-glue all the figures on the sticks. One may argue I don't need the sticks at all, but the individual plastic figs are very light and tend to fall over, which could lead to some flaking and such. So more for weight than difficulty handling.

Super Tacky Glue is dirt cheap and dries with a lot of flexibility. Elmers dries brittle and is very useful for temporary gluing that will be followed by removal - figs will pop right off a stick or base. However, it really doesn't want to stick to the bottom of these guys! So I removed them all very easily and reattached them with the Super Tacky.

So this is where the painting project is currently standing - must continue learning techniques for cleaning off or otherwise mitigating mold lines. Overall, I think these limey's are ready for a lot more paint!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

One-Hour Skirmish Wargames by John Lambshead: Pre-playtest

After reading [and re-reading] Dale's excellent review at his blog [CLICK] I did get interested enough to want to really give the One-Hour Skirmish Wargames mechanics a try. In my first reading, Dale's description made it sound like luck played too strong a factor in the rules for me to like them - it seemed like luck was more important than tactics. 

However, my re-read gave me more thoughts, so while this is not a true playtest in that I don't yet own the rules, I am giving it a mechanical run-thru from the descriptions I've read from various blogs, ergo a "pre-playtest". It is a testimony to the simplicity of the rules that one can even attempt to do this!

Since Dale gives a thorough review, I will not repeat everything that he said, just an occasional highlight. OHSW are by the prolific John Lamshead who comments on them in his blog here [
CLICK] and should not be confused with Neil Thomas' book "One-Hour Wargames" altho they are in the same vein. 

For forces, I decided to pull out my much-neglected Star Wars Miniatures from Wizards of the Coast. The goal is to see how these rules play with a couple squads on the table wielding typical weapons of the modern era - rifles, pistols, SMGs, LMGs, etc, as I don't have a set of skirmish rules I like for modern era, or sci-fi for that matter. As Star Wars ground warfare is mostly very similar to the modern era, it is an easy parallel to make. It also might get me more motivated to paint up my lovely Empress Taliban figs, and get some US forces to oppose them!

Anyway, the forces will be two squads encountering each other in an unplanned patrol encounter. The Imperials are out on a "Sweep and Clear" [formerly "Search and Destroy"] mission, and the Rebel Scum are out winning the hearts and minds of the locals all on a back woods planet whose name is restricted.

The Rebel Commando Teams. To left, a Dressalian team of four with a team leader [TL], to right humans with a TL. At center, the head honcho, a squad leader [SL]. And of course their deck is RED, only fitting for the rebels, and the source of the saying among Loyal Imperial Citizens, "Better Dead than Red, Sir!" All are armed with blasters, and have no range limit on this small table.

Hear we have the local natives, some Arconan farmers with a Weequay laborer, and droids [Gonk Power Droid, R5 and Medical, here re-programmed to pick weeds]. They live in the hive hut behind them with the improvised heat stack torn from the wreckage of a Correlian cruiser. What part will they play in the story? Loyal Imperial Citizens? Or subversive fringe separatist smugglers? I don't even know yet! 

The Arcona are armed with blast pistols and limited to an 18" range, while the Weequay has a field knife but is a Brawler, so a bit more effective in Close Combat [CC].

Protecting Life, Property and Order in the Galaxy:
Two stormtrooper squads of five, each with a heavy weapon [to left] and a TL [to right - these don't count as leaders, however]. An SL and an officer, none other than Admiral Piett! Every once in a while the guy likes to get his hands dirty, it seems...our kind of leader! Of course, Imperial blue deck is theirs. They are all armed with blasters except the Admiral who has a personal blaster with a 12" range.

Table, Imperial view East: a series of low rises in an "n" shape, enclose some agricultural space and a ruin. Beyond, the settlement itself.

View North: Settlement to right, some agricultural space with a wild wood to lower right. The greenish patches are bog which would halve speed thru them. The low rises can be hid behind and count as Hard Cover, while the woods and agricultural areas are Soft Cover. Road has no effect on foot sloggers. The building can't be entered except by the natives, but counts as a 2-level hill. Ruins to left are Hard Cover.

Tools one doesn't need for this game [except for the measuring sticks and such] so it'll stay in the box!

John Williams courtesy of YouTube...
And we are ready! Set up was pretty minimal except for terrain which I can already tell will be very important in this, like all skirmish games. Even the SW figs were tossed into the same box ready to go from a playtest of 2HW "5150".

Rebel Setup. Dressalian Commando at top, human Commando split between center and bottom. Smugglers go about their business, growing a verdant crop of medicinal herbs even as the Rebel patrol passes thru their fields...

On the opposite side of the table, the Imperials set up squad one and leadership in center, with squad two on the right behind the hillock. 

 Imperials win Initiative [IN] so will act first. In their Action Phase, they draw a Queen for 12 Action Points! This is enough Action Points [AP] to dash up all personnel and take positions in cover.
Rebel Action Phase. They draw a King! 13 AP are enough to consecutively move three Dressalians onto the roof of the settlement and each fire at the Imps [1AP to climb, 2AP to take position {2nd moves cost extra}, 1AP to Fire]. Their shot cards are a 4, a King and a 10 and put two Imps Down. Each Trooper draws 3 cards for Hard Cover: they can't beat the King at all, and the 10 was only tied, while the 4 was easily exceeded. This ends Rebel actions. As no Joker was drawn, the Turn continues.

Rebels seize IN with a 4 and go first this Action Phase.
If you go second in an Action Phase, and you win IN in the next Action Phase you will get to act twice in a row - this can be very powerful if you draw high cards twice, but amount to very little if you draw low cards twice!. I use this mechanic in my Spear to the Strife Medieval Rules and I like it - it just needs to be carefully balanced and not a game-ender

They do some shooting and moving. For shooting, they spend 2AP and fire off a 3 and a Jack. The Imps beat off both with a Jack and King, respectively.
In their Action Phase 2, Imps draw an ACE [which is a '1'] and shoot one Trooper at a Dressalian on the roof with a '7', who is easily beat by a Jack. Not much accomplished.

For their Action Points, Rebels draw a Joker, ending Turn 1.
For the Turn End Phase, both Down Imps draw Black and "Black is Back" baby! [with apologies to AC-DC]
Rebs draw a Black and a Red, and "Red is Fled", so one Dressalian is removed.

OK, so that's what a turn looks like. There's a LOT of cards being turned, and not quite enough happens, IMHO. It is hard to finish a "thought" you might say. Turn 2 passed by quickly as a Joker was drawn almost immediately.

Turn 3, the Imps win IN. Both sides have 1 Casualty.
Cripes, another Joker must've come up. Or not much happened before said Joker. No one has decided to turn tail, and it is impossible with one casualty to do so, anyway. 

Turn 4, Rebs win IN. This turn quickly passes due to a Joker being drawn. So far the Action has been limited due to the large number of cards being drawn. As each player has a deck with two Jokers, and a Joker drawn for any reason immediately ends the turn, a Turn is more likely to be shortened by lots of shooting activity.

By End Phase of Turn 6, another Dressalian gets knocked off, but both sides stay in the fight. The Dressalians get an Ace [a morale failure] but their leaders allow more card draws and the next is a 9 which passes. Meanwhile the Imps easily pass on a '6' [emboldened by the righteousness of their cause, no doubt]. 

Turn 8, the shooting and sniping between Imperial 2nd Squad on the right and the Rebels has continued, with little to show except a couple more Fled. Each side now has 2, and both easily pass morale.

And here is the situation, end of Turn 8. Not much has happened, as Jokers have ended Turns with alarming frequency. This kills Action Phases as the card with your Action Points is negated and you lose any unused. Both sides have advanced a bit, but it is a 2-2 fight.

At this time, I make an executive decision to take one Joker out of each deck, halving the chance of a turn ending. Also, to only draw cards if necessary [so if an attack is defeated on the first card draw, I don't draw the second and third for Hard Cover]. This way more will happen in the Turn as there will be more Action Phases and more opportunities to proceed with some sort of a plan. On to the game...

Turn 9, Rebels win IN and draw a 10. They spend 9 to move up part of the human commando squad in an attempt to outflank the Imp cover.

Uncertain what happened here...honestly. But the Rebels made good work of it, anyway, winning IN it seems.

Looks like they drew a '5' and shot down two Imps whose cover was flanked, exposing them. The advantage is now with the Rebel Scum!

To make matters worse, the Imps draw an Ace and AP. They spend it on the Imperial heavy weapons Trooper since he gets two shots for one AP.
Unfortunately, he is unable to capitalize on this and Turn 9 ends with things tied up at 2 casualties a piece. However, between their Army morale and leadership, they can't fail. 

A few turns later, the Rebel flank maneuver has been successful and their shooting spree has resulted in 4 Troopers Fled but 5 Rebels are also off the field. Both sides pass Force Morale easily.

Turn 12, Rebels get IN and take first Action Phase, and decide it is time to finish flanking the enemy. They pull a good card and decide to rush!
Unfortunately, not much comes of it thanks to great card draws by the Troopers whose position is flanked.

Finally, the Rebels win IN and continue their outflanking maneuver, but draw a Joker for the shot on the now exposed Imps.

On the Force Morale, the Imps fail with an Ace. The Rebels draw a Joker, which is ignored so the card will be drawn again.

So here's how Force Morale works. The Imps have an FM of '1' same as Rebels. They have 4 "fled", two are cancelled out by leaders and one by their FM of 1. They have to beat a '1', but they don't drawing an Ace [value '1'].

Rebels easily pass, needing a 2+ and drawing a '7'.

Wow, great little scrap-up! As the Imps were being flanked on both sides [barely] they decided it was time to withdraw and lick their wounds. Hopefully Lord Vader will choke out Adm. Piett and not any of them!

Taking out one Joker from each deck helped me enjoy the flow more. Turns were still a bit unpredictable, but one could get something DONE during them. Granted, I am not playing from the RAW, but just trying out the general mechanics. There may be some nuances in the system that I don't know yet without the rules before me.

Generally, I found myself thinking about key aspects of a small skirmish, mostly involving use of terrain; seizing and setting up in good terrain myself, while flanking or denying the same to the enemy. When the casualties mount, it is time to pull out as this is just a patrol, not the decisive effort.

As there were not a lot of little game mechanics and special rules to track, I was able to keep my head in the moment and eyes on the game, not a QRS or the rules. This also let me develop the game narrative in my head instead of being interrupted by the game mechanics constantly.

The system as played also ingeniously allows one to take the occasional chance and attempt a bold maneuver without it being - predictably - countered by an opponent unless they are attrited first. Think of DBA and only rolling a '1' when you really need a '6' and your Groups are broken up...then your opponent rolls a '6' and is really able to exploit your situation. Most games have predictable amounts of activity for all units on both sides each turn, which - combined with the gamers 1000 foot view - does make a realistic maneuver easy to counter.

This "chaotic" turn sequence [as JL describes it] contributes to the skirmish feel of the game. It also makes it feel almost as fast and exciting as a video game.

Overall, I can see this working well for modern warfare. It appears to need some work defining terrain [and plenty of it, the more interesting the better] as well as suitably detailed and realistic missions, but I plan to pull them out of my Small Tactics Smart Book, so no problem there.

Final verdict: I have ordered the book!

Expect a more thorough review of the RAW in the near future as mail speed and time allow.

"Until next time, Rebel Scum!"
Image result for storm trooper

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Soft Plastic Painting Techniques

I got my eyes on you, mold line residue!

still, it does make the beard look a bit curlier... and the ear.

Returning to techniques for painting these softer plastics, we'll be looking at some collected off TMP and such. Have to admit, I overall prefer the familiarity of working with metal and hard plastic to learning how to deal with this - sometimes frustrating - soft plastic. Still, have been inspired by various posts around the internet, including "54mm or Fight" blog, and the Gentleman's War Facebook page, plus the appeal of these figures in general - they have a nice balance of skirmish-y toy Soldier feel, action poses, and historical gear.

At top of comments below is the process I want to give a go - below it is the various commentators and sources so that you can use this as you own resource.

Amalgamated Process to try:

  1. Gentle-scrape mold lines with X-Xacto, cut obtrusive plastics, etc
  2. Rub or scrape with fingernail flaky little bits of plastic
  3. Soak in straight vineger, warm water rinse, air dry
  4. Dupli-Color vinyl [grey, black, tan?]
  5. PVC glue / water mix against areas of visible mold lines, etc to soften contrast.
  6. [Black wash - if strong shadowing desired]
  7. Block paint [highlights if using step 6]
  8. Plasti-dip or clear minwax / etc
Tim Waudby Yes AIP, cheap and cheerful. I found these tricky to paint as the castings are a bit off in places. Never bother trimming mold lines on AIP as they're so slight. These were washed in detergent, left to dry fully, sprayed with GW white undercoat and painted with vallejo acrylics then glossed with humbrol gloss varnish. Two tips:

1. Leave paint to cure for a few days before varnish. This will stop any dulling and provide a good base for the varnish. 

2. Work the varnish in like a shampoo, humbrol will lather slightly. This helps is set nice and strong and shinny!

From TMP here [click]

My process learned from a master of painting flexible plastic figures is:
1. Wash with soapy water.
2. Spray with flexible plastic like Dupli-Color vinyl and fabric spray (from Autozone).
3. Paint with my usual water based acrylics.
4. Spray with Plasti-dip clear.
5. Testors Dullcote to reduce the shine.

People that work in 1/72 tend to use PVA as a base coat. Not so much in 54 mm
Try soaking your figures in straight vinegar before priming. The vinegar will remove mold release residue better than soap and water. Rinse under warm water and let air dry.

A Cough2001:
Having painted more plastic figures than I care to remember, I have come up with a procedure that works well and is durable.
First they need to be clean. Soapy water works but I've also had success with windshield washer fluid (the cheap blue stuff sold just about everywhere) for soaking then going over with an old battery-powered electric toothbrush.
I then prime them with Model Master Grey Primer. After letting it dry overnight, I then apply a thin wash of Tamiya Flat Black, again allowing them to dry overnight. I use a combination of Vallejo and Foundry acrylics for painting.
They are then given a coat of Liquitex Hi-Gloss Varnish. So far I've had great success. You can see the results on my blog, Der Resin Kavalier. Go to

I painted a few hundred 54mm Army Men figures, only applying acrylic hobby paint to the bits that differed in color from what the plastic was: flesh, weapons, etc. I then painted Minwax Polyshades Urethane Stain on them, Royal Walnut color (the original The Dip technique).
They lasted 4+ years, but eventually, the paint started flaking off. The Minwax will work, for a while. If I had treated them like I do my painted metal miniatures, they might have lasted twice as long.
In my opinion, I doubt anything will last more than 10 years, on soft plastic figures, but I hope someone can prove me wrong. Experimentation is king, Baby! Cheers!

The flags are from Adolph Ramos (highly recommended!).

Duplicolor Vinyl and Fabric Coating, 11 oz. Aerosol Part . Advance Auto Parts:

Desert Sand - #HVP108, 

Flat Black #HVP106, 

Medium Gray, #HVP109,

Charcoal Gray, #HVP111

I'm uncertain what advantage there is to certain undercoats, except that a spray coat is a must for me due to saving time and better overall coverage. It does occasionally miss a nook or cranny and need some thinned brush paint / primer to finish the coverage.

Well, there you have it - I will keep updating this and welcome suggestions as I move forward with my 54mm AIP plastics.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History: Brussels, Belgium

Just what every village courthouse needs...

This was part of a very enjoyable trip to see friends in Brussels, and I actually went to the museum twice. It presently has an outstanding and very modern exhibit on Europe just after the war, which is also worth seeing.

I was there primarily to look at Belgian military costume 1890-1914, but enjoyed all of it.

For more information

WWI Belgian Uniforms. These are from the 1914 pre-khaki time frame, also called "The Maneuver War" to differentiate it from "The Trench War". The pics are primarily to get a feel for color and fabric tones, etc. 
Shame the light is so fluorescent.

view from the side showing blanket, etc

Lancer Cavalry in the center.

Carabinier at center.

Generals and such.

Gendarmerie, I think.

Transition uniforms, Guides to right.

New khaki uniforms for 1915.

Trench attackers.

Final Belgian uniform - similar to French, as always, but British cloth and some Brit cut as well, I believe.

Soldier, Askari, from the Congo. Fought the Germans in East Africa in a famous campaign.

German displays below:

I took these mostly to see the equipment.

Interesting canvas body bag with Teutonic cross.


Monument inside the hall to the sacrifice of Belgian Soldiers and Citizens 

Guns were mostly unlabeled, unfortunately. Minerva AC in the background - stupid of me not to get a better pic of it!


Lots of interesting mortars.

more mortars


Map of the German Incursion, Red, Blue then Green for the Ypres salient. 

Part of a large mural - unfortunately the pic is blurry. Really well done.

Battle of Halen [CLICK], where the Belgian army gave German cavalry a seriously bloody nose; so many German cuirassier helmets were collected after it is also known as the "Battle of the Silver Helmets"!

Some great paintings - unfortunately badly labeled and over two meters in the air...

Belgian Uniforms from the pre-WWI time frame, the "Lost Armies" [click] era. 

Excellent sketch and paint drawings of some 1910-ish perhaps uniforms? the labels were very faint but the helmets reminded me of the pre-Adrien French experiment [click]

Museum's supplementary guide - I couldn't find one for sale, but may have missed it.

There's lots more to see - hope you can make it there someday!

Of course, my trip ended up at the gift shop, which is also an amazingly extensive military book store. Altho none of the Grognards who work there spoke English, I made do with my French for which they were appreciative and did everything they could to help me find what I was looking for. I did walk away with two books:

Especially pleased about Lierneux's book, as the best price I've found in the US was $160-ish, and I got this in the bookshop for $100 [and am grateful!]. The Funcken WWI book was a new re-print, and about $45, so not a great price but "normal" for new. It is in French, which will force me to work on mine!

Well, loads of inspiration, and that wasn't all the books I got - there were so many in my suitcase that Canadian Customs asked to see my bag due to the books blocking their view!