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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Later Amorites complete

So with the grouting given an overnight dry, it's time to cover the bases with the usual "desert arable" finish, which is ochre, plus a touch of green to take the burnt look off it, plus PVA (white glue) to ensure anything sprinkled onto it stays there. Again I use the chisel-tip brush to get the paint right around each figure's feet. A quick sprinkle of grit and medium green flock completes each. Barring the summer grass effect. Woodland Scenics' grass is something I'm still feeling my way into. I have yet to find an ideal method of applying it. This time, I blob a glob of PVA onto a mix tray then dump a clump of grass on. Slopping the resulting dripping mass onto a base I use a craft knife (a SHARP craft knife!) to slice into the middle of each clump. As the knife slices the grass apart it drives the clump into the grouting, pushing the ends up and leaving a reasonably convincing grassy growth. This will only work with this particular grouting, which stays workable for much more than a day. After the glue has dried, I use tweezers and sharp knife to separate the strands of grass more. I should try this next time while the glue is still wet. But the advantage of waiting until dry is that the grass can be easily trimmed down to appropriate heights. I do this with small sharp scissors - sewing scissors would be about right. So here's a summary of what I've achieved: Added blades:
Added auxilia as 4Ax:
A couple of spare leader types. I think the one on the right will end up in camp and the other may command a chariot:
Here's the army assembled. Psiloi, Hd, and up to 2x3Ax are in common with the Mitanni.
I've now got quite a good cluster of chariot-age rivals. I/15 Later Amorites: their regular enemies include Hittite OMK, Hyksos, and Mitanni; I/16 Hittite OMK: their regular enemies include Later Amorite and Mitanni; I/17 Hyksos: their regular enemies include Later Amorite; I/19 Mitanni: their regular enemies include Later Amorite and Hittite OMK. Moreover, the Early Bedouin, in one form or another, also feature in the enemy lists of Later Amorite, Hyksos, and Mitanni.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rapid progress on the Later Amorites

So the weather stays cool (and damp) and great for painting. I power through the 2nd coat of white for the kilts, the browns (mid brown first for most of the gear, then the pale brown and dark brown) and flesh highlights once the dreaded eyes are on. Very little of this is needed - I seem to have gotten the wash of flesh colour over white base just right this time. For the latter I fall back on the two lines of brown for each eye - one for the eyebrow one for the eye itself. It's basic but these figures just aren't clear enough to try the full eye again. Then dark brown again for "lining out" the detail, and a few sparse colours for the kilts. It doesn't take long for them all to dry, and so on to the outer varnish of stain. This protects the mini from almost any damage, and incidentally brings out the detail by providing a natural shade in hollows. Thin it down so that the detail doesn't get smothered, and you have no problems. Once the minis are all done and dry, it's on to the bases. Trusty coloured (terracotta) latex grouting, smoosh each mini right into it, then use a stiff brush - an artist's chisel-tip brush is best - to "paint" the grout over each base. Then add a few strategic "rocks" from fine gravel, and wait for them to fully dry.
This is the 4Bw General element, after basing but before the base is complete, to demonstrate how the grouting is used to completely cover each mini's base.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Even More Amorites

As those of you that live in this hemisphere know, it's been hot. Too darn hot. The just-right-to-paint light and heat of spring and early summer have gone and the days of high summer are here. Luckily for my self-esteem, the temperature dropped from Boxing Day and my motivation rose in reverse. I've had nearly 20 more "Later Amorite" foot waiting to be converted from their original Atlantic Egyptian form for... well... a month or so. This is how army building goes. I buy some elements and make them (Mitanni Chariots) then I hunt around for the rest of the army and make those (the conversions previously covered) and then I look for what can be morphed out of those. In this case it's the obvious: I planned to make "Mitanni" foot from the occupied commoners of the region, mainly Amorites. So by adding some further Amorite elements I get the Later Amorite army. This is the Later Amorite army list in DBA 2.2: 1xLCh or 4Bw(Gen) 4x3Bd 2x4Ax 2x2Ps 2x3Ax 1x7Hd or 2Ps Of these, I already have 3x2Ps, 1x7Hd, and 2x3Ax - although it may prove the Ax have to be Bd. So I have to come up with at least 4Bw, 6Bd, and 8Ax figures, with an option for a chariot general figure as well. Adding the greystuff really took the longest time. This is partly because I've been in two minds about adding armour. I've ended up by deciding that even my Blades will have no armour. So oddly enough the Hd will have the heaviest armour. Unfortunate. However! I've finally got the greystuff on, added javelins to the Ax, added shields where needed (I carved some shields down from the original, in quite a number of cases.) The base varnish, base white paint and initial flesh are all done. Yay me! There's a superstition that if you don't finish a project by New Year you are doomed to still have unfinished projects the following year. I wonder if the weather will stay cool enough to finish this army?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mitanni are ready for action!

Now that I've finally got all the diverse elements of a Mitanni army - six light chariots, two auxilia (with options for being either heavy Maryannu or light Amorite) a horde of Amorites, and three psiloi, the army can now be arrayed:

More Amorites

With the Amorite Auxilia done it is easy to stay motivated. (I recently read an article that says the best way to get a project done is to start it, even just a little. Then a kind of hard-coded "got to get on with that" impulse overtakes our equally hard-coded "must get around to that" procrastination impulse.) So, a certain amount of greystuff-modelling later, I have a bunch of convincingly hairy spear and club-axe men, all converted from the Atlantic Egyptians. I add my last two Atlantic Plains Indians club-men (the ones with bow slung, and armed with a throw-club and knife.) With kilt and beards added they are pretty convincing. I've already used a few of them for my Assyrian Horde as it happens. I also add short javelins where I can. Atlantic Egyptians have very slender limbs and tiny hands but so long as I drill into the shield as much as I drill into the hand, I can slide a thin wire in to represent a javelin. But only one! The shields are a mixture. The club-axe wielders shields aren't positioned right but a full tear-down and rebuild doesn't seem worth it. I trim the shields to have concave ends and leave it at that. A couple of the spearmen get greystuff shields but they don't look great so the rest get card shields. I use the same dimension as last time but leave the sides straight - according to AANE this was a natural development of the original x-frame - but this makes the shields look surprisingly wide. Oh well, it's not a biggie. Here's the Horde, and you can make your own judgment on the shields.
I try a few combinations before I settle on that grouping, because between the conversions I have 12 figures. So I go for a 7Hd stand, a 2Ps and that leaves 3Ax for an eventual expansion into Amorite times. Here's the Psiloi:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Amorite Auxiliaries

In pursuit of two 3Ax elements for my slowly-emerging Mitanni army, I turn back to a bag of Atlantic Egyptian spares. These were figures I mutilated decades ago trying to create a "barbarian" army, mainly by chopping the shields about.

I sort out a half-dozen that look promising. Most of them wield a blade, one a spear and one a weighted axe. Using a very sharp craft knife, I cut most of the shield of each away, leaving a kind of X configuration. These will be the support struts, or at least the nub of support struts, for the Amorite shields.

The Amorites I have in mind are pretty early, with very simple kilt, shoulder strap or straps, and a shield fashioned by fastening an animal skin over an X-frame. Because there was no frame, the shield took on a concave-edge once the skin dried. One example shows the tail of the animal left on for decoration and I decide to use this for all six.

I decide that based on the Atlantic figures, which are very slim, the shield body will be 8mm x 11mm, not counting the tail. I draw these out on an old business card with a ruler, then draw the inward curves at each end. I cut them out with scissors, and use a very fine pair of scissors to cut the tail, concave ends and sides.

Using grey stuff (equivalent to green stuff) is risky with plastic minis as it tends not to stick, but it does leave a very solid result unlike plasticine, the other alternative. These minis take the grey stuff quite well. I add a baldric or cross-belt, a broad waist-band, extra material to make the shield struts look more convincing, and of course a beard.

Painting is on the easy end of the scale. After sealing each mini with flexible tough wood stain, and a base coat of white, I add flesh, white for the kilt, brown for leather and wood, deep brown for hair, and bronze for weapon blades. With all basic colours blocked in I then re-coat the kilts, add a lighter flesh tone on the prominent flesh areas, tidy up any over-paint then add eyes and eyebrows. I use variations on red and green-blue to add a border trim to each kilt. Turning to the shields, I mix a buff shade and use that for the inner side, then a feathered tan for the outer spine and tail, then a pale buff feathered back into that for the shield panels, and finally deep brown feathered onto the tail tip. Lastly I line-in most of the edges.

With another well-diluted coat of stain to provide durable protection, they are ready to be based.

There's nothing fancy about the basing which is a thin scatter of grit and medium flock over ochre once the figures are firmly embedded in grouting. I add a few wisps of field grass from Woodland Scenics.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Maryannu Heavies

Looking around the shelves for inspiration I found I had a dozen heavy Caesar Mitanni foot still on their sprues. They are leftovers from the Midianite chariots project. At the time, I wasn't convinced I could use heavy foot, given that the Midianite elite rode around on chariots. But there they were, so I picked them as an easy project.

Caesar Mitanni are produced in a hardish plastic which resists many base-coat techniques. They also have a certain amount of warping caused by packaging. I used very hot water to straighten spears, and "set" them in cold water. This technique is not foolproof: as minis heat up again the warp can return. Once cleaned up and washed with detergent, I used Tamiya Black paint to undercoat. This is a very hardy paint that grips plastic better than other acrylics do. Once fully dry, I smudge-coated each with white. ("Smudge" is midway between dry and wet - a good amount of paint coats all raised surfaces but hollows are left lightly brushed.)

Because the heavies are clad from top of helm to ankle in bronze-studded leather, I use an unorthodox approach to the next stage. Normally, flesh comes first then one paints in order from undergarment to outer to equipment. But in this case a wash with a light leather colour (a mix of yellow and leather) provides a large short-cut.

Flesh is next. This is a calculated risk, because I have yet to dry-brush with bronze. The bronze dry-brushing convincingly conveys the bronze-studded effect to their outer armour and shield. I've found with previous attempts that the dry-brushing needs to be fairly accurate, so I'm hopeful I won't have to re-touch the flesh too much. The idea is that only a second, lighter flesh tone will be needed later.

Once the bronze is on, dry-brushed with a fairly moist brush, the heavies are looking very close to complete. But that's an illusion: there's quite a bit of detail to go! They wear a variety of sleeved, sleeveless, calf- and full-length robes under the armour. (Caesar sculpting ought to show archers with sleeved garments with a wrist-guard, but it's not present.) So now we're returning to the "traditional" approach of painting from the inner, out.

I paint fabric over with white or yellow. This includes the tassel of each helmet. I also put a thin wash of white or yellow onto the central square of each shield. Next, I paint over most yellows with red, or at least add a red band on a fabric panel. For the whites, I add a variety of colour: maybe one has solid light blue, another solid white, another a blue stripe. It should be a lot more detailed but simple often looks better.

With the fabric finished it's time to move on to the browns. With a yellow-leather I go over each shield inner, then adding a deeper brown I paint spear shafts and bows, and finally beards.

Now that all basic colours have been completed, it's time to add the extra detail and touchups. The main portion of this for these figures is simply the second run of flesh, done in a much lighter tone and concentrating only on the raised surfaces. This both removes the bronze dry-brushing that carried over to the original flesh coat, and picks out flesh dimensions. Otherwise the fine detail is simply a few corrections of over-paints, and arrow shafts and fletching.

Next the hardest part of any true 1:72 mini: the eyes. Probably nine in ten mini painters have steadier hands and better eyes than me, so let's just say a procedure that often works is this:

  • get the flesh highlights done (above)
  • put a patch of white into each eye socket
  • put a very thin line of brown onto each eyebrow, or just under the helm rim if the helm sits low
  • try to work a second very thin line of brown from the outer, lower eye socket across to the centre, and perhaps leave a small extra brown mark where the pupil could be. The ideal result looks like a comma on its side, curl upward, but just a smaller horizontal line of brown than the brow line will work.
  • mix tan/leather and white to a deeper shade than the face base flesh, and with it, draw a diagonal line from the inner eye socket, side of nose and to the cheek.
  • mix tan and white to a pale, pale tan, and re-highlight the nose, cheekbones, and possibly the brow between the eyebrows, especially if you ended up with a unabrow look.
A few "gold-bronze" highlights on the armour, and the minis are ready for varnishing. I use an acrylic stain, very tough and flexible. The stain provides the effect of lining and shadowing, without needing to work for it, though the trade-off is that white looks dirty-white.

These lads are good to go to basing. I'm adding a couple of previously-completed spearmen retrieved from the Hittites. They always looked out of place. This brings me to four heavy archers, and ten spearmen. I do a 4Bw base, a 4Sp base (which will probably be used as 4Bd for Canaanites) and two 3Sp bases, which can be used as Ax for my Mitanni, though not convincingly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


HaT's Greek Catapults

Additions for DBA2.2 armies Later Hoplites (Phokians) and Syracusans

With spring comes daylight saving and with daylight saving comes enough light to work on projects during the evening! Having just completed a HOTT army in 28mm, I turned my attention to an easy project for DBA in 1:72 - HaT's Greek Catapults.

These are probably not particularly historical outside of Syracuse's floreat. HaT does tend to do pretty detailed research though, and besides, I'm not that fussy. So, what do you get?

The pack contains four catapult kits, and enough crew to provide up to six per engine. The crew is very simple but well thought-out: one man with a bolt (roughly javelin sized) two with rocks, two holding an arm out as though they were adjusting something (on opposite sides so you can use both) and one in windlass-cranking position. Four crew is plenty to place on a DBA base so I reserved a couple from each pack to use as camp followers or such like.

The catapult is of a proto-ballista design, essentially a giant cranequin on a trestle stand. The trestle is perhaps the least likely part of the model, but a siege engineer might have erected such a thing. The catapult certainly couldn't be transported on it.

That's a finished model, though not taken at the greatest angle. The figures were very easy to finish with a sharp craft knife, and the catapult needed a little work on mould lines. The plastic is of the rubbery kind HaT often favours, so super-glue worked fine to stick the catapult parts together. Once cleaned up and washed in  normal hot dish-washing water and detergent, they took the base varnish perfectly. HaT is very reliable for this. I did not bother to base paint the catapult and just laid various browns over the base varnish, then a final sealing coat of tough varnish. I base coated the crew in white, and since they are dressed so simply the job of adding flesh, hair, another layer of white to make the white tunics really white, then light flesh colour over the first flesh tone and the eyes (always the hardest in this scale!) The javelin and a sword for one crew were the only other detail I can recall. Oh, the  rocks were a bit of a nuisance, but by using a fine detail brush I managed to make the rock not look like part of the hand or vice versa.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mitanni Chariots Finished

Put the "green sprinkles" over the ochre terrain, just enough to suggest a sparse thorny desert vegetation. They ought to match the original two Mitanni chariots but I'm not sure they will. But good enough for a combined 6-chariot army!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Make with the Mitanni

Another Chariot army beckons as I make a start one four more Mitanni chariots by Caesar Miniatures. These are the elite of the Mesopotamian power, known as Mariyannu, or Mariyanni. (Presumably the Egyptians knew them as Mrt, and the nation as Mrtt - I see references to Martu = Amorite.)

The next question is, what do I use for foot? The Mariyanni elite lorded it over a mixed Mesopotamian/Anatolian bunch. I think I can probably morph over my Syrian Ax and Mesopotamian Hd, and maybe add a few elements from the HaT Assyrian Allied Infantry I have yet to do anything with - I bought those to be the core foot for an Urartu army.

Taking a step back briefly, I have to admit that this is yet another of the slightly bogus, nearly imaginary armies the DBA lists are so full of. I'm not saying it's dead wrong mind you, only that the sources have probably not grasped its place in history (or geography to some extent).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feudal English IV/23 are done at last

Continued fine weather saw me finish the (re)basing in short order. I've selected a beige ground base on card stock, covered with scattered stones, then fairly thick green cover and fine flock over that. I'm hoping the overall look mixes pretty well with the other North-Western Europe armies. Bases should suggest reasonably good going, suitable for the Arable nature of they and most of their opponents.

Here's the army on my Picasaweb album

And speaking of opponents what good potential I have for building a few more! Edward, one of the most aggressively evil English rulers, fought or sent his captains to fight in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, several French regions and Navarre, and of course England. So far all I can cover of those is Scotland, though some of my Crusaders will morph with French.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Edward I's Chivalry Has Nearly Assembled

Wow, how many months has it been since I started trimming out the Strelets "Edward I" pack? With the weather improved and other things under control I've been pushing myself to hit the basement after work each day, plugging away for maybe half an hour. Yesterday I finished lining out the knights and today, varnish all assembled figures and pasted flags.

The flags are a new thing for me. Most wargamers use them big-time but my pieces get a bit knocked around so I've been very conservative about flags and banners. I think to date only two other armies have a paper banner. These lads will have about half a dozen of various sizes.

Basing and re-basing beckons. The chivalry will become knights and cavalry for the Feudal English, and their foot have very bland flock bases, not up to my current standard.