Foster Home

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

Back to Normal

Two weeks after coming back from my holiday, I’ve finally managed to get back on track with orders – everything that arrived before midday on Monday has been completed, packed and posted, and for the first time in several weeks I was able to go home with no outstanding orders left over. So that’s a little ‘yay’ for me at last 🙂

As a consequence I’ve had a couple of days catching up with new releases, getting painted versions ready for the website and preparing master castings for production moulds. Apropos of nothing else, I thought you might like a quick glance of what’s sitting on the painting table today…

These are some rather nifty 15mm GEVs that were part of the former Ainsty range. We’ve spent a little while getting these into shape – the original models used a common resin-cast hull with separate
superstructures for the different versions. We’ve had the superstructures reprinted and made new moulds of each hull version as single piece castings – the only separate pieces now are the turrets and gun barrels. The production moulds are now ready, so I’m just painting up a set ready to photograph and they should be on the website in 2-3 weeks.

These Aeronef dirigibles are new British models – the original plan was that they should have been released at the same time as our Ark Royal Dig Tender (you may have seen the smaller one lurking in photos back in April), but we had a slight hitch and in the usual pre-Salute pandemonium there simply wasn’t time to fix it. Anyway, they’re ready now and will be this Friday’s new release.

And spreading the love to the vaccheads as well, how about some new spaceships ? These splendid craft were designed by James at Beadspoke Designs (pay them a visit – they make all sorts of useful laser-cut acrylic markers and templates) and we thought they were great. They are going to be introduced to our range as replacements for the old Yenpalo fleet models which are looking a little dated.

You might see other stuff in the background – I’m also in the midst of painting some fresh detachments for Hammer’s Slammers, using many of our recently released new vehicles, and there’s even a new pack or two of 15mm figures coming from the ArmiesArmy archive.

Bolt from the Blue

I recently posted about my Lightning Division’s ill-fated debut on the tabletop and their defeat at the hands of the Zaporoskiye Regiment. Regardless of their performance (and believe me, they’re out for revenge) they look striking in their blue/grey/yellow camouflage, so I thought it was time for a photo parade now that the wrecks have been recovered from the battlefield, the damage repaired and the shell marks polished out.

The two detachments, one tank and one infantry, each consist of ten TUs (tactical units – a vehicle or an infantry team), totalling fifteen vehicles and five infantry teams. I actually painted sixteen vehicles so that I had the option of either a mortar jeep or tracked mortar carrier in the infantry detachment.

The LD vehicles are mostly blowers, or high-powered hovercraft. They’re relatively easy to assemble with few parts – the crew cars just have a rear hatch and two small turrets to be attached to the resin hull. I added plenty of stowage, including some of our etched-brass turret baskets.

The next step was a grey basecoat using Halfords automotive primer from a spray can, which would also serve as the first of the three camouflage colours. Once this has dried I drybrushed the vehicles all over with Citadel Longbeard Grey.

The camouflage colours were laid down with an airbrush – Vallejo French Blue followed by Tamiya XF-4 Yellow-Green. I drybrushed the camouflage stripes, again with Citadel dry paints – Skunk Blue and Hexos Palesun respectively. At this point the vehicles look fairly bright, but this would be dulled down in a bit.

I spent a while picking out details – stowage, sensor blisters and lenses, gun barrels etc in various colours, including some shading and highlighting. One blower hull had a slight mis-cast at the rear (I filed it in the ‘not good enough for resale, but too good to just throw away’ category) which I tried to make look like battle damage with rust and silver wear marks. The next stage was an overall coat of Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade, which is a stain-like varnish that dries to a glossy and very tough finish.

I added some Lightning Division decals from our range (which will be available again soon, promise!) which go nicely over the glossy finish of the quickshade. I then varnished them with Tamiya Flat Clear from my airbrush, at which point disaster struck…

A slightly damp day resulted in every wargamer’s nightmare, varnish fogging, with my Lightning Division looking like they’d driven through a snowstorm. The temptation at this point was to launch them into the bin, but I needed them on table the following week! So I launched instead into an emergency repair programme to try and sort out the fogging. I started by putting an abrasive polishing bit in my mini-drill and gently tried to buff away the affected areas. The Tamiya coat was very thin while the underlying Army Painter is pretty tough, so I was hoping to be able to remove one without damaging the other. By and large this was successful, although there were one or two places where I wore away the paint and went through to the base resin or metal – and of course my decals were utterly destroyed by this process. The abrasive head couldn’t reach into corners or panel lines either, so I needed a different solution for those areas. I had to repaint some damaged and very badly fogged areas – bits of camouflage, gun barrels, sensor blisters – and I then used a wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade which filled in any panel lines that were still white. The overall results weren’t perfect, but a thousand times better than they might have been. They were at least in a usable state and could make their combat debut.

After the game I went back and reapplied a new batch of decals, and a fresh coat of varnish – fortunately trouble-free this time – and finally I could declare them finished.

Medieval Metropolis

Australian customer Pas recently sent us some great photos of his two 2mm scale projects recently. The first is his Roman walled town which we featured yesterday, and the second is a European walled town. Over to Pas…

Attached is my new town using only your models : Roman fort with left over sections from Hadrian’s Wall, 2 packs of English village houses, English town shops, English detached houses, English civic buildings, Normandy village (except for 4 houses which I added to my Roman town) and Normandy Churches.

I made the trees from a pack of 4 3” trees purchased from a Hobby store and cut up to make small trees.

City of the Caesars

A while back we featured pictures of a superb 2mm Roman town by Australian customer Pas Capetta. He’s recently sent us updated photos including some of our new items such as the Roman Arches and Obelisks, so without further ado, here they are…

Getting Inked

When we recently released the new counter sets for Imperial Skies, I mentioned that I’d post about a simple method for colouring in the etched markings on those and the turn rulers. This technique was passed on to me by James at Beadspoke Designs, who do the acrylic cutting for us – I take no credit for it.

What I’ll do is take you through the marking of a turn ruler step-by-step. You’ll need the following items: your turn ruler, a POSCA acrylic paint pen (or similar) and (wait for it) a wooden clothes peg. POSCA pens can be bought in the UK in hobbycraft and other art shops, although mine came from eBay (I bought several sizes as I wasn’t sure what I would need). They aren’t expensive – I bought four for a tenner or so. You can choose your colour – I went for white on an orange set of rulers, but yellow would work just as well. Make sure you have a work surface that doesn’t matter if you get some paint on it – the pens can spatter splightly.

Peel off the backing sheet from the turn ruler (if it’s still on there) and then make sure it has no traces of finger grease or other contaminants. I gave it a quick clean with a kitchen wet-wipe, then dried it on kitchen roll.

Once it’s dry, give the pen a thorough shake, then test it on some scrap paper or card to make sure the paint is flowing. Then carefully ink in the ruler ID letter, the numbers and the lines that mark each point of movement. The lines may take a bit more effort to fill in as they’re etched a bit deeper. You should find that the paint adheres well to the rougher surface of the etched areas. You don’t need to be super-neat, but ensure that the etched areas are fully covered in paint, even if you go over the edges a bit – we’ll tidy this up later.

Now leave this for a few minutes until the paint is touch dry. In the meantime, dismantle your clothes peg – a quick twist will separate the two halves, and the spring can go in the recycling.

Once the paint is dry, we get on to the clever bit. Using the end of one half of the clothes peg, carefully rub away any paint that has gone over the edges of the etched areas. The soft wood won’t mark the shiny surface of the plastic but will remove any overspill, and the paint should stay in the recessed areas. If you get this right, you should be left with a neat set of etched markings on your turn ruler. If it isn’t quite perfect, just repaint and repeat.

It’s not a long process – I did a full set of five turn rulers in an hour, which included taking the photos and writing this up !

Do You Want Fries with That?

Last weekend I finally managed to try out Rogue Stars, Osprey Publishing’s SF skirmish ruleset (well, they’re a sort of RPG-lite with squads of five characters who can progress between missions). I played a couple of games with fellow members of Maidstone Wargames Society using various 15mm figures (the rules are intended for 28mm but we kept the same distances and ranges but just used smaller figures and scenery).

I managed to find time to make a new piece of scenery for the game – a fast food restaurant built from one of our Advanced Buildings. I used a piece of 3mm acrylic sheet as the base (I have a distrust of plywood, MDF and hardboard as they all seem to warp when painted) – I found a load of largish scrap pieces in a skip near the workshop a while back, offcuts left there by one of the other businesses on the farm where we’re based. This was cut to shape then the surface sanded to provide a key for painting. I had a self-adhesive model railway car park (from a German company called Busch) which I stuck on the acrylic to make a customer parking area, put an offcut of roadway at one end for the entrance and then textured the edges using brown acrylic caulk and sand. The building was painted in the red and white colours of the fast food establishment, and I added an awning over the door made from the splinter screen of a Mantra combat car supported by two of the triangular girder structures from our 2mm Airship Shed. The cunning part was the restaurant’s name and logo, which came from a very old branded plastic coffee stirrer which I’d been hoarding for just such a purpose since the early 1990s! Sadly, although I thought I had several of these I could only find the one.

I used our 15mm Street Furniture set to provide entrance billboards, flower planters around the car park, an automated order point and several sets of seating. The tables were made from scribed plastic card supported by the legs of the aforementioned Mantra’s splinter screen. Two large rubbish bins came from our Skips and Bins set (one blue for normal rubbish, and a green one for recyclables).

The finishing touches were provided by assorted flock and vegetation (Games Workshop and Woodland Scenics) and some signs and posters printed off onto sticky labels.

Building a City

Our newly released City Block buildings from the Small Scale Scenery range seem to have struck a chord with many people. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’re able to do with the models – especially the one customer who bought over forty sets!

In the meantime, here are a few I made earlier. I based them on two sandwiched rectangles of plasticard, one 5mm larger than the other, to create a road and pavement around each block. In the central courtyards I added flock, trees and bushes, and in one case a car park. Next to one block I created a park with a statue made from a 6mm figure on a plinth of square plastic rod.

The paint job is quite simple – a grey basecoat followed by a lighter drybrush then a black wash. The roofs are terracotta red with a brown wash. I didn’t attempt to paint the windows, there are literally thousands of them, I just let the wash pick them out.

The idea is that the blocks can be rearranged into different layouts, and I can also add further blocks with parks, churches, shopping areas etc on the same footprint.

Soviet Colours

I’ve recently been putting together a small force of our new Neo-Soviet tanks (and some of the older ones as well). Up ’til now I’ve only been able to paint a sample of each model for the website and display stand, so I was looking forward to assembling a larger army and getting them on table.

Altogether I’ve started with a dozen vehicles (you might spot more than that in the photos – I painted two extra assault guns to use on the stand at the same time). My force consists of three Bars tanks, two Vombats, two Terminators, one each of the new assault guns and a recce section of one Rosomakha and two Laska tankettes.

I’ve based the camouflage scheme on the sample models I painted before Salute, using the excellent Anarchy Models airbrush stencils, but with a slight difference. Whereas my first models had a three colour scheme with two layers of stencils, the main force was painted with a two-colour grey-green utilising the Mini Digi Camo sheet (basically lots of tiny squares arranged in random patterns). This was simply to save time, as two layers of stencils on a dozen vehicles would have taken ages.

I won’t go through the full step-by-step process this time – you can read my previous article for that. However, as a quick summary, the process was:

  • Spray with grey automotive primer (Halfords)
  • Drybrush primer light grey
  • Apply stencils
  • Airbrush Vallejo Russian green over entire vehicle
  • Drybrush whole vehicle light green
  • Remove stencils (be thorough here – it’s easy to lose some of the stencils)
  • Touch up any areas where the stencils have pulled up the primer or green has leaked under the stencils with a small brush
  • Brush paint in remaining details – guns, crew, stowage, tracks, lights, sensor lenses
  • Brush coat entire vehicle in Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade
  • Leave 24 hours (minimum) to dry
  • Apply decals – the glossy Quickshade is deal for this
  • Airbrush acrylic matt varnish (Tamiya Flat Clear) – DO NOT use Army Painter’s own aerosol varnish, it reacts with the Quickshade and will ruin your hard work

This is the first half of my army – the next stage will be the infantry and APCs (if you’ve read this month’s Miniature Wargames, you might have seen a preview…).

2mm Wonders

One of the best things about selling our models is seeing what people do with them, the way they’re painted and used in either games or modelling projects. We’ve recently been sent some photos of two diverse scenic models made using our Small Scale Scenery range and we thought it would be great to show them off.

The first is a Roman town by Pas Capetta in Australia. He’s used a combination of our Roman buildings (metal and resin) and the Hadrian’s Wall and Roman Fort packs to create a superb walled town. They’ve been coloured using artists paint markers rather than conventional brush paints, and some of the trees are rather cleverly made from offcuts of an artificial Christmas tree.

Ian Maun on the other hand is putting together a large English coastal diorama, starting with the town of Market Hampton, which will sit slightly inland from the harbour. The whole piece is being made in sections which should all eventually fit together to form a single large terrain area. In case anyone was wondering, the castle isn’t ours – it’s from Langton Miniatures.