Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My first 6mm scratch build: Russian House.

Since I started on a 6mm WWII project (rules included), I found that I did not like most of the commercially available terrain. Especially the price. I really like GHQ's metal cast buildings, but there isn't much variety and I don't like the price knowing I am going to be needing a lot of these.

So I figured I would try my hand at scratch building one. I picked up some styrene at the hobby shop and gave it a go.

Not too difficult if you keep it simple. The windows were a little fiddly, and the roof was tricky to figure out how to do thatch. But I learned a lot and I think I have a good process in mind for cranking some of these out. I need to start making templates for windows and doors and other common parts.

The house is mostly plastic sheet and strip styrene. The thatch is made from static grass mat (paper backed) glued down to the styrene roof. After you coat it with a thinned down layer of brown paint and hit it with a coat of brown primer it stiffens up and can be drybrushed easily.

I think it might be just a tad too large for the GHQ infantry. I do want to be able to place 1" bases in the buildings though...so these roofs lift off.

More to come. I plan to add more houses, barns, fences and all kinds of stuff.


A Matter of Scale...

The pic below is for any of my non gamer friends who wander here from Facebook. This shows the differences in scale used in wargaming. I guess I should be more precise: Scale is an expression of size in terms of relation to the original. So a 1/48 scale model is 48 times smaller than the original. Put in these terms, I am a 1:1 scale model of a human :)

However, us wargamers have taken, inaccurately, to using the term "scale" when we refer to the various sizes of miniatures on the market. What we should be saying is "size". Size is expressed usually in mm and is the most common way of describing a miniature's size category. So a 28mm miniature is 28mm tall from the bottoms of the feet to the eyes or the top of the head. There are a bunch of different scales. The most common are 15, 20, 25/28, and 40 mm. There are also 2, 6, 10, and 54mm.



Each of these "sizes" is supposed to have a corresponding "scale". Except many don't. For example, 15mm minis are supposed to scale out at 1/100 while 28mm is supposed to be 1/48 or 1/56 or whatever the maker decides he wants to call it. Worse yet, the sculptors mix various scales on the same model. This is what I call "stylization". In essence, each sculptor has his own way of sculpting the various details of a model. Different sculptors emphasize different things. Hands and weapons are often bigger. The head might be smaller, the legs shorter, and the arms stubbier than a real human shrunk to the same "scale". Sometimes details are exaggerated or missing altogether.

Part of this is deliberate on the part of the sculptor and for a simple reason: aesthetic value and style choice.

Part of this is due to the material used to sculpt masters and the material miniatures are cast in (thicker weapons cast in metal will bend or break less easily). Some of it is skill level. Some of it is because some sculptors like to leave off fine detail to make painting a miniature easier or cut details very deeply. Sharp edges and defined details make for a great model to paint, if not always completely realistic looking. The brush picks out the details and sharp edges much easier this way. I personally like miniatures in a more defined, and slightly exaggerated style for this reason alone.

Sometimes the limitation is the size of the miniature. It is harder to sculpt realistic miniatures in 6mm without them being so thin and frail as to be fragile. Plus the human eye needs some exaggerations at smaller sizes to be able to pick up exactly what the viewer is looking at and for the miniature to be recognizable.

There is also this thing called "scale creep". This is a phenomena whereby over the years, miniature sculptors and manufacturers keep making their miniatures bigger. So "25mm" miniatures from 20 years ago are now "28mm" while the old "25s" are closer to today's 20mm minis. And it goes on and on like this. There are a variety of theories on this and endless arguments. Suffice to say stuff keeps changing. This really irritates the pedantic among the wargaming community. Most of us just buy the minis we like, paint them, and play wargames. So today, there is even the category of "30mm" or even "32mm" or "Heroic 28mm" scale miniatures. A good deal of it is just marketing.

Us wargamers like new and shiny.

A lot.

The pic below shows several common "scales" I had sitting on my desk:

The mini on the left is a base of five 6mm German WWII minis from GHQ.

The mini in the middle is my 28mm Pennsylvania Provincial from Eureka.

The mini on the left is my recently finished 15mm Pennsylvania Provincial from Blue Moon/Old Glory.

The other item seen here is this thing called a "Penny". Sometimes they can be found on the ground or on the floor of the car. I realize these are not commonly seen in our plastic money age...but Lincoln is there for size reference anyway.

(edit: I just realized the "grass" on the bases of these minis is all from the same source. The same "scale" grass. Funny how on the 6mm mini that grass is waist deep grass found on the steppes of Russia, while on the 28mm mini it is well groomed golf course fairway grass, and on the 15mm mini it is what my yard usually looks like for most of the summer).

Obligatory Work Table Shot.

It's my work table. Ikea Brand folding desk. Everything goes inside nicely when I need it to. The damn thing is so heavy from the unpainted lead and model collection I am afraid it is putting strain on the floor joists.

15mm French & Indian War Project.

At Historicon last year, and again at Fall In, I picked up a sizable collection of Blue Moon/Old Glory's new 15mm F&I line. It is an excellent range if miniatures, and they have done an amazing job of creating a complete range. It includes virtually everything you could think of for a F&I range: British, French, Provincials, Indians, Rangers, civilians, militia, officers, Light Infantry, artillery, canoes...even scenery with a complete range of cabins, forts, and homesteads. I always look for one stop shopping when I start a project. I like to be able to use one manufacturer for a complete range. This allows me to do that and then some. It didn't take long for them to release the range either, which is always a plus.

The miniatures are well sculpted and cast with very little work needing to be done for cleanup and prep. The range has a nice variety of poses with enough in each pack of 30 to do units of 10 without repeating. In fact, the Indians are 30 unique sculpts which is impressive. There are only a few models I did not like and will not be using. Considering how picky I am that is saying something.

Also, they are pretty cheap. Especially if you are an Old Glory Army member which gets you that 40% discount. They are usually 30 minis per pack for $14. Not bad.

My few quibbles are that the faces on the Brits and other Europeans are not as crisp and clean as they could be, especially compared to the Indians. The other quibble is that the Provincials uniform is not the one I was looking for. The cuffs are different and actually look like they simply took the marching models from their British Advancing pack and added some command models to make a "unique" Provincials pack. I cannot tell the difference between the models. But that's ok. I found it was an easy matter of using an X-Acto to cut off the cuffs of the British Regulars Skirmishers and then just paint the correct cuffs on. No big deal.

One minor thing that might be more important to other people interested in these minis: they are "tall" 15mm minis. Probably average around 18mm, so they might not mix with other manufacturers. I haven't compared them to others myself though. But, to me that's no big deal since I will be doing all of my F&I in this scale from the same range.

I picked up the following packs:

1 Pack of Indians.
1 Pack of Provincials.
2 Packs of British Regulars Skirmishing.
1 Pack of Militia.
2 Cabins.

I used the command models (NCOs, Color Bearer, and Drummer) from the Provincials pack and combined it with 2 of the British Regulars Skirmishing packs to make a force of 60 men from the 1st Battalion of the Pennsylvania Provincials. These were the "regulars" of the colonies raised to bolster the forces of the King's Army sent across the Atlantic to fight in North America. Each colonial government raised units of Provincials and they provided them with uniforms, equipment, and sometimes muskets (though many Pennsylvania Provincials were asked to bring their own musket and a blanket).

The quality of these units ranged from good to very poor. I don't think the Provincials get enough credit for their efforts in the war. I have heard someone on my Mother's side (Markey) served in the F&I War in PA, but beyond that I don't know. That is something I really want to research. That is kind of surprising to me, considering most of that side of the family was Brethren and non-resistant (meaning they would not fight in wars or resist violence). Somehow this PA Brethren family from Switzerland who came her in 1732 still managed to fight in every American war but WWI.

Anyway...I love the color of the PA Provincials uniforms: Green jackets and red facings and cuffs. Later this was switched to an all green uniform, and even later to blue. But I like the green and red. Very sharp looking. The buff colored leggings finish off the scheme rather well I think.

Company A, First Battalion, 1st Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot.

These Provincials will be supported by 30 men of the Associators Militia. These men were raised as volunteers to fight during the days when the Pennsylvania government, dominated by Pacifist Quakers, refused to fund or raise forces to defend the colony. These volunteers were the first line of defense against the French and Indian raids that struck the PA backcountry like a wave beginning in the summer of 1755 after the defeat of Braddock on the Monongahela.

B Company, Lancaster County Associators (my own made up unit).

The Indians I plan on using as some of the few tribal warriors allied with the British. These will be a tough band of loyal Delaware or Shawnee who lived among the British and were nearer to their trade outposts. They could just as easily be a band of Iroquois who took up the hatchet with the British...or if need be, they can double as French allied Indians (also Delaware or Shawnee) from Western PA, the Ohio Country, or the Pays den Haut.

Mean looking Delaware warband ready to loot the dead and pillage the wreckage. I mean, errr, follow their Sachem to glory and fame on the battlefield.

The two cabins I picked up are generic enough to be used as any farm or settlement in the backcountry. The best thing about them is that they have lift off roofs, which makes placing units inside easy.

Cabin with unpainted snake rail fence. Though it could just be freshly cut timber...

I also did some conversions on these models. Besides cutting the cuffs down and painting the right ones on, I also did a weapon swap to make an NCO. I took one of the pointing officers from the Provincials pack and snipped off the musket arm of a British Regular and added it across his chest like the model on the right. The NCO on the left is just one of the models from the Provincials pack but with the cast spear pole replaced by brass rod. This way, I have two NCOs per unit. I can keep two in the unit or use just one and decide whether I want him armed with a pole arm or musket.

Here is a pic of one of the two Sachems in the pack...or at least Indians that look like they are bossing the others around.

And another Sachem.

Hope you like them! They will be going up against my friend Rob's French from Blue Moon/Old Glory.