I’ve been working on and off over the last few weeks on several new 15mm Mercenary units for Hammer’s Slammers:The Crucible. Projects like these have to take lower priority to more important tasks such as filling orders (!) so I only get to work on them occasionally, but I’ve managed to find enough time to finish off the first of these units, a detachment of Foster’s Mercenaries.
If you aren’t familiar with the background to the Slammers stories (known as the Hammerverse), the idea is that the governments of struggling colonies on newly populated planets can’t always afford to keep their own standing army, so will hire in mercenary units to supplement their own troops when needed. Some of these mercenary forces, such as the titular Slammers Regiment, are self-contained all-arms units while others are specialists – infantry, artillery, armour, anti-aircraft etc. To quote The Crucible, “Foster’s unit operates as very effective air defence specialists” (p.60). They are equipped with the new Centurion Large Transport Vehicles, which are by no means front-line combat vehicles. They are variously configured in command, artillery, calliope and transport roles. Their only ground combat units are infantry which are deployed for self defence of the unit on operations.
I chose to make a 10 TU Artillery Detachment from the Foster’s detachment sheet with a pair each of C800 air defence calliopes and light artillery vehicles, plus two command and control vehicles and a large C404 transporter for three infantry TUs. By painting up some extra infantry and a further couple of calliope turrets I could then reconfigure the unit into either a Calliope or Infantry Support detachment if desired.
For infantry I dug into our selection of 15mm figures and found to my surprise some unreleased ones ! These are variants of our British infantry with berets instead of helmets. This become a doubly good idea as I’ve been able to photograph the finished figures and add them to the website. Colonel Foster’s infantry come in two types – a basic rifle squad and a tank hunter team. This is where I hit a minor snag, as we only have rifle and command sets with berets, so for now my detachment has rifle teams and no organic anti-tank capability. I’ll have to dig out the greenstuff and convert a set of heavy weapons figures with berets, and stick them in a mould !
The infantry were based on washers textured with PVA and sand. They were then base-coated in Khaki using a Plastic Soldier Company spray can, followed by a heavy dry-brush of Citadel Zamesi Desert and an Agrax Earthshade wash. After that I picked out webbing pouches (bone), guns (grey), faces (flesh) and boots (black) – usually using a single base colour followed by an appropriate wash from the Citadel Shades range, and maybe some highlighting, especially on hands and faces. This gives an effective looking finish without being too time-consuming. I went for mid-blue berets – I did consider red but didn’t like bright red ones, and dark red looks too much like paratroopers, so blue it was. I also painted up one of our Brigadier figures as the Colonel, with blue shoulder tabs and hat band to match his troops. Incidentally, I’ve also added the Brigadier figure to the website – previously he’s only been available as a giveaway.
So then onto the vehicles. The detachment has seven Centurions – one C202, five C800s and a C404. That’s a total of 52 pairs of wheels, not counting the spare wheel carried on the back of each vehicle. I’d already worked out from experience that assembling the vehicles and attaching the wheels before painting was a bad move, as it’s hard to paint the tyres without getting paint all over the chassis. So what I did was assemble the vehicles without any wheels, and assemble the wheels in their pairs.
Most of the vehicles were pretty straightforward to assemble; the four C800 combat vehicles (the artillery and calliopes) have separate turrets, and the rear turret ring was covered over with a blanking plate. I added tri-barrels to the artillery turrets and one had a crewman in the hatch. The C404 APC was given a hatch with a tri-barrel up front and again the rear hatch was blanked off. The odd two vehicles are the Command (C800) and Controller (C202) where I had to be a bit creative. I gave the command vehicle a radar in the front turret point and a couple of sets of aerials, while the controller got two radomes (from the CDSU infantry command pack). I also gave it a hatch with tribarrel, and stuck in an officer figure (The Brigadier) who had been cut off at the waist. All of the vehicles received a little bit of stowage, but not too much – I figured that huge vehicles like these would have plenty of internal space and wouldn’t have so much of a need to hang kit on the outside. So I added some jerricans (you wouldn’t keep flammable liquids inside if you could help it) plus a few odd boxes and left it at that.
Everything was then undercoated with Halfords grey primer. The wheels were sprayed black, while the vehicles were sprayed with Citadel Zandri Dust. The wheels have a tendency to roll around on their conical axles, so I made up a special jig to spray them on – this was simply an old wooden board with lots of 6mm holes drilled in it. The wheels were laid face down on a flat surface first to spray the back, then once that had dried I turned them over, placed the axles in the pre-drilled holes and sprayed the other side. With 26 holes I did them in two batches, spraying front and back with primer first, then black. I then made up 52 masks from 30x30mm pieces of laser-printer sticky label with a 1/2″ hole punched through the middle. The wheel hubs are 12mm across, so the mask covered the tyre while leaving the hub exposed, so I could spray the hubs with the same colour as the rest of the vehicles. Although the paint pulled up in a couple of places, the result was neater and quicker than hand painting them all. It would also have been an idea to drybrush the wheel hubs at this point before removing the mask (I didn’t, so had to spend a while tidying up the tyres after drybrushing the hubs). I drybrushed the vehicle hulls as well (Citadel Terminatus Stone), and then it was finally time to assemble the vehicles by supergluing in all the wheels before the final painting stages.
Windows were painted in silver then I used a Citadel blue glaze to colour them – this is one aspect I’m not 100% happy with on the finished vehicles, so it might need more experimentation. Then it was just a matter of going round and picking out details, stowage, rear lights, gun barrels, crew etc.
After all the painting was complete, everything got the usual (brush applied) coat of Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade. After (at least) 24 hours drying I added decals. We don’t have any official Foster’s decals yet, so I made up some unit markings by drawing them out in CorelDraw and printing them onto decal paper using a laser printer (that’s the unit badge above, the red and black roundel). This is something I hadn’t tried before, so I was looking forward to seeing how it came out. The results were pretty good – the decals had to be cut out very carefully otherwise the white decal paper shows around the edges. The paper is also thicker than normal decal film so is best used on flattish surfaces – but the end result looks OK (although not quite as good as the official decal sets). The numbers came from a leftover Lightning Division decal sheet, while the tiny vehicle names (under the left hand driver’s window on each vehicle) are from Dom’s Decals British WW2 tank name sheet.
So that’s another Slammers detachment chalked up – and something a bit unusual with the huge Centurion support vehicles but no conventional front-line combat elements. Hopefully we’ll see them on a table for their first taste of combat soon…
HSD15-3101 – Foster’s Calliope Detachment – £80.00
HSD15-3102 – Foster’s Artillery Detachment – £90.00
HSD15-3103 – Foster’s Infantry Support Detachment – £80.00
SF15-160b – British Infantry in Berets (x10) – £3.75
SF15-162b – British Command in Berets (x5) – £2.00
SF15-166 – The Brigadier – £0.50