Iron Cross and 15mm World War II

A month or so back I went along to my regular club meeting without any real plans for a game.  Last minute I arranged to play a game with one of my mates who had some World War II micro-armour and a few different rulesets he wanted to try out.  Having had a flick through the different books we settled on Iron Cross by Great Escape Games.

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Iron Cross – available direct from Great Escape Games or from other friendly local or online sellers

What appealed about this was both it’s simplicity but also its approach to getting a lot of toys on the table at once.  Add to this a (welcome) lack of weapon ranges and things seemed to add up to this being the one to try.

 

The rules themselves only span about ten pages and what immediately appealed was the use of ‘command tokens’ to activate, react and plan your actions.  This put me in mind of the use of plot points in 7TV, so of course this immediately drew me in.  It’s fair to say that I have not played that many historical wargames in my admitedly long gaming career, but I have done extensive painting and modelling of particularly WW2 in primarily 28mm.

 

Playing in 6mm scale (and adjusting inches to centrimetres for movement) on a 2 foot square board resulted in some really fun and fast paced games.  Although the placement of tokens on the board to represent activated units provded a unique problem with this scale as the glass beads we were using were in some cases as big as the models.  What became apparent to me as we played through (and was backed up by reviews I have read of the game) was that this would be ideally suited to a larger scale on a larger battlefield.  15mm seemed an ideal way to go.  So emboldened with yet another new project I started plotting.

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Tiny dice look huge next to 6mm scale armour!

I wanted to put together two forces (rather than just build up a single army) and knowing that Flames of War 4th edition is currently hot I sought out the new (and really good value) Hit the Beach starter set.  This provided me with a good basis for two starting forces and I supplemented this with some eBay purchases and also managed to track down a reduced price full German army box by Plastic Soldier Company.

 

15mm had never really appealed before, but with the enthusiasm gained from my first outing with Iron Cross in 6mm I really begun to see the attraction of getting a lot of figures and armour on the table at once.

Having agreed to give the game another go game at this larger scale at the next meeting which was only a few weeks away I got to work assembling and painting.

 

 

Most of the armour was a pleasure to put together.  I’d probably say that the Battlefront Miniatures Flames of War stuff is slightly easier to assemble with the Plastic Soldier kits being slightly more fiddly.  I also picked up a couple of Zvezda 1:100 scale snap fit kits to add a few of the big cats to the German forces (including a King Tiger).  While cheap and ‘snap-fit’ I found that these do need a lot more after-assembly love and care (gap filling in particular).

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Zvezda King Tiger – not visible here, but needs some gap filling

In addition I’ve also done a bit of 3D printing to expand some forces.  You can see a comparison between the Zvezda King Tiger and a 3D printed version below.  While not a bad model, the obvious issue with 3D printing at this scale for a large game is simply the length of time it takes.  We are not yet in the position I don’t think where the availability of 3D printing files for WW2 armour is going to have much of an impact on traditional kit sales for this very reason.

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King Tigers – Zvezda (left), 3D printed – file from Thingiverse (right)

Painting the tanks and vehicles was case of keeping it quick and easy.  Basecoat, dry brush highlight, wash, silver drybrush and spong chipping.  For the allied armour I used a Halford Camo Green spray for the basecoat, which I would highly recommend.

 

The German armour was basecoated using Plastic Soldier’s Dunkelgelb yellow from a spray can.  Trying to keep things at least a bit historically accurate I did various camo patterns on some of the German tanks.  I am not hugely happy with these as I think they were a bit rushed.  I hand painted these, whereas really I ought to have broken out the airbrush to get a better result.

 

Both allied and German decals have been purchased, but I haven’t yet got round to applying these.

So, the elephant in the room for me with respect to painting were the infantry.  I’ve never painted anything smaller than 25mm so this was going to be interesting.  In the end as the majority of the miniatures I was working with were one-piece I decided to try painting them on the sprue.  In general this has worked quite well so far.

 

Anyhow after a productive couple of weeks assembling models and painting, this last weekend at the club we got a couple more games of Iron Cross this time on a 6′ by 4′ table in 15mm scale.  Taking a very relaxed approach to matching up our forces, in the first game I got the upper hand as the Germans.  In the second game we adjusted the forces to be slightly more realistic in terms of numbers (with the allies outnumbering the superior German tanks) and it went as you would expect with a victory for the British/Americans.

 

The rules worked really well again, we spotted some mistakes we had made last time and both games played through relatively quickly.  I think we have found our go to club game for 15mm.  I didn’t have enough infantry done to include them, so I think this will add an interesting new dynamic next time and that’s what I’ll be concentrating on painting wise.

 

So the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to try something new; however accept that it will add to your plastic/lead pile and project to-do list.

 

Cold war gone hot is starting to look appealing!

Further adventures in 3D printing for tabletop

A while back I wrote an article about my first steps in the growing 3D printing part of the tabletop hobby.  Now a few months down the line, an update on what I have learned and where I am going next with this.

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I’ve said it before, but it is worth reiterating – patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to 3D printing.  Over the last few months I’ve made some great inroads into ‘dialling my settings in’ and getting some great results for scenery pieces and larger models.  I’ve done something I’ve never done before – stripping electrics and re-wiring when a key component broke and I’ve also discovered some fantastic digital sculptors pushing their wares on Patreon.

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Dock side scenery piece by Hayland Terrain

So a reminder, I am running a Creality CR-10S which is a larger bed (meaning larger print sizes) FDM printer.  FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, this is the most traditional style of 3D printer on the market and basically works by layering down melted plastic filament to build up a model.  The material I am using is PLA – this is an odourless plastic based on corn starch (so biodegrable).  Having played around with different brands (which does make a difference) I have settled on eSun PLA+ (in a rather splendid yellow).  PLA+ seems to be a slightly more dense version of PLA (possible with extra additives) and I have found it produces stronger models that are easier to work with both in terms of modelling and painting post-printing.

One of the key challenges with printing miniatures in particular is getting the ‘supports’ right.  Supports are the removable parts of the print, which you’ve guessed it, support parts of the model which overhang and would otherwise have to print in mid-air (as a famous guide book once said – this is of course impossible).  There are plenty of miniature designs out there in the 3D printing universe which have been specially designed to print without supports (more on these in a bit).  The real issue when you are using them is to get them so they provide enough ‘support’ for the model while also being relatively easy to remove without snapping off those important bits that should remain in place.

When taking this into account there are all sorts of different variables and pieces of advice out there.  Most of these relate to how you process the STL file prior to printing in your ‘slicing software’, but many also relate to the physical setup of your machine, brand and even colour of filament used and so on.  Lots of trial and error, lots of visiting Facebook groups, checking YouTube and reading forums – so again patience is a virtue.  For information I am using a piece of software called Cura to process (slice) the files before printing.  Learning and tweaking the settings in here is all part of the fun!

In the end I have got this about right I think and some of the results I am getting for larger miniatures both with and without supports are really pleasing.

But where I am getting the files from to print?  Thingiverse is a great resource – a community of designers and printers and a place to find stuff that is free.  There are specific groups and collections of files on there which are aimed at tabletop gamers. However there is also a growing trend for digital sculptors and designers to use the Patreon funding platform to market and distribute work.

I currently support two Patreon campaigns, where for a monthly charge I get access to a number of STL files each month.  Duncan ‘shadow’ Louca is well worth checking out.  I first came across his work as part of a Kickstarter campaign which was creating tanks and armoured vehicle files for a ‘grimdark’ setting.  However he has since branched out into miniatures which are primarily aimed at the fantasy roleplaying game market.  Duncan is extremely prolific and the level of funding he is achieving each month is quite staggering.  It is worth saying that the quality of the prints I have been getting from his files have been excellent as well.  So both quantity and quality – winner!

Another Patreon I have also recently started supported is run by Rocket Pig Games.  They again focus on fantasy monsters and creatures primarily for role playing (but for me ideal for planning out a Saga Age of Magic army).  The big selling point of their models is the aforementioned lack of supports.  Well worth checking out.  They also run a seperate Patreon campaign which focuses more on Lovecraftian ‘cosmic horror’ style miniatures.

The thing that connects everything I have covered so far is that I am printing big models.  In addition thanks to some recent Kickstarer campaigns and the wealth of treasures on Thingiverse I have been printing lots of scenery.  Again, although often detailed, this is big chunky stuff.  For the most part the models produced are sturdy and where supports are necessary they are relatively easy to remove.

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Pre-support removal and clean up

What about normal sized 28mm scale miniatures though?  I recently volunteered to print our some models that a friend had designed and purchased on HeroForge.  This is a great site where you can design character miniatures for your games and then either get them printed and shipped out to you or receive the STL files for printing out yourself.  It is here that I’ve noticed that you are really stretching the capabilities of a FDM printer.  As you are effectively layering up a model by depositing thin layers of plastic you do get some lines on flat surfaces.  For larger models these can be easily filed or treated post-printing (with plastic putty for example).  Settings can again be tweaked in slicing software to increase the resolution of a print (by reducing the layer height, but thus increasing print times); combined with the ability to swap out nozzles of different diameters this can lead to some stunning results. Of course on smaller models even with a high resolution setting and a smaller nozzle size these lines do become more visible.  Combine this with the issue of removing supports and you do start to get some problems with bits snapping off that shouldn’t or obsfucation of detail.

This very much became apparent when I was trying to print off these models – many came out well, but there were a few where the detail was just too fine and the oft mentioned patience became somewhat stretched.

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Smaller minis are pushing the limits of what I can do on a FDM printer

There is some light on the horizon though.  SLA (Stereolithography) printers are becoming much more affordable.  These work in a slightly different way and although they tend to have a smaller print size and are somewhat messier (they use light to harden liquid resin that is contained in a reservoir to create the desired 3D shape), they are ideal for printing smaller more detailed minaitures.

Ooops….

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Cultists and Survivors for 7TV Apocalypse

The journey through the post-apocalyptic landscape that is my pile of unpainted models continues.

Next up some of the cultists that were released by Crooked Dice originally as part of the 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter campaign and now available via their webstore.

These are nice chunky models and were a pleasure to paint.  Resisting the temptation to go down the contrast paints route on these like I did on my ‘protect and survive’ miniature, I concentrated on a more traditional approach.

I wanted to tie these guys together as a warband / cast while still reflecting their indivduality.  As such I chose a ‘german field grey’ as this base.

Feeling the call of the ‘fury road’, I also had a go at a test colour scheme for one of the ‘war boys’.  Trying to match the washed out white skin of the characters from the most recent Mad Max film was a bit of a challenge, and in the end I went for a combination of white drybrushing over a grey undercoat with some restained use of flesh wash.  Oh and don’t forget the chrome!

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What a lovely day

I also wanted to expand my generic cast of ‘survivors’, with the intention of using these not only in games of Apocalypse, but also in other settings.  A while ago I bought the Walking Dead miniatures game from Mantic, purely for the figures.

These are plastic and one-piece (and also by far the best miniatures I think Mantic have ever produced – at least from a quality control perspective).  I’m thinking that these would also make an ideal ‘resistance’ for modern day 7TV (perhaps facing down an invasion of visiting alien invaders)?

Next up (and in the same vein as the ‘Mantic survivors’), a female member biker, built from the Warlord Games Project Z Motorcycle Gang set.  These are former Wargames Factory models and are somewhat more spindly than their Mantic counterparts.  That said I found this a really enjoyable kit to put together and paint.  The majority of the figures on the sprue were bike mounted, but there was the opportunity to build a few ‘foot troops’.

Finally (and from way way way back), we have a Prince August Future Shock ‘police scientist’.  This is a one piece metal miniature – I decided again to paint him in a way that he could be used across multiple settings (he has a touch of  Spy-fi evil genius about him.  Black Templar contrast paint was used for the primary colouring here, with some fluroescent green and yellow on the flask / syringe.

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I’m finding Black Templar a really useful colour for doing black leathers and fatigues on modern setting miniatures.  It works particularly well for me over a grey undercoat, giving a nice coverage of black while retaining the highlights that both the undercoat and constrast paint emphasise

Next up for this project is a biker gang (and police opponents) which I am pulling together from Crooked Dice, Project Z and Future Shock ranges with a bit of kit-bashing on the way…..