Friday, 19 May 2017

The Grand Panjandrum

The Grand Panjandrum was an experimental rocket-propelled explosive device, developed during WWII by the British for clearing beach obstacles.

It was a disastrous failure, its big demonstration test turning into a terrifying (but comedic) fiasco.

In real life, it never made it into service. However, in the Operation Sealion book for Bolt Action it appears as a novelty weapon option, so you can pretend that it did actually get used in anger.

Pictured is a render of a 1:100 scale model of the device, 3d-printed by Shapeways. You can get it at in either WSF or FUD.

It's a bit expensive in FUD, because the central hub is solid and there's nowhere to allow for escape holes. I might try making it in two halves for assembly; that should bring the cost down a bit.


Just arrived on my doorstep from is this: the Operation Sealion campaign supplement for Bolt Action.

Operation Sealion (or Unternehmen Seelöwe, in German) was the Nazi plan for the invasion of England in 1940. It had virtually no chance of success, or even partial success, but it's a "what if" campaign that has occupied a lot of military historians and wargamers over the decades.
I haven't read through the book thoroughly as yet, but on brief acquaintance I like it a lot. It includes information not only on lots of the improvised Home Guard weapons, but also some of the way-out experimental things like the Great Panjandrum.

It's also got entries on the Home Guard (including the Walmington-on-Sea platoon, naturally), the Boy Scouts, and fifth-columnists like Moseley's British Union of Fascists.

However, what I absolutely must do is get hold of some hobbits to arm with shotguns and turn them into a Shire Patrol :)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Palm trees on the cheap

15mm 25 pounder gun and crew, for scale
This is the base of two el-cheapo plastic palms that I showed in my last post, jazzed up a bit.

Once a bit of paint disguised the hideous lollypop green of the leaves and plasticky brown of the trunk, and with a bit of sand on the base, they really don't look too bad.

Not very much money well spent, I'd say.

The trees in the raw:
useable, but definitely toy-like.

Trees as far as the eye can see

Over the last few days, a bunch of mail orders have arrived here from China. They're a variety of very cheap plastic trees, advertised on AliExpress as being for railway modeling, but naturally I intend to use them as wargame terrain.

They are not high-quality, diorama-standard models, but then for the price I wouldn't have expected that. The whole lot cost me about $US30, and there are about 300 trees in total, so roughly ten cents each. That's pretty good value.

15mm PzIV for scale.

There are four varieties — palms, a couple of conifers, and generic deciduous. The palms came in four sizes: the two shown here, and two smaller sizes at about 50mm and 30mm, which would be suitable for 6mm games.

I bought some smaller versions of the ones second from left before, for 6mm forest terrain. You can see how those turned out here.

I've mounted these ones in holes through 3mm MDF hexes, anchoring them on top with hot glue, and beneath by melting the plastic stem into a countersunk cavity with a soldering iron. It makes them very firmly fixed, and they won't come free without being cut free.

Countersunk holes beneath
The deciduous trees will need a heavy spray with diluted PVA, as their foliage is a bit loose and has a tendency to fall away, but that's no big deal.
Plastic stems melted into the cavities and smoothed off

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

PaK36 (15mm)

This is the 15mm (1:100 scale) PaK36 Anti-tank platoon set from Battlefront. They're mounted in my magnetic sabot bases, so the figures can be used individually if need be.

(Click on the pictures to embiggify).






Plane Tree Camo in 15mm — first attempt

The PaK 36 models I've been basing come with crew dressed in camo smocks. That means that for my chosen period (roughly 1930-41) my only painting options for them are as SS.

Unlike many WWII wargamers, I have a strong aversion to fielding any SS forces except as part of an historical recreation battle. They were a Bad Lot, and I really don't like the idea of commanding a bunch of war criminals, even in make-believe.

Be that as it may, I have these guys to paint, which means I have to plunge into the tricky world of WWII German camouflage uniform. I cannot say I've found it easy at all.

The smock in the image to the left is the one I want to emulate. It's the Plane Tree pattern (Platanenmuster) which was in use from before the war up until 1944.

There's not a lot of room on a 15mm figure, so some compromises will have to be made. What I've found is that while pale spots on the dark patches do show up, dark spots on light patches are pretty pointless. Also, the light green spots need to be added after any shading wash, or else they fade into the general mess and you lose the distinctive spottiness of the camouflage pattern.

I've seen much better examples of these camo patterns in 15mm, but try as I might I don't seem to be able to match that standard.


Here's my next stage of experimentation. On the left, before spots; on the right, after spots.

The addition of spots certainly makes it look more like what I'm going for, though I think I should probably go for fewer, less evenly-spaced spots.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

PaK36 sabot bases — WiP Part 3: The Greenery

Once the dirt layer is thoroughly dry, the greenery goes on.

I start with a layer of strand grass flock, applied in blotches so that some of the underlying dirt shows through.

Next is some bushy stuff. This is Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf.

Again, it's applied in small blotches. I've found that I need to squash it down into the glue spots and leave it until it's absolutely set before brushing away the excess. If the glue is too thin, and/or not yet cured, then the springy foam rubber that it's made from just falls away.

The gun base at the bottom of the picture hasn't yet had all the excess cleared away.

This is as far as I'll go with the infantry base, to the left.

Almost last, on the gun bases, I glued some small bits of Woodland Scenics Clump Foliage.

I want some larger bushes around the gun, but I don't want so much that it will obscure the whole thing. Unlike the crew, who would probably be much happier completely out of sight.

In this close-up, you can see some of the MDF dirt nestling in the nooks and crannies of the gun. I could wash it out, but when you're not looking at it from 10cm away it actually adds to the weathering of the gun, so I'll probably leave it.

And here's one of the guns, complete with some extemporized crew.

These are just some figures I already had painted and based, but as you see, any old figures blend quite well into the sabot base, and are held there reasonably firmly by the magnets.

Once all the glue is dry, I'll give it a couple of squirts with matte varnish, which will help all the various types of flock stay where they are. And then the base will be done.

Part One
Part Two

PaK36 sabot bases — WiP Part 2: The Dirt

Now the guns and bases are painted. The bases aren't painted very smoothly except around the edges; they don't have to be, all of the top surfaces will eventually be covered with various textural materials.

I also haven't bothered smoothing out the hard channels in the surface of the bases, as those same textural materials will soften the hard edges quite successfully without going to all the extra work.

I use a slightly dilute mix of PVA glue (4 parts glue to 1 part water) to fix the first layer of texture. The dilution allows it to spread more easily, and it also slightly increases the glue's working time.

I've got into the habit of texturing the bases in several stages, because in summer the glue goes off quite quickly, and I want it to still be very liquid when the textural material goes on so that it will soak through it. It's late autumn here in New Zealand at the moment, so that's not really necessary, but habits are hard to break.

I'm careful not to allow any of the glue over the lips of the crew cavities; the washers they're based on are already quite a close fit, so there's no room to spare.

On goes the first part of the first layer.

This will be the "dirt", over which will go other materials to represent turf and other foliage. It's not actual dirt; it's actually MDF sawdust that I've coloured with acrylic paint and re-ground to a powder, with some ground-up model railway ballast added for stones.

There's no particular reason I can think of not to use actual dirt for this stage, as long as it's perfectly dry and ground suitably fine. The MDF just guarantees a consistent colour across a whole lot of bases.

Here's the first "dirt" layer complete on all the bases — the two guns, and an extra for a command group, if required.

Something I didn't expect is that the MDF "dirt" appears to be magnetic. I don't know why, maybe it's the ferric oxide in the pigment I used to colour it? It's not important in any case. Once the glue has dried, it will brush and blow away quite easily.

Part One
Part Three

Saturday, 13 May 2017

PaK36 sabot bases — WiP Part 1: The Bases

I found a blister of Battlefront's 15mm German PaK36 37mm anti-tank guns in my stash of unbuilt stuff.

 Regrettably, the crew figures supplied with it are mostly dressed in camo smocks and helmet covers, so they're not really suitable for my 1939-40 German army unless I field them as SS — which I am reluctant to do, because frankly the SS were a real pack of bastards. I don't really fancy the idea of commanding a bunch of war criminals, even in make-believe.

However, the issue is not insuperable, since I have a bunch of laser-cut MDF sabot bases I had made a while ago. The idea of using these bases, rather than fixing the crew permanently to the base, is so that I can swap out figures as required, or remove casualties during a game rather than keeping track of them via book-keeping. That means that if I get some early-war Heer crew from someone like Peter Pig, I can swap them in to the existing gun bases. Easy-peasy.

The figures are all glued to 12.5mm (½") steel washers, which fit into the 13mm holes in the bases. The MDF bases themselves are glued to thin card so that the figures don't just fall straight through.

The two holes where the gun itself will go are filled with a couple of plugs left over from the laser cutting; unfortunately I don't have very many of these, I didn't foresee their usefulness when I got the bases cut, and I suppose most of them were just thrown away as scrap.

The card is trimmed flush with the edge of the MDF, and tiny 3mm x 1mm magnets are glued in the cavities. These are what will hold the crew figures in place during a game — they're not completely necessary, but they do add a bit of insurance against scattering figures all over the table with a particularly fumble-fingered move.

On the base on the right, I've squished some figures down over some cling-film over the magnets to ensure that the epoxy isn't higher than the thickness of the magnets, but with the second base (on the left) I didn't find that a necessary step.

The magnets I sourced from China, very cheaply. It cost me about ten dollars for 500 magnets in this size.

Next stage was to mount the guns in place.

I've left the loader figure in place during the gluing to ensure that the position of the guns and the loader figures is compatible.

Part Two
Part Three

Friday, 12 May 2017

Plastic Panzer IV

This is the 1:100 scale (15mm) PzIVf from The Plastic Soldier Company.

They come in a box of five for about twenty quid, so what with postage by the time they get here to New Zealand they work out to about $NZ10.00 per vehicle. That makes them some of the cheapest decent 15mm wargaming models available.

I've added some very basic marking decals I got from Battlefront. They're not intended to represent any particular unit; this is a generic model that will mostly be standing in for a PzIV D.

Apart from the decals and paint, and a lead slug glued inside to add some mass, this is the model as built straight out of the box.

They're very simple to assemble, and the results are a pretty good representation of the original vehicle. I would have liked to have seen the inclusion of a barrel with the aerial deflector included; that's the main visual difference between the Mark IV F and the earlier Mark IV D — that and the fact that in France in 1940 it wouldn't have had the Rommelkette (the turret bin). However, as a generic Panzer IV, it will do me fine.

Now there's just the rest of the box to finish.

And here's another one I prepared earlier.
I had completely forgotten about this one.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

SdKfz 231 (15mm)

 This is a 1:100 scale resin and pewter model from Battlefront, from their WWII Flames of War range.

It's the German SdKfz 231 heavy armoured car.

I've had the model hanging about, unbuilt, for a few years now, and I thought it was about time I got it on to the wargames table.

I suspect that, for the 1939-40 period I'm primarily interested in, that the crewman should be wearing the big beret rather than the side-cap, but I shall let that pass since I can't be faffed getting out the Green Stuff to make him a new hat.

Monday, 8 May 2017


This just arrived in my letter box.

It's a more granular system than Bolt Action, so no longer is a Panzer III and a Cromwell or a PaK36 and a 2pdr functionally identical, and it includes elements I think are lacking from Bolt Action such as target acquisition and better developed off-table artillery and aircraft rules.

It started with Battlegroup: Kursk back in 2012, which gave you the core rules plus information and special rules to reflect the specific theatre of war (in that case, mid-war German vs. Soviet), but they've since moved to a multi-book model in which the core rules and theatre information such as history, orbats and vehicle/gun stats are in separate volumes. I got the core rules PDF and printed and bound it myself, owing to being cheap.

The hardback rulebooks are about 25 quid each. I got mine from North Star ( ) because they do the cheapest postage. Next on the wish-list is Battlegroup Tobruk for that early war desert goodness.

1980s Essex Medieval Heavy Foot Soldier

Here's an old Medieval wargaming miniature from the 1980s, produced by Essex Miniatures.

Essex were among the first to start producing larger scale 28mm miniatures, although they actually advertised them as 25mm. Up until then, 25mm had been the standard, and Essex armies towered over their opponents on the wargames table. Basing systems had been designed for 25mm figures too, so Essex figures tended to be very crowded on bases designed for the smaller scale.

They tended towards rather caricatured, cartoonish features, but I always rather liked them, except for their horses which looked a bit small and spindly underneath their gigantic riders. Eventually they also started producing 15mm miniatures which were excellent as well, and a lot more affordable than larger scale armies.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Stonework Modeling

I  wanted to create a stonework texture that I could apply to a card or MDF substrate like wallpaper, to cut down on the amount of work I'd have to do when making 15mm walls and buildings and what-not. I saw a similar thing in a railway modelling shop, but, though flexible, it was quite thick and wouldn't be able to conform to tight curves or corners. I made my own by rolling out a thin layer of modelling wax, only about a millimetre or so thick, on to a piece of hardboard and embossing it. Then I took a one-piece silicon mould of the resulting strip of stonework texture.

The piece in the model shop had a feature I tried to emulate, though not very successfully — interlinking ends, for joining long runs of the material. Mine are too blobby and uneven to link seamlessly; if need be, I'll be better off just modelling the interstices manually. However, in the scale I'm working in (15mm) I doubt that I'll often need more length than I have here.

I've experimented with two different casting mediums.

On the left is just PVA glue, with the addition of a bit of colouring, brushed into the mould. It's been backed with medical gauze to give it some strength. It's very flexible, which is good, but the silicon rubber repels it (it's hydrophobic) and so as well as having a patchy coverage, the moulded face is covered in pin-prick bubbles. A heat-set plastisol would probably be a better option, if I can find some in a decent colour, or which I can colour myself.

On the right is an acrylic filler (Selleys Permafill), pressed and smoothed into the mould with a plastic card. Once cured, I've glued a piece of newsprint to the back, again to give it some strength, as the filler on its own has very little mechanical cohesiveness when laid down this thin. It's not nearly as flexible as the PVA, but it will still follow a reasonably tight curve without cracking.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results so far.

A few hours later...

Test pieces
Here are the first few test pieces along with some Peter Pig infantry.

They'll do fine, I think. The stonework skins are glued either side of a piece of mounting board, except for the curved pieces which are self-supporting (just glued back to back). They're mounted on ice-block sticks.

The PVA skins aren't really all that great though; the multitude of tiny bubbles makes the actual blockwork a bit indistinct. The Permafil skins are better as regards detail, but do need to be sealed with acrylic gesso before painting.

Next day

Making walls is easy enough, though for large-scale production it would be better and more efficient to make a few master walls and mould them complete, rather than assembling them like this. The real reason I made the texture mould was for cladding broad areas.

This little shed is built up from a sample of an architectural modeling card that I got a long time ago. It's firmer than foamcore, but less dense than cardboard or MDF. The sample piece I got was about 2mm thick, as far as I can recall. The black card of the roof is a piece of mounting board.

I used the Permafill texture with newsprint backing for this, and it went on as easy as pie, glued down with PVA. It cuts clean and easy, and it's thin enough not to distort the overall size of the model too severely. The corners are still an issue, but nothing a little filler won't take care of.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Man the Barricades!

Some considerable time ago, I bought a bunch of 15mm Battlefront stuff from the bargain bin. Among them was this this resin barricade set — the truck is a separate piece, and can be replaced with another bit more like the rest of the barricade, or could be if I knew where that other piece was.

The whole lot (except the truck) has been very quickly and simply painted, and then slathered with QuickShade varnish stain. I think it gives quite an acceptable result for terrain pieces like this, but it's going to need a squirt with matte varnish once it's cured.

In the background is another old Battlefront item, an injection-moulded plastic Sherman tank from the Open Fire starter set they released along with Flames of War (3rd Edition I think). I believe their plastic stuff has improved enormously since then, but that Sherman is literally the worst plastic model tank I've ever had the misfortune to put together. You wouldn't believe the amount of carving and body putty required to get it to that state.