Cold War Gone Hot – a question of scale

I have been looking for a while to do some ‘what if’ World War III (or cold war gone hot gaming). Growing up in the 80’s I have a morbid fascination with how close we came to the end of all things at the time, with 1983 being in retrospect a key year. A lot of things nearly went very badly wrong (for more background I’d highly recommend the book 1983 The World at the Brink by Taylor Downing).

Well recommended (and in retrospect, terrifying!)

Rules wise I have been looking at a number of options, including Battlegroup NORTHAG by Plastic Soldier Company, Seven Days to the River Rhine by Great Escape Games and The Zone by my good friend Wayne Bollands and published by Caliver Books.

With gaming pretty much on hold at the moment due to the pandemic my momentum for starting a new project stalled for a couple of months, but I have recently been inspired to revisit this after listening to the audiobook version of Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee. It would be remiss at this point to not mention the game by the same name based on the Flames of War system by Battlefront Miniatures as another potential gaming option.

I’m also very much aware of the issue of scale when it comes to gaming a theoretical World War III in the 1980s. Of course, assuming things didn’t immediately start and then end in nuclear destruction (a big assumption) we are basically talking about masses of tanks moving across the planes of northern Europe. From a gaming perspective this lends itself well to scales at 15mm and less (i.e. getting as much armour as possible on the table). The aforementioned Team Yankee and it’s supporting model range means there is no lack of availability when it comes to models and miniatures. However, while I have dipped my toe in 15mm scale in the past for World War 2 gaming, I fancied trying something a bit different.

I’m really into narrative gaming and so want the flexibility to flick between those bigger games concentrating on tank-on-tank battles to maybe some sort of special forces missions behind enemy lines (perhaps a Soviet raid on hidden Harrier launch sites or NATO forces seeking out some mobile nuke launchers). To this end infantry are important to me and the ability to work on a one figure to one man ratio is equally as key. I also haven’t really enjoyed painting really tiny fighting men in the past (and painting is my primary source of joy when it comes to the hobby).

Some WW2 Germans in 15mm I painted a while ago – while pleased with the results I found painting at this much smaller scale not quite as rewarding as usual.

So the ideal compromise seems to be 20mm (or more specifically 1/72 and 1/76 kits and miniatures). This would allow me to explore something else I have wanted to do for quite some time – using traditional soft plastic figures for wargaming. This is an oft overlooked source of good value miniatures for wargaming and I was first turned on to this by the excellent Wargaming Compendium written by the Henry Hyde a few years ago.

While Henry’s focus in the book was on Napoleonics, the principle is the same- there are a lot of them out there, they are cheap and readily available and a really good way to build up large armies quickly.

From a manufacturer perspective we are looking at the big scale model kit manufacturers here, the likes of Airfix, Italeri, Revell and so on. My initial plan is to concentrate on British and Soviets as my opposing forces. Finding figures for 80s style British infantry was slightly harder than I imagined.

My first two purchases – another advantage of going the soft plastics 1/72 route is cost. Each of these cost only about a tenner for a significant number of figures.

I picked up a box of Italeri NATO troops which included a handful of Brits, however some of these were armed with the SA-80 rather than the SLR, which put them slightly later than my desired early 80’s timeframe. Therefore I also picked up a box of Revell Falklands British Paratroopers and House of Campaign British Infantry of the 1970s (which I am yet to start) which were closer to what I needed in terms of small arms.

The former were interesting in that they were actually sold as 1/76 rather than 1/72 scale. However a scale comparison using the excellent resource that is the Plastic Soldier Review website showed that these wouldn’t look too small if mixed in with other figures. The latter were interesting in a different way in that they were very familiar – it turns our that these are scaled down versions of the Brittains toy soldiers I had as a kid (ironically probably about the time I am looking to represent!).

Example of the Italeri NATO troops figures on sprues. THe detail on tese is excellent.
Some of the Italeri figures based and ready for undercoating.

Once I had gathered all the necessary figures (I also added in an Italeri Warsaw Pact box of figures from Italeri) I set about preparing to paint. I have never really painted soft plastics before, but was aware of their reputation for not necessarily holding paint well. Therefore I made doubly sure that any figures I was working on were thoroughly washed in hot soapy water before giving them an undercoat. A lot of advice I have read also advises an initial coat of watered down PVA glue before painting, but I decided to skip this step and went straight to an undercoat (in white).

Note that isn’t a red cap badge on the chap on the ledt but a piece of rogue red glitter from my daughter’s crafting! (From teh Revell Falklands Paratroppers set.)

My biggest challenge with painting these guys (over and above the slightly smaller scale than I am used to) was to effectively represent the DPM camo of the time. I ended up referencing a number of Osprey books and online sources and went for a very basic representation using a Vallejo Uniform Green as a base coat with camo gently stippled and painted using Army Painter Basilisk Brown, Vallejo Flat Earth and Citadel Abaddon Black. The whole thing was then tied together with a Athonian Camo shade (green) wash from Citadel. I mixed things up with the uniforms a bit, leaving some with plain trousers (as per some of the reference materials I looked into). For these I used a Citadel Death Guard Green again with the camo shade.

Revell 1/76 miniature – showing the mix of green trousers and DPM camp top. Note that I used black Citadel contrast paint for the weapons.
Revell figures. While most of the sculpts were good the fella on the left has quite a nasty mould line on his face, but at gaming distance (rather than close up like this) I am more than happy with the quality of the figures and the paint job I have achieved.

A key part of choosing the 20mm equivalent scale was the desire to single base the miniatures. Some of these have been based on 1p peices, but I eventually invested in some 20mm round plastic bases from Renedra.

The majority of these figures are from the Revel 1/76 Falklands Paratroops box. I chose to paint these all up as regular infantry rather than paras, hence the beret colour.
From the Italeri NATO troops box – at 1/72 there is very little difference in size between this infantry man armed with a GPMG and the figures from the Revell set.
Another figure from the Italeri set – armed with an SA-80 this dates him slightly later than I am aiming for, but again pleased with the way he had turned out.
A mix of the Revell (left, right) and Italeri figures (middle) – showing the very slight difference in 1/76 (Revell) and 1/72 (Italeri)

In addition to the British infantry I have also started painting up some of the Warsaw Pact Italeri figures. Not much done so far, other than this Czech tanker (who fits in quite nicely with the 1/72 scale Plastic Soldier Company T55 I’ve also painted). Once completed and dry all finished models were given a good going over with Testors Dullcote.

Czechslovak tank crew.

With 1/72 scale being so ubuquitous in the scale modelling world I have no shortage of potential models to add in for various games and scenarios. Referring back to my ideas about narrative scenarios earlier, here are a selection of kits that might fit in nicely. (The Matchbox kits I purchased from eBay over the last few months have a particular nostalgia for me, as long prior to my gaming hobby I used to buy and build kits like this from the local newsagent or model shop.)

Next up will be some armour for the British. I’ll be looking at firing up the 3D printer and getting some Chieftain tanks on the table.

The Robo-Hordes of Argo

I’ve been spending some time recently painting up more of the figures I got as part of the recent Crooked Dice 7TV Argonauts Kickstarter. In addition to the miniatures that I received as part of my pledge I have also been expanding the force with other suitable models from my collection.

For those not in the know, the Kickstarter was to fund a programme guide for 7TV with associated miniatures and profiles to represent the evil Doctor Ulysses Argo and his monstrous robotic creations. As a ode to fantastic and cult TV and cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, the original ‘spy-fi’ version of 7TV has always had a place in my heart. In painting up and modelling this cast for the game I very much wanted to reflect that style of the times, so have gone with a suitably ’70’s beige’ palette.

The majority of my robotic characters would have heavy gold and bronze accents, with my more human types wherever possible sticking to the mustards, yellows and browns from the decade that fashion forgot.

Nowhere is this more pronounced that in my representation of Argo himself. This was mainly painted with thin layers of various contrast paints and tied together with washes.

Following on we have ‘the Nightmare’, a tribute to frankly one of the most terrifying characters and scenes from an 80s movie of my youth – yup computer cyblorg lady from the end of Superman III. I had originally painted her with blue metallic hair but switched this over to a gold to tie it more in with the rest of the cast.

The Argonauts themselves are robots bearing a not disimilar look to a certain race of metallic beings from a 70s (and susequent noughties) space opera TV show. I have painted these up in a more traditional manner befitting the original source material as I am planning on a separate Battlestar Galactica set of casts in future.

Next up are a diversion from the 7TV models to my old favourites the Tehnolog plastic cyborgs (of which these four represent the last I have in my stash). While I had previously experiemented with a purple colour scheme for one, I have done the rest in the ‘team Argo’ colours of gold and silver. My gold technique is achieved using Humbrol spray paints using Brass as a base and then a light top down highlight of Gold. I intend to use these as proxies for the ‘titans’ in the programme guide.

While I am doing the robot thing, I’ve also added a couple of 3D prints from the Titan Forge Miniatures Cyber Forge Patreon, of which I am a member. While nominally for a more ‘cyberpunk’ setting I have again gone for an Argonauts colour scheme here to tie them in with the rest of the team.

One thing I have additionally done here and in other paint jobs for this team is to pull out some spot colours. In particular I like the idea that not all of Argo’s tech is necessarily homegrown and maybe he has had some outside (even alien help) in constructing his robotic hordes. As such I have used some of the Citadel technical gemstone paints to pick out across various models some glowing red, green and blue lights. This is really an ode to the martians from the War of the Worlds and is particularly apt when it comes to the following two centrepieces for the force.

I’ll be going in to more detail about both the Crooked Dice and Bombshell Miniatures tripod models in more detail in an upcoming blog.

Journeys in Middle-Earth (or preparing for 7TV Fantasy)

A couple of years back my long standing gaming buddies bought me a copy of the Lord of the Rings Journeys In Middle-Earth by Fantasy Flight Games for my birthday. I have since been (very occasionally) working through painting the miniatures in this app-driven board game. My aim was always to have a fully painted set of miniatures before giving the game a go, however the pandemic has rather extended that timescale.

Journeys in Middle-Earth.

So I have not actually dived into the rules much, but as you have probably guessed the minis caught my attention. The nature of the games publisher’s licence agreement means that rather being based on the movie likenesses the miniatures are based on original art. This gives them in my opinion a more generic feel and opens up more possibilities outside the boxed game.

With 7TV Fantasy coming soon, I decided to look at painting up some of the character miniatures for use in a ‘high fantasy’ setting. Most of the following figures were painted with a mix of tranditional acrylics alongside contrast paints.

First up we have the main Hobbit himeself – Bilbo Baggins. I decided to add a splash of colour here giving him a deep red waistcoat, but to tie together with the rest of the band I went for a green cloak (see the other pictures below).

Bilbo – where it all began!

Next, the King returns, it is Aragorn in his ‘Strider’ guise. Again I have concentrated on greens here to tie him in with the other characters. I’ve gone for a darker more weathered skin colour to reflect his time out in the wilderness as a ranger.

Strider.

I’ve gone for more earthy and warm tones for Gimli. A lot of use of my favourite contrast paint, Snakebite Leather, for the armour.

Gimli.

Again I have tied the group togehter using green for the cloak.

Next up is Legolas…

Legolas.

And finally we have a new character introduced for the game, Beravor, a Dunedain ranger.

Beravor.

I appear to have missed out one character from the core game that I need to find out and finish, Elena the Elven bard.

The miniatures are all approximately in the standard 28 to 32mm scale and are going to mix well with other models which bodes well for using them in 7TV Fantasy. As one piece miniatures they were easy to prepare and paint (all the minis above were undercoated in white). There was very little clean up required and for board game miniatures very few cases of ‘bendy sword syndrome’.

I’m looking forward to painting up the rest of the miniatures from the box and who knows (7TV Fantasy aside) I might even get to field them in a game of Journeys in Middle Earth at some point in the future.

Return of the Argonauts – Enter the Spartoi

I’ve started on the first batch of miniatures from the Crooked Dice 7TV Argonauts Kickstarter.

Enter the Spartoi – deadly regenerating robots created by evil genius Ulysses Argo!

These metal miniatures are lovely sculpts and required next to no clean up. After a quick wash in warm soapy water these were dried off and given a black undercoat from a can.

I decided on a dark metallic look so used a basecoat of Humbrol Bronze, followed by a light zenith of the Gold from the same range (both in spray cans). To add some depth I highlighted with a silver drybrush and an all over wash of Army Painter soft tone wash. Certain highlights were then re-picked out in silver.

My original plan was to use a set of old tank number decals on the shields to emphasise their autonomous robotic nature, however having completed the painting and with the shields having the same metallic look as the bodies I thought I’d try something different.

Constrast paints applied quite thinly over the metallic base gave a glass/gem like appearence to the shields. The addition of Humbrol gloss cote as a finishing touch further emphasises this. I like the idea that these are some form of energy absorbing device.

The skulls were painted in a yellow sand and then given a soft tone wash.

Plenty more to come soon (by your command…..)

Red Shadows Specialist Troops and more Mutons

More minions for the evil Baron Ironblood! The Red Shadows were an iconic bad guy for me, almost up there with Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers (and about as accurate in their shooting).

The foot troops of the Baron. Original Red Shadows 3.75 inch scale action figures

One thing they didn’t have however was much variation. While Action Force has specialist teams for undersea (Q Force) and off planet (Space Force), the Baron could not really match this in terms of his rank and file troops, at least as the toys were concerned. As an aside, the Battle Action Force comic occasionally showed some interesting variations on the standard enemy troops such as frogmen and astronauts, but actual action figures were sadly lacking.

Although variations of Red Shadows troops such as these Frogmen made an appearence in the comics, they were never realised in the toy range.

So while I continue my quest to model and game Action Force and the Red Shadows in 28mm scale I’ve set about trying to redress this balance.

First up we have some ‘hostile environment’ or maybe special forces troopers. These are the rather excellent Wargames Atlantic Raumjager miniatures given a suitably red uniform. I imagine these guys would maybe be Ironblood’s special shock troops for fighting in hazardous or even alien environments.

To lead this squad I did a bit of kitbashing using a plastic body of a Bauhaus officer from the original Mutant Chronicles Warzone boxed game from the late 90s. I swapped the head out for one from my bits box that originated in the old Wargames Factory Greatcoat Troopers set.

Next up we have a Red Shadows space engineer. This miniature is from Gripping Beast and is itself inspired by the original Space Force Engineer figure. In my mind the Enemy wouldn’t be shy about stealing and repurposing Action Force technology and kit, and this guy represents that albeit with a suitably updated paint scheme.

Last but not least we have another variation on the Muton – the death robots of the Baron! These miniatures are ‘Harvesters’ and are a multi-part plastic kit found in one of the expansion from the Shadows of Brimstone board game. They have that ‘deep sea diver gone wrong’ look that really chimes with the aesthetic of the original action figure.

Now if I could only find a suitable miniature for this guy…

Original Kraken action figure

Riddle me this – a Batman painting update

A quick update on the long term project to paint up the miniatures from the Monolith Batman City Chronicles board game (which I am intending to use in games of 7TV).

I’ve switched over from doing individual characters to concentrating on getting through some bad guys and their minions.

I fancied giving the Riddler and his goons a go, and these are the results. I am concentrating on tabletop standard here so plentiful use of contrast paints and washes. To break up the monotony of painting lots of the same pose of miniatures and give them some variety on the table top I have played around with variations on a standard scheme – changing up the different shades of green and also varying skintones and hair colour.

All in all these have come out okay I think, but I have to say I am not a massive fan of the range of green contrast paints in the Games Workshop range. I am (as many others have), coming to the conclusion that contrast is just one of many tools in a painters arsenal and really aren’t always a complete solution. Without going off on too much of a tangent, the browns (and Snakebite Leather in particular) are wonderfully versatile and the Basilicanum Grey is my new favourite method of shading metallics. The greens however….not so great for me.

Back to the miniatures, I also painted the boss man himself, spending a little more time on the detail here.

Riddle me this!

I painted all of these miniatures based on what I think the characters should look like, rather than basing them on any reference materials (so I am sure any DC Comics fans would have a thing or two to say about some of my choices).

In addition I have also recently completed both Catwoman and Killer Croc figures from the set.

Catwoman (one of two versions in the game)
Killer Croc

Killer Croc was a joy to paint, certainly the larger miniatures like this in the set contain more detail and are perhaps of a higher standard than some of the more standard sized ones.

Much, much more to do, with Red Hood and his gang and the Court of Owls both contenders for my next job.

Reichbusters – Projekt X and other gribblies

I’m continuing to plough through the pile of unpainted miniatures that came with the Reichbusters Project Vril Kickstarter earlier this year.

Lots to be cracking on with!

One of my longest ongoing jobs has been the completion of the epic Projekt X. This massive chunk of plastic comes in it’s own boxed expansion and is some sort of horrific zombie mecha type beast. I’ve not read the background yet, so I am not quite sure on the exact details, but needless to say this bad boy would involve a mix of both armour and organic style painting. (Also it is possibly one of the heaviest miniatures I have ever held.)

The beast in it’s box, standard 28mm scale mini for scale comparison

Following a good soapy wash and drying the model was undercoated in black and then given a zenith highlight with a white spray. The armour panels were airbrushed up from a dark grey through two subsequent successive highlights using Vallejo Air paints.

Work in progress showing zenith highlighting and initial armour plate airbrush of grey

The organic parts were painted with a Citadel contrast flesh. The ‘pustules’ all over the model were then painted white before an application of a contrast yellow and then a purple wash.

Prior to weathering I dug into my decals stash and found some suitable World War 2 German transfers from both some historical kits, but also a big pile of Dust Tactics sheets I had left over from stock when I ran the shop.

Application of decals (shown prior to weathering)

These were applied on top of a gloss varnish and once dry I used a sponge to apply chipping across the armour plates using a dark brown. Metal parts were then blocked out and I used dark grey contrast to shade these.

The faces were further highlighted in purples and fleshes to help them stand out, with various other bits such as cabling and the base being detailed and finished off. The whole lot was then topped off with a good once over of Testors Dullcote.

The completed Projekt X

More recently I have also been working my way through some of the ‘minions’ in the set as well as some of the more ‘gribbly creatures’ that are included. For the latter I wanted a quick paint job so contrast was heavily used.

Baddies of various flavours.

The slightly more human figures were painted in a slightly more traditional style using one of the best paint sets I have ever invested in – a German uniform set from Andrea Color I bought from a show about 5 years ago. Makes painting field grey a joy and useful across historicals as well as weird war and science fiction. (In fact I have recently been working on some Star Wars Imperial types and this set has come in very useful – more on that soon.)

I’ve still got plenty to finish off with Reichbusters and have not yet had a look at any of the hero models. For board game miniatures they are a real step up in terms of quality and a joy to paint, which I am sure I will still be doing for many months to come.

Cobra Patrol and Transport

Although most of my Action Force in 28mm scale project is based around the Red Shadows as the primary protagonists, I do occasionally dip into the world of their successors, Cobra.

I’ve recently been kitbashing some Cobra infantry using various bits and pieces from my sprue mountain. The bodies and legs for these guys have all come from Warlord Games World War II US Infantry. The arms are are mixture of the same US infantry and the old Wargames Factory apocalypse survivors and biker sprues. These are also where most of the weapons were sourced from.

Cobra Troopers

The heads are all I have left from a set of specially produced GI Joe bits – two in the style of Cobra Troopers, the remaining two representing Cobra Vipers. The backpacks are from the same source.

Vipers

These are very much ‘inspired by’ conversions rather than an attempt to accurately model the old toys or cartoon and comics characters.

Vipers

Transport for these foot troopers is a 1:48 scale Tamiya model of a modern Japanese Defence Force Light Armoured Vehicle.

I built this a couple of years ago and it has been waiting on the painting table for quite some time. The transfers are in fact stickers from a small GI Joe toy.

The paint job on this was a basic blue block colour (applied by spray can) with detail added using an Army Painter wash. The kit as built was unmodified (although I didn’t bother with the interior detail – there is an upainted driver in there though!)

On patrol – watch out Action Force!

Space (Force) 1999 – 3D Printed Eagle Transporter

This is the culmination of about four months worth of work. I came across this excellent set of 3D print files by alpokemon on Thingiverse earlier this year. For those that don’t know this is the classic Eagle Transporter from Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999.

The original in action.

I set about printing this with the idea of using it as a centrepiece for 28mm scale gaming (more specifically 7TV). By doing some back of the envelope calculations I worked out that I would need to scale the files up in order to meet my favoured 1/48 vehicle scale for gaming.

So then the printing began……and it took a very long time indeed.

Back in March I was keeping a log of how much time the individual print jobs were taking. I soon gave up adding this up, but lets say we are talking about well over 100 hours worth of printing at least.

As per usual for scenery and vehicles I printed this using my FDM printer, a CR-10S by Creality. I originally chose this printer for the larger than standard print bed size and this was very useful when printing out this model.

I did use my resin printer for some of the smaller parts like thrusters and cargo pod feet.

The print quality (and tolerances) I am getting at the moment are really good, which helped significantly with this model as it did require quite a bit of fitting and assembly. The one weak point was the landing gear which have snapped numerous times and have been continually super glued back together.

At this point I started to think about painting and colour schemes. Rather than paint up in the traditional TV series colours I decided to merge this with one of my other ongoing projects – Action Force in 28mm scale. At this point I need to take a slight diversion, promoted by this project I have recently got into collecting the original toy line of 3.75″ (1/18) scale action figures and vehicle sets. One of the vehicles I have recently aquired is the Space Force Cosmic Cruiser. It is this that I decided to base the Eagle paint scheme on.

An original Palitoy Cosmic Cruiser Action Force toy.

Due to the current long summer hours and (occasional) decent days of British summer weather I switched my airbrushing to outside. This has been aided by the aquisition of a new mini-compressor. The completed model after getting an all over undercoat of black from a spray can was ready for airbrushing.

The outdoor painting setup

The main body and cockpit were given coats of progressively slightly lighter coats of grey.

The four ‘legs’ of the craft were then completed using the same technique with blue.

Finally the engines were also airbrushed using a base gun metal followed by a silver highlight. All paints were from the Vallejo Game Air or Model Air ranges.

I switched back to traditional brushwork for the orange of the frame. This was mainly because I would have struggled to effectively mask the model for airbrushing on top of the work I had already done.

I went to my stash of decals and transfers to add some detail (including some small reporduction Action Force logo toy vehicle stickers). The one thing I wasn’t able to source was the Space Force specific logo. While in the past for miniatures I have hand painted this I wasn’t confident I’d be able to do a good job of this freehand at this scale. I may subsequently add something to the nose cone of the ship if I can figure out printing on decal paper on my Inkjet printer.

The final stage was weathering, and as per usual I feel I may have gone a little overboard here. I used a mix of Plastic Soldier Company and Modelmates weathering spray cans for this, plus a sponge chipping technique using a dark brown paint. I do think the engines came out looking pretty good.

All in all I am really please with the result and I look forward at some point in the future (when face-to-face gaming can resume in earnest) using this in a game of 7TV. Perhaps as part of a Space Force versus The Argonauts game (the latter of which I am eagerly awaiting delivery from the most recent Crooked Dice Game Design Studio Kickstarter).

In the meantime here is a selection of images showing a Space Force Eagle Transporter being prepared for a mission by Action Force personel. All figures are from Gripping Beast and are heavily inspired by the original action figure line.

Pulp Sky Raiders

I bought these figures before Christmas and they had been sat mostly complete and just requiring some finishing touches for a while. I finally got round to tidying up and basing these the other day.

They are a mix here of miniatures from the Pulp Figures and Artizan Designs ranges, all in that niche Pulp genre that borders on Steampunk – the world of airships and rocket men. Think Sky Captain and World of Tomorrow and you’ll not be far away.

Zeppellin Trooper – Pulp Figures
Harpoon Gunner – Pulp Figures
My squad leader – Pulp Figures
Another harpoon armed pirate – Artizan Designs

In addition I dug out some miniatures I completed a while ago to join the team.

Pulp Figures
Statuesque Miniatures
Sky raider with Lewis gun – Pulp Figures

I’m looking at fielding these in games of 7TV Pulp and have some transport lined up for them in the shape of one of the more industrial looking airships from the recent Skys of Sordane Kickstarter which I backed earlier in the year and which is now starting to deliver (in the form of STL files for 3D printing).

I’m looking forward to printing this – though I suspect it will take quite some time

Finally here we have a group shot of the full team…..

Coming to raid the skies near you soon