Friday, 5 August 2011

The Guns of August

Coming back from holiday always seems to remind me of the things which I should have finished off before I grabbed my passport and ran out the door with my suitcase. While on holiday I reminded myself that I'd left a few loose ends on the Blog before I left. In the spirit of tidying them up, I thought I'd spend the next couple of posts on artillery building, figure basing, figure painting and some terrain making tips (and disasters) from the Flanders front.

All the Kaiser's Men

I've wanted to build up my German forces for "Through the Mud and the Blood" for a while. Over the past couple of years, I've bought quite a few heavy weapons and support weapons for the German forces, without really having much of a plan for building them up into a coherent force. I'd managed to paint a few machine guns, but anything with the ability to stop the waves of British (and shortly French) tanks surging over the tabletop had been absent from my 28mm collection. I'd managed to survive with borrowed units in the games we've been playing, but I felt it was time to make some improvements!

So first off, I dug out a selection of half-started figures which had been based (but not much else) and some figures which hadn't even been primed yet. This included three 7.7cm Feldkanone 96 n.A. artillery guns, a couple of 3.7cm TAK Rheinmetall in starrer Räderlafette anti-tank guns, a couple of 13mm T-Gewehre anti-tank rifles, a two-man flammenwerfer, a 7.58cm Leichter Minenwerfer n/A, a Granatenwerfer 16 and a sled mounted Maxim heavy machine gun. I also included a large squad of figures which I could convert to use as engineers or sturmpioneers for anti-tank duties, and a few Big Men to add some backbone into my German forces generally.

Renegade Miniatures' and Great War Miniatures' 7.7cm Feldkanone 96 n.A. artillery guns

The 77mm artillery pieces come as a jumble of parts, and more than a cursory glance at the excellent Landships site is recommended if you ever fancy putting one of these chaps together. I had two types - one from Great War Miniatures and one from Renegade.

I found that the Renegade version was quite difficult to put together, and resorted to pinning the gun shield to the gun trail using brass wire for increased stability. I like to feel that when I pick up an artillery piece to paint or game with that it's not going to collapse in my hands (…been there, got that T-shirt…), and I think the pinning really helps make the model more stable. Even so, assembly of the Renegade 77mm is a chore and not a pleasure.

By contrast, the wheels fix reasonably easily to the gun shield, and after a few dry-runs I found that easiest to glue the wheels to the shield before adding the gun trail.

I tend to use fast drying araldite (an epoxy resin glue) for modelling as I find it's less brittle than super-glue over a long time. But using the epoxy to get the Renegeade 77mm piece to fit together was challenging, so I used very small amount of superglue just to hold everything in place until the araldite epoxy set.

The trail spike on the Renegade 77mm gun is very nice but needed some work to file down to the right width to fit with the gun trail.

By contrast, the Great War Miniatures model was easier to assemble and needed less cursing … errr...a little less energy to make sure everything set in place. Here's the two side by side, with the Renegade on the left.

For ease of assembly, I'd give the Renegade gun 2 out of 5 star shells, and the Great War Miniatures' gun 4 out of 5 star shells.

Great War Miniatures' 3.7cm TAK Rheinmetall in starrer Räderlafette

By contrast, the tiny 37mm anti-tank gun produced by Great War Miniatures went together perfectly, with no problems. 600 of these guns had been produced by the end of 1918, with the aim of attempting to halt allied armour breaking through German defensive lines. The wheels, gun trail and very small barrel all fit perfectly, making a really attractive model. 5 out of 5 star shells for this kit.

I find painting artillery pieces can be a bit of a pain. You don’t want to handle them, but at the same time you don’t want to glue them onto a base and struggle to paint all the difficult corners. My solution is to use old paint-brushes or spare chopsticks (I like sushi!) to hold the artillery pieces in place while painting is on-going. An old jar of sand into which the chopstick is stuck prevents them toppling over….

Great War Miniatures – Sturmpioneers/ Engineers

None of the 28mm manufacturers seem to make German sturmpioneers or engineers, so I set about trying to convert some Great War Miniatures figures to be suitable for the role. What I was trying to do was get a squad of figures which would be recognisable on the tabletop as “something different”.

I decided to double up the figures on the bases (2 per 40mm circular base) to make them stand out. Additional “concentration charges” of 6 or 7 grenade heads were added to some figures where single grenades had previously been. I also added some extra shovels and grenade sacks from the bits box, as well as some coils of barbed wire from Antenociti’s workshop, tied with fine wire from 4D Models.

Rifles were pinned in place ….

… and the barbed wire coils glued, and then given some “grey-stuff” wrapping to represent the leather carriers and strapping which might have been used by the engineers bringing the wire forward.

I was left with the following engineers and artillery, with basing to follow.

Hard Working Bases

Over the past few years, there’s been a real trend towards elaborate, intricate basing for fantasy and sci-fi wargaming figures. You can see lots of wonderful examples on people’s Blogs and the internet generally of that trend now rolling with some speed into historical wargaming. Hurrah – it’s a very good thing in my book, because I like trying to set figures in the context of the terrain on which they’re fighting. I don’t think that “intricate” or “elaborate” necessarily has to mean difficult or overly time-consuming however.

So here’s my ideas for some hard working bases for Great War figures. I use a mix of old rubber based floor matting, some plastic “corrugated iron”, some “bricks” cut from 2mm strip wood, and some offcuts from Styrofoam blocks (although anything chunky such as foamboard, cardboard or even putty would do).

To start off, just cut the “bricks” and “corrugated iron” to the shape and size required, and glue them into white PVA spread liberally on the figure’s base. Also glue in any of the matting at this point. Where you want to put two figures on a base, I sometimes mark down where the second figure goes and spread the PVA glue around it.

Next, sprinkle the “bricks” and some coarse gravel on the base, followed up by finer gravel and eventually fine sand. The different consistencies or gravel and sane sprinkled on the bases makes the basing seem to me less regular and more natural.

You’ll see that I sometimes glue down the full artillery crew onto their base at this stage. This may sound like lunacy (….and there is a chance of that!..), but I have a real horror of finishing painting and varnishing artillery crews and then having to assemble the final model and figures onto the base. For me personally, it’s a lot better to have the challenge of painting around figures glued to a base and then glue on the finished gun, than to have to assemble the glue and basing once everything is finished and varnished. Ok, OK, so I’m odd and weird in this regard … but as a wargamer, I probably knew that!

As regards the “hard working” aspect of the bases, on some larger units I have based the sections differently – so one section of a platoon has bases which feature only tufts of floor matting, one has bricks, one corrugated iron and one is left plain. It helps when the figures are on the table to tell the sections apart, and which Big Man belongs to which section.

Finally, on some of the bases, you can really go to town. Adding some plastic “girders” or Styrofoam concrete walls is pretty easy and works well for a support weapon like the Granatenwerfer 16.

After this, you’re done apart from some black primer.

Ok, next time I shall briefly cover the painting of the bases and then have a look at some terrain for the Dead Marshes before coming back to look at figure painting (for anyone still awake!). Catch you soon!


  1. Great post.
    Welcome back! Hope your holiday was a good'un!

  2. I shall be posting some WIP on my WW1 British and German Company's in the next few days, as I've spent some time over the last week texturing bases for my 10mm forces for Through the Mud and the Blood.

  3. Definitely still wide awake and looking forward to the next episode. Great post. Do you use a propriety brand of gravel/grit?

  4. Incredible work, well detailed and explained.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone:

    @Peabody - yes, great holiday thank you. Ready for a great late summer and autumn of wargaming and hobby.

    @Ashley - I shall be definately checking in to see those guys! 10mm is a perfect scale for Great War wargaming.

    @Old Shool - There's several grades og gravel I use. I get them from 4D Models in London (the link is in the Blog post above). There's a coarse gravel (which is kind of chunky - similar to the one that Games Workshop sell), a 4mm Sand Stone gravel from "Carrs Ballast", a 2mm Sand Stone gravel again from "Carrs Ballast" and then sieved builder's sharp sand. I found that having a blend on bases broke things up a bit and stopped it looking too regular. For smaller scale figures - my 155mm and 10mm stuff, I just use the finer grades and sand.

    @Angry - very kind, really chuffed you liked!

  6. Some very useful information, I love the engineers carrying the barbed wire, they're a great idea and the bricks scattered on look very realistic. Great post!

  7. Fantastic. Love the basing. Looking forward to seeing them in all their glory.

  8. Very nice posting, I have always admired your bases, shown in previous posts. Now the secret's unveiled...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...