Friday, February 10, 2017

More AIP work - Malakand Field Force Prep P.2

"You there, form a line, prepare to receive savage hordes with Stiff Upper Lips!!" 
Lord Balderdash, shortly before having his muttonchops, well, chopped, on the savage frontier with Noweirastan - a ghastly affair.

Had some less scheduled days to continue getting acquainted with the AIP plastics, and my prepping and priming job. The cheap black paint [not even primer!] held up to some strong finger rubbing with no problem. Bending the gun had the paint flake off, and scratching with a finger nail had the paint come off down to the blue plastic[as seen below].

The French officer [above left] had an obvious mold line down the middle of his face that I somehow missed in the prep process. I decided I didn't want to live with it, and also to see how little touch ups would go. I cut off the line with an X-Acto down to the blue plastic, then primed with Testors Grey bottle primer, then painted with my junky old GW Chaos Black. As you can see, his face looks just fine! The grey-primed Brit had his injector-pin marks covered with some old Testors Contour Putty. It quickly dried and I sanded it soon after, but I let it dry for a couple days, then brushed on some of the Testors Grey primer -he looks fine, too.

The kneeling Brits in shirt sleeve order look washed out with the flash [above], so I took a couple more pics, below. You can just barely see the putty touch-ups from the injector circles. I think they'll be fine, but if not it's more my fault at this point - the putty works and it's my technique that's lacking. Filing them with a dirty soft - grit sponge file from Steven's Int'l wasn't a great idea, either, but I think the soft file itself is an idea with promise.

Different light, below. Some of the tiny bits of torn plastic can just be discerned on the right leg of the right figure, in this pic. I'll try another coat of the white Vallejo brush-on primer.

Armed with some more hands-on experience, I finished cleaning and prepping the below squad, from AIP #5423 1895-1902 British Army. They have a bolt-action rifle [I assume a Lee-Metford but the magazine extension below the stock isn't angled enough - that could be corrected with a cut, but I'm uncertain I will bother] and modern sword bayonet. There are ten poses, two of each in a box. They show nice variety for skirmishing figs, but people who like their figs marching in neat rows may want to look elsewhere. With the offered poses, you could get 4 boxes and have a 2 units of 16 advancing with bayonet and 2 units of 16 firing [kneeling and standing] and they'd look fine, I think. Officer's would all be firing their Webley revolver, but some could be modified as ensigns, perhaps.

Note that figs with the Martini-Henry and socket bayonet are in box #5447 British Infantry of 1882 [those also have some different poses, including prone and a high-thrust bayonet, as well as the older belt and gear]. So be certain which look you prefer! If you want figs for 1880 Adghanistan, South Africa, Zulu wars, etc, get the #5447. In any event, I'm fine with these chaps, as they suit the Malakand Field Force era, and came for nearly nothing in the Ft. Khandahar playset! It should be noted that the Indian Infantry with turbans #5446 also have this later era weapons and gear, same as above.

Also prepped were a mounted British Officer and a Camel Corps Bugler of some sort - both came with my second order [more on that later]. Tony threw in a batch of ten sample bags worth $10 for free. Quite smart, and making me work harder at resisting more purchases!

The Horse and camel are just fantastic, a bit harder plastic than some of the men, it seems, especially the camel. I just love these camels, and will have to get another unit of them soon. As you can see, these aren't the usual pony and midget mounts of most metal figs, these monsters are good 3" high, the rider making them 4". They'll certainly be lovely on the table!

So have already decided I must have a uni of Egyptian Camal Corps with fez, and perhaps Naval Brigade with sun hats, as well. They are 2 for 1, and quite a large force of them could be assembled with the 8 for 5 sale [multiplying the items together, one would have a 16 for 5 purchase of camel corps!]. Pretty lovely for animals renowned for their poor dispositions! Yes, I realize that Egyptians and Naval Brigade didn't fight on the NW frontier - we'll just have to see who the Queen decides to send to the relief of Ft. Kandahar, won't we?

So my net will be 40 of these later era fellows, more than enough for skirmishes against the Mad Mullah! And here they are practicing their squad maneuvers in the field:

Pegasus river, craft fur field, Lemax Large Cypress Trees

Overall, quite pleased with the progress. I was a little daunted by having to learn so much new technique, but it's gone quite well. A few things we've learned and shared:

  • Dremel with sander bits, very lightly touching, quickly removes mold lines and the ejector pin marks. But push too hard and you get annoying "fraying" of the plastic.
  • Sometimes it pays to just make a clean, decisive cut on a bit of flash - but definitely use a very sharp, newer X-Acto blade.
  • Dragging the X-Acto along perpendicular to a mold line also seems to work, but the top of the blade should lead the bottom cutting edge, lest you get wavy scrapes on the figure.
  • Hot water and dish soap do well to clean off the release agent - the figs are less shiny after the hot bath and scrubbing with old tooth brush.
  • The Elmer's Glue seems to make the paint more durable - uncertain if one needs it and primer. Martin Rapier says he just paints right onto the glue, and my French officer seems to be coming along fine.  
  • EDIT: I often get some beading on the plastic with the Elmers. be certain to allow the glue to completely dry if you are going to put on a second coat, preferably overnight. Before watering down your Elmer's, give it a try and see how you like it straight out of the bottle. I find that the dry heat indoors during winter makes it dry fast and get tacky quicker than usual. 
  • I am going to try the Super Tacky Glue by Nicole again, and see if there's less beading with that. 
I've been comparing notes and such with the gang, but nothing clearly different being done by anyone else. More on this technique as things develop! Questions or submissions on using any of these techniques, or working with plastic? Just fire away in the comments or send email. Hey, we're learning here also!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Work and tests on AIP Plastic Figs P.1

So this is definitely a learning curve. None of us have worked with soft plastics in ages, if at all. I had some as a kid, some 1/32 NATO Germans, and some Old Guard from Waterloo that I did a kid's paint job on.

Our determined [and forgiving] TMP scout Queen Catherine did posts there and got some good pointers on PREP and GLUE for these figs. The upshot is that there's no one way to do it, but I'm going with something like this:

- scrape mold lines with new X-Acto blade perpendicular to the line, OR run a hot hat pin along them [!?]

- clean in hot/warm soapy water with dish soap,

- fill mold ejector pin marks with miliput / green stuff, etc
- priming in the basic color of the unit / group,
- block painting the rest,
- quick highlight by drybrushing darker bits,
- dip in shading solution of some sort for a light shading,
- gloss coat? Maybe, certainly enhance the toy soldier look.

I'm loving Martin Rapier's POSTS on his AIP armies, and they are quite inspirational. Certainly makes it hard to decide how and where I want to roll with this project in the future, or future projects. I'm quite aware that this is the 100th year[s] anniversary of WWI, and that's a pretty appealing prospect to game. In any event, more for the future.

For now, we are learning PLASTIC.

Below, several figs partially worked up. I've a French officer to left, and three 1880-ish Brits in "shirt sleeve order" all of whom've been cleaned up and had Elmers coated. The coating wasn't as obscuring as I feared. Above are two more untreated or even touched Brits, and two blue Boxers, the one on left has been cleaned with soap and water only, the one on the right has been cleaned and given a coat of Super Tacky glue by Nicole. This is a shinier and stickier glue than Elmers. Hard to see are the circular ejector pin marks and mold lines, but I took a couple of pics in various lights.

The Dremel sanding bit has worked nicely to scrape mold lines. The toothbrush helps clean off some - not all - the plastic fraying bits, and the two glues look and feel very different from each other - uncertain which is better.

Below is my first squad of 1898 Brits. They've bolt-action Lee Enfields or something, certainly look like the venerable SMLE. Behind is a lovely officer charging on a horse. Incidentally, the horses and cavalry are really fine in these sculpts, with lots of the animation one desires in cavalry. A couple of stray gunners are at the back, one with a swab and the other carrying Gatling drums.

Below are the three cans I'm testing for primer. The two on the right were almost $6 each. The left was 97 cents. But I've had great luck with cheap flat black in the past, and I'm going to give it a go again!

Below is the first round of work. I did clean the mold lines on all three Brits, but not the Boxer. It's hard to see in this view but yeah, he looks, well, "moldy". The Brits have little patches of Testors sculpt on them, already dried. I've filed it down a bit. I tried Dremel-ing the injector marks, but that still didn't work, so I used some Elmer's to soften them more, but after the priming you could still see them.

Above, the grey and white Rustoleum primers. They are on there, but don't seem "particularly" durable.

Below, the flat cheap junky black. I also brushed on some junky, beat-up old GW Chaos Black on the Frenchy to the right. He looks quite good, and will make a great test fig.

Interestingly, none show the mold lines and other annoyances very well in these pics. I'm probably going to scale back a bit on cleaning them up, as I learn what matters and what doesn't. And hey, I'm looking for a few things from this project:
  1. Inexpensive,
  2. BIG figs with impressive visual appeal,
  3. Quick, easy painting that looks good at distance, and invokes some "toy soldier" appearance in a good way,
  4. Characterful battles with a skirmish-y feel; sort of a TSATF thing but playing a bit faster and a tad more realistic in some aspects.
So far, I think the project is ticking all the blocks nicely. I also had some time to tinker and work on the rules a bit, and pushed the focus back into single-fig action, about a squad or two a player. We'll have to give them a play tomorrow!

The BIG Box Arrives!

Service was prompt from the distributor. As stated in the last post, I wanted Fort Kandahar but AIP didn't have it [altho AIP had an identical fort in different color plastic, it was in the French Foreign Legion playset - queries into obtaining the fort by other means weren't returned, so I went with a distributor]. I used HobbyLinc and got good prices and service - received the box within about ten days.

AIP Foot boxes are about 20 figs - occasionally they are 16 or 18. Guns usually have 1 Gun and 5 figs, but again, there's some variation with a few having a second, small gun, and a Fig more or less. Cavalry are always 5 per box and include officer, bugler and three troopers - you can get special sets of 10 figs that have 5 more troopers so you don't duplicate the office and musician.

I tried to craft an order based upon prices, availability and usefulness for the project. In the end, I received Fort Kandahar - in that box as part of the playset was two boxes of Afghan Tribesmen, one box of Indian Foot and one of British Foot [all 20 figs each]. I also got boxes of Arab foot and Mounted Arabs [5 figs], two Camel Corps boxes [one with officer and 3 troopers, the other with two troopers and two supply camels - camel boxes always have 4 camels, and are huge!], a box of Highlanders, and a box of Indian lancers.

Thus there are a number of large, imposing pieces like the camels and elephants for supply trains, some cavalry, a variety of foot, and a fort. Plenty for eye-appeal as well as interesting skirmish scenarios. The breakdown for forces is something like:

20 British Foot - bolt action rifles [10poses]
20 Indian Foot - bolt action rifles [10 poses]
20 Highland Foot - Martini-Henry rifles [10 poses]
5 Indian Lancers w'command [3 poses]
8 camels [officer, 5 troopers, 2 supply]
2 elephants [1 with 2 wounded, 1 with water tank, both with drover]

20 Pathan foot - [10 poses; 6 rifle, 3 sword/shield, 1 officer binoculars & flintlock pistol]
20 Pathan foot - [10 poses; 6 rifle, 3 sword/shield, 1 officer binoculars & flintlock pistol]
20 Arab foot - mercenary jihadists [I just had to get these, they were so nice!]
 5 Arab mounted - ditto.

The fort is pretty amazing, with 6" walls and 7" towers, sitting 18" square with doors, ladders, etc. The whole thing is quite imposing and the playset was...$41!!
Yeah, 80 foot and a fort for $41 - can't beat that with a stick, not even our Scottish brethren complained [altho they were suspicious with disbelief and kept mumbling about searching for a catch "in the wee small print"!!]. I think the entire order was about $125 with shipping.

Below, huge box on right, contained Ft. Kandahar playset and 8 more boxes of goodies!

Below, closeup of Fort with 80 bagged infantry within.

Below: closeup of additional boxes.

Well, couldn't resist getting all the little fellows out on the table! I immediately played out several playtests of our adaptation of the Neil Thomas Skirmish Rules from "Wargming: An Introduction". I really wanted to see if I liked the figs, their size, the way they handle, etc. Verdict: big thumbs-up! They are easy to see and eye-catching, without being startling. They are actually smaller than they sound, when you say "54mm".

Of course, my 7yo son had google-eyes as soon as he saw them. He begged for permission to "make a set up" and then wanted to play wargames with dad, so couldn't resist that. I quickly developed a simple variation of shooting with dice, melee, etc. Naturally, I "let the wookie win" and it was fun, a nice bonus. All we have to do is remember not to smoosh the figs together when they fight!

Below, Pathans and Arab mercenaries to left. British advancing up valley on right [from top, British, Indian and Highlander foot, with camel trooper acting as officer in center]. I've been pecking away at the Indians in center, but an advance by my swordsmen was wiped out by the Highlanders. My jezails in the rocks are doing OK.

Below, closeup of the carnage among the Indian foot.

Below: Pathans with guns - the set has them armed with a variety of weapons, including 5 jezails and what appears to be a Snider carbine.
They are hiding among an "All Living Things" reptile decor hill, which all the pieces are, obviously, as they've identical paint jobs. Basically, I was in a hurry to try something out and figured I could always return these to Pet Smart if I didn't like them!

Below, Arab riflemen. At bottom is prone rifleman who did a "Hollywood fall" from the heights. These are lovely sculpts; animated, detailed, characterful. They all are, really.

Below, high tide of the nativist uprising. Highlanders gun'em down.
Just visible to right are the ensign with flag and pistol, and bagpiper [of course!].

Well, no complaints here. These guys are even fun to play with unpainted, altho the big steep learning curve for that is well on the way, with books ordered, questions asked, and more, at TMP.

Overall, must highly recommend AIP. The figs are soft plastic, but are pretty clean - about the same mold lines as most hard plastic figs - the only additional problem is they all seem to have 3-5 little circular indentations on the back of the fig, probably from the mold injection. They're visible, sometimes very much so, and will have to be worked out in some way.

Aside from this, they are lovely figs, cheap, and appear quite durable. Poses are as good as most metals, altho they sometimes evoke that "toy soldier" un-natural look, but I think most people will find these very satisfactory.

If you want lots of fun for nearly nothing in small skirmishes, or you'd like to build large armies of huge figs but can't afford All the Kings Men metals, I highly recommend these guys!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"Wargaming: An Introduction" - Skirmishes occuring on a New Front!

"This looks like tough country, Sah! And a fierce foe!"

As most of Star Wars ground combat - as seen on the screen - isn't much more complicated than modern warfare [albeit the gadgets are often cooler, or at least more eccentric looking] I've been playing that out here. Ergo, altho I've a series of posts on the W:AI skirmish rules by Neil Thomas in my Dark Ages blog HERE and even stuck in one American Revolution battle there, it's time to start spreading out the NT Skirmish rules playtests and rules work a bit by period. Granted, this will force some of you to skip from blog to blog, but I plan to reward your efforts by having specialized sets of rules for each general period: Dark Ages / Fantasy, Horse & Musket, and Modern Era.

All this to say, that a new project is in the works here.

After much deliberation, and quite a bit of checking around, the adventurous souls that frequent the games of this blog decided that we needed to go big - even bigger than 40mm! And we needed to do it on the cheap [ok, that was mainly the adventurous souls that frequent the games of this blog who are of Scottish descent...but we'll have our Scots in this adventure, also!] - that meant plastics.

To make a long story short, this is what's up:
  1. More Skirmish Gaming. We like the character-driven narrative that it easily supports, that few troops are _required_ to get started, and that it is easy for anyone to get their heads wrapped around what the soldiers are doing, ergo easy for newbies.
  2. Going BIG. Yep, bigger than 40mm - 54mm to be exact. It's eye-catching, it's easy to paint, it's nostalgic, it reminds us we're playing with toy soldiers [even if most of the games aren't for children] and that we should be having fun.
  3. Going plastic. It's light, it's cheap, it's durable, and it is definitely a new adventure. None of us have ever worked with soft plastics, and I haven't even owned any since I sold off my childhood airfix ACW 1/72 figs on eBay. So there's some opportunity to grown in the crafty side of things. I'm hoping we'll all relax about the super-fine detailed paint jobs, and go for more of a classic "toy soldier" look.
  4. Going with "Armies in Plastic". With no regrets. You can see them HERE and there are great pics for nearly everything. They pics even do them justice, generally, altho I think they are much nicer live and in person. Thanks to Queen Catherine for diligent and enthusiastic work at TMP to gather info from those who know better than we. With many discounts, the figs are about 40 CENTS a figure for foot! Cavalry are HUGE and still only $1.60 each. Camels are on sale and mounted camel figs are about $1 a piece. Amazing prices - how can all this go wrong??
  5. Going to play "The Great Game". No, not just another set of NT rules - well we ARE going to do that - but I mean the Northwest Frontier. I was pretty interested in the Sudan at first, but my main club has a bunch of those in 25mm. No one has much Northwest Frontier. 

The Afghan - Pakistan - India frontier has been a wild place for a long, long time, and there's exotic beasts like camels and elephants, and crazy weapons from swords and shields to lances, pith helmets and gatling guns. Some of our favorite stories and poems are from there, like Gunga Din and well, lots of Kipling! Also, Victorian Colonials are just plain funny, a genre where the eccentricity never ends. I will admit to some final influence by Alte Fritz, HERE to convince me of this, but now that I am I'm looking forward to it all!

In any event, with some trepidation, an initial order was placed of the figs. Due to a desire to obtain Fort Kandahar, I ended up using a vendor, but generally speaking AIP actually has the best deals themselves. I strongly advise you to spend $72, buy 6 boxes and get three free with free shipping - the $15 shipping is basically another free box.

Up next: The Great BIG Box arrives!