All posts by Brian Burger

Started this site way, way back in November 1998, when the web was young. It's still here, and so am I.

Blinds & Markers for WW2 Naval Gaming

Most naval rules have spotting and target ID rules of some sort or another, often with various stages of “we think something’s out there” through “there’s probably a ship over there” to “It’s a German S-boat and it has started shooting at us!” or similar.

For example, Coastal Patrol published by TwoFatLardies uses both Blinds (for small groups of ships or dummies) and Markers (for possible individual ships, or dummies) so I’ve done up both 2″ and 1″ numbered tokens, designed to be printed on light card and then punched out or cut out for tabletop use.

The current PDF covers all the major combatants – the British Royal Navy, German Kriegsmarine, Italian Regia Marina, United States Navy, and Imperial Japanese Navy, and also includes generic Red Force & Blue Force markers, all numbered 1 through 12 in both 2″ and 1″ sizes. It’s available in both Letter (for those of us in North America) and A4 (for the rest of the world) for easy printing.

I might do up a second set of extra markers numbered 13 through 24 for larger scenarios; that would be straightforward enough.

Earlier this year I also did up a simple set of printable Star Shell & Moon Markers for naval gaming that you might also find useful.

If there’s any other combatants you’d like to see added to a future set, please let me know in the comments. Some of the larger Commonwealth navies, the Soviets, the smaller European nations?

Tiny Boats and Even Tinier Planes

When I did my first WW2 coastal order to Last Square back in November 2019, well over six months ago now, I added a pack of British Beaufighter/Beaufort and a pack of German Ju88 for the heck of it, chosen because both types of aircraft show up in the maritime strike role for most of the war with various loadouts.

I got them, looked at them, was dumbstruck by the insanely minute size of the things, and put them aside to paint the boats up instead. Having just finished (most of) the second order of Last Square coastal naval boats and being in a get-stuff-finished mood, I decided to have another look at the tiny tiny planes and figure out how to mount and paint them.

I recalled reading about using plastic broom bristles for masts and antenna previously, so I decided to test this out for creating flying stands suitable for tiny planes. I used the same 40mmx20mm thin acrylic bases I’m using for most of my boats, because I’ve got them, and I happened to have a micro-drill-bit in my tool stash almost perfectly the same size as the bristles I harvested off our household broom.

RAF Bristol Beauforts/Beaufighters, two mounted and one left loose. Click for larger.

I kept the flying heights fairly short, about one inch maximum, which means these planes are all coming in at wavetop height, pretty much, which seems to make sense when attacking small coastal vessels and is way, way easier to store than taller possibly more realistic height stands!

Two Beaufighters and two Ju88 mostly done, including recognizable national insignia on these tiny, tiny planes. Click for larger.
Extreme closeup of the unmounted Beaufighter and Ju88. I’m pleased with the look of the canopies, especially on the German Ju88 with their big “greenhouse” canopies covering most of the front end. Click for larger.

Painting Notes

All my current paints are from the Reaper Master Paints series. All six planes got a white primer, and then for the RAF I used Muddy Brown and Military Green for the topside camo; the underside is Heather Blue mixed with Rainy Grey which seems like a good match for the RAF “sky blue” grey-blue underside paint.

The Germans were a mix of Rainy Grey and Muddy Olive 1:1 for the all-over base coat, with two of the Ju88s getting slightly darker grey-green camo added with some additional Stone Grey added to the Rainy Grey/Muddy Olive mix.

I adding some highlighting along edges mostly by mixing a bit of Rainy Grey into the relevant base colour, and the Germans got some yellow recognition patches with Marigold Yellow. I also used some Games Workshop Nuln Oil (black) and Agrax Earthshade (brown) washes, especially along the roots of the wings.

The German iron crosses are Walnut Brown, a lovely almost-black that I use all the time instead of actual Pure Black.

The RAF roundels are Marigold Yellow, Sapphire Blue, Pure White, and Carnage Red.

Windows and cockpit canopies were picked out with Ghost White, a blue-tinted off-white.

For scale, I made sure to take this photo with my thumb “in the way”. That’s a standard CD I’m using to hold the planes, just for additional scale. These things are seriously tiny. Click for larger.
Side views, RAF Beauforts/Beaufighters on the left and Luftwaffe Ju88 on the right. Click for larger.
Tail end view, Beaufort/Beaufighter left, Ju88 to the right. Click for larger.
Forward view, same arrangement as previous. Click for larger.

Aircraft don’t actually play a huge role in most of the engagements coastal naval vessels find themselves involved in, so I don’t think I’ll be adding to my collection of tiny aircraft anytime particularly soon, but these turned out to be fun to paint and they ended up way better looking than I was thinking they would, given the diminutive size of the things!

New WW2 Tiny Boats

Latest batch of World War Two coastal naval vessels in 1/1200 scale is done and based. As with the previous vessels, these are all Figurehead from Last Square in the States. I’m especially pleased with the two German patrol trawlers (Vorpostenboote) with their dazzle/disruption camo scheme.

First of two Vorpostenboot. Click for larger.
Second Vorpostenboot. The two models are actually different, which is cool when representing these notably heterogeneous craft (almost all requisitioned trawlers pressed into service as escorts) on the table. Click for larger.

I also did up a few more Royal Navy Coastal Command craft, four Fairmile B Motor Launches and four 70′ British Power Boat (BPB) Motor Gun Boats. The BPBs are really tiny at 1/1200 scale, under 20mm long!

Four BPB Motor Gun Boats in the foreground and four Fairmile B Motor Launches in the background, all on 40mm long acrylic bases. Click for larger.

And the reason it’s been quiet here on the blog for the last couple of weeks is that I’ve been completely pulling my hobby/painting area apart and have finally mostly put it together again, all with the aim of installing a big Ikea shelving unit in one corner, a Kallax 57′ x 57′ monster.

The partially-rebuilt painting/hobby/game storage area! Click, as always, for larger.

The cubicles of the Kallax will fit a banker’s box (there’s a couple in there already) which is already my standard method of storing and transporting scenery. I’m still planning a massive sort of my scenery stockpile, which will (to be honest) probably take another couple of months in bits and pieces. There’s stuff in the stash that hasn’t hit the table in years and year because it’s buried under other things or just straight up been misplaced and I don’t actually know where it is!

Links of Interest, 1 July 2020

For this Canada Day in a time of pestilence abroad in the land, the usual mix of individual links and items that don’t quite warrant an entire freestanding post, as is an irregular feature of this blog.

Curt of the always-awsome Analogue Hobbies blog has been doing 2mm Napoleonics at a really high standard, including gorgeously painted tiny renditions of the various buildings made famous by the Battle of Waterloo. He’s previously posted about his 2mm Nap armies, as well.

I am getting more and more tempted to do either Russian Civil War or 17th C English Civil War in 2mm… to which end I recently bought the Forward March 2mm Library and might need to get some things 3d printed for me. I quite like the thought of a single print bed of bases being an entire army, and I’ve always liked the “miles of battlefield all at once” look of small scale gaming even though I’ve done nothing smaller than 15mm (and far more 28mm than anything else) for many years now.

Rather nice little tutorial on doing bog or fen areas easily with patterned clear plastic sheet over on Lead Legionaries. This is a terrain type I’ve been meaning to do for several years now but it’s still somewhere on the endless to-do list.

On the WW2 naval gaming side, which I want to get back to sometime soon, I recently discovered the nicely laid out german-navy.de which has good short articles and illustrations of nearly everything the WW2 Kreigsmarine built or planned to build, from the workaday utility boats like the well known R-boote to the insane jet-powered hydrofoil they were dreaming of far too late in the war to actually matter. (German military designers spent the entire war hopped up on the Very Best Drugs, you can’t convince me that isn’t true!) If you have found a similar resource for other WW2 navies (especially the Royal Navy) I’d love to know about it.

Happy Canada Day if you happen to be Canadian, Happy (upcoming) Independence Day if you’re American, and hope July is good to you regardless of where you’re reading this from!

A Fantasy Portal, Part One

Decided to crank out another piece of fantasy terrain this weekend. I’d been thinking of gateways, portals, and fantastic archways off and on for a while, after someone shared this rather cool garden gate on one of the Facebook terrain groups.

No idea where this is from originally; it’s been shared around so much reverse image search is a cluttered mess. The general idea seems to be called a “moon gate”, though, and there’s lots of other neat images around the web.

I decided on a CD-sized base, because why break good habits, and wanted the portal gate to be solid enough to block line of sight, with a raised platform that can hold several 25mm based figures or one monster on a 40mm base.

Test fitting a Reaper demon dog on a 40mm wide base. I wound up cutting the topmost stone on the left off and replacing it to improve the fit. Click for larger.

The whole thing is made up of dense pink insulation styrofoam, cut with a knife and textured with a ball of crumpled tinfoil. There wasn’t a lot of planning, just repeated test fittings with various figures like the Reaper demon hound above to make sure figures (and fingers) would fit.

One of the stones in progress, cut and shaped but not textured. Chunk of hard styrofoam, sharp knife, tinfoil ball for textures, toothpicks for strength. Not shown, hot glue gun for fast assembly. Click for larger.

Assembling the arch took a few hours, most of it working fairly casually with a beer to one side of my workbench. I used hot glue for speed, and there’s a partial toothpick holding each stone to the one below it so the whole thing is solid and should be gamer-proof. The top of the arch is about 6″ above table height and flat enough to put a 25mm base on, just for fun.

Complete portal, with demon dog. Click for larger.
Side view. The arch has a twist to it as it rises. 28mm Warlord figure (kitbashed) on 25mm base for scale. Click for larger.

Except for checking clearance on the demon dog and a couple of bigger figures as the arch went up I didn’t do a lot more planning or measuring, just cut and shaped stones that looked like they’d fit.

The big keystone at the top of the arch started as a random roughly triangular foam offcut and I shaped and textured it early, then fit the last few stones at the top of the arch to make the keystone sit where I wanted it.

Other side of the structure, same figure as previous image. The whole arch has a twist to it as it rises. Click for larger.

I think for painting I’ll basecoat the archway in white instead of my usual black, then start painting the stones with a heavy drybrush of black so the deep grooves between the stones stay white, possibly with a blue or green wash over them to make it look like magical energy is flowing through this thing, holding it together and powering whatever arcane process the archway contains. The base will probably get the normal black basecoat and then the same drybrushing up for texture.

Reaper Moor Hound bounding through a portal from whatever dread fae realm such horrors belong in. Click for larger.

Painting in the next few days, anyway, as we’re doing a stat holiday game this coming Wednesday (not like there’s going to be any big Canada Day celebrations to go to, right?) and I’d like to get this one the table then. Stay well, stay safe, and stay sane.

A Standing Stone

Nice simple bit of terrain I recently cranked out. I realized that the mushroom ring I built recently was nowhere near gamer-proof; it started shedding mushrooms as soon as it left my workbench so I popped the mushrooms off to rebuild the whole thing in such a way as to let me pin the mushrooms to the base with wire. More on that later, but this left me with a flocked and decorated CD base with nothing on it and it seemed a shame to waste it.

I took a scrap of 2″ thick pink styrofoam insulation, sliced off a piece about two inches wide, and craved bits off until it looks about right for a tall thin standing stone or monolith. Then I took a ball of tinfoil and rolled it all over the piece, which gives a really nice random stone texture. I put a few cracks and lines in with a pencil then rolled the tinfoil over those marks again, then glued the monolith into the centre of the CD with a healthy blob of hot glue.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a single photo of this piece during assembly or basecoating, but it got my usual mix of black paint and white glue as a basecoat, then once that was dry (overnight) it got drybrushed up with dark grey, pale grey, tan, light blue, more lighter grey, and finally white. The pale blue is subtle but makes the piece really pop, and I’ll definitely be using that on more stonework in the future.

Finally, I highlighted all the edges with pure white. It doesn’t show up all that well in the photos I’ve gotten so far, but in person that final step really makes the edges pop and makes the piece look bigger. After that it was just a bit of extra flock around the base of the stone and to cover the spots where mushrooms had originally been glued down.

monolith front view
Monolith with 28mm Frostgrave wizard for scale on a 25mm base. Click for larger.
monolith rear view
Monolith from the other side (back? sure…) Click for larger.

The Rebuilt Mushroom Ring

As for the mushrooms, I took a scrap of 3mm plastic board, carved and sanded it so it fit onto a new CD, hot glued it down solidly, then marked out a circle and drilled a bunch of holes with a tiny drill bit. Those got overlength pieces of paperclip wire stuck into them with superglue. The wire was trimmed short after the glue had cured, and then mushrooms with holes drilled into the bottoms of their stems were superglued on.

New mushroom ring base with wire mounts superglued in place, getting a coat of dark brown paint as a basecoat before mushrooms get glued down onto the wires. Click for larger.

The lovely Bad Squiddo mushrooms got glued down (some got repainted beforehand, because I’ve just gotten some new shades of green paint, so why not?) and then the whole thing got my usual turf mix and will eventually get some flowers and other tufts to finish decorating it.

Both “new” pieces together. Reaper 28mm demon in the middle of the rebuilt mushroom ring, which still needs flower tufts to finish it off. Click for larger.

My Turf Mix

I had someone over on Lead Adventure Forum ask about my turf mix. It’s not an exact mix and has been changing gently over the years, but the base is Woodland Scenics mixed fine turf, with WS dark and medium green fine and coarse turf, some Games Workshop summer grass flock, and at least a couple random brands and colours I’m forgetting about in there.

That mix lives in a big 1 litre margarine tub that’s large enough to comfortably put an entire CD-sized terrain base in. For these pieces with fairly wild heavy turf on them I’ll leave the entire base in the turf mix for at least an hour or so before removing it and shaking excess back into the tub, to give a nice heavy scruffy layer of grass. For more manicured lawn-like grass, I’ll take the piece out of the tub right away and shake it off back into the tub, leaving a much shallower layer of turf.

Links of Interest, 14 June 2020

Wargames Designs is partly a webstore, with some good looking historical wargaming flags in a variety of scales, among other things, but they also have this listing of English Civil War coat colours by regiment, which is also a great resource for ECW-era names.

More on coat colours, and much other good stuff as well over on Keep Your Powder Dry.

Over on the micro-scale gaming side, this really fantastic project to depict Constantinople in 2mm for siege games. This is an ongoing project, so look for more recent updates on that blog when you visit!

I feel like I’ve linked to 6mm ACW before, but that website really does have some great 6mm terrain tips that aren’t just limited to those gaming the Slaveholder’s Insurrection.

My most recent YouTube channel discovery is Miscast out of Australia, with a series of painting and terrain videos that tend to be short (this is good) and well edited (also good). I rather like this How To Make a Crystal Elven Waystone for D&D & AoS, which I’ll also embed below. He’s got an accompanying miscast.co website with some interesting stuff on it.

This is actually cardboard, if you can believe it. Well worth four minutes and a few seconds of your time.

Stay safe, stay sane, and try to keep creating things, faithful readers.

Star Shell & Moon Markers for Naval Games

Both Narrow Seas and Coastal Patrol (and probably other naval games, I’m guessing) include rules for the moon being full or partial in their sighting and visibility rules, and a difference if your target is silhouetted against the moon or “down-moon”. They’ve also got rules for star shells and flares, with a different diameter in each game – 12″ diameter in Coastal Patrol, 8″ in Narrow Seas.

Accordingly I decided to crank out full moon, partial moon, and star shell illuminated area markers suitable for both games.

Thumbnail of the full and partial moon markers.

The star shell markers are quarter-circles; you could print four and tape them together, I guess, or just do what I intend to, use the quarter circle as a quick flexible marker for the extent of the illuminated area around a marker denoting the centre of it.

The moon graphic was originally from OpenClipArt.org, still a useful site but much, much messier than it used to be. I suspect the moon in that image was pulled in from elsewhere on OpenClipArt, but searching that site has become harder and harder. I cut mine out separately with a circle cutter then glued them back to back for ease of use.

Star Shell Markers

I’ve done four simple 3d starshell/flare markers for use on the tabletop to mark the centre of an illuminated area and the actual star shell location, each a length of wire on a 25mm MDF base with tufts of cotton wool for the characteristic smoke/light effect you see in photos of starshells. They’re a bit rough but they work, I think.

Star shells over Iraq. Image via Wikipedia, originally taken by USAF personnel.

The bases are 2mm thick MDF and 25mm wide; I used the same water effects with gloss gel that I use on terrain for this naval projects then did some basic highlighting with white paint to kind of give the effect of light glaring off the water.

Four star shells bracket a really, really unfortunate Royal Navy Fairmile D motor gun boat. Click for larger.

I worked a bit of white glue into the cotton wool so the whole thing was more wargamer-proof and the plumes stand up better.

We’ve only done two games since actually introducing the illumination rules to Coastal Patrol, and it’s fascinating to watch how the illuminated areas are treated like “terrain” to be avoided while maneuvering around the table. They definitely add tactical complexity to the small unit naval game!

A Tree for Forestgrave

For our Forestgrave games I wanted some decidedly weird scenery, stuff from the other side of reality that doesn’t quite look like it obeys physics as we understand it. I wanted a lush, not-quite-overgrown-but-almost faery realm thing going on, what in D&D is called the Faewild.

It turns out that, far as I can tell, that’s not a super common theme for wargaming terrain, which surprised me. Maybe I haven’t discovered the magic search terms in Google or YouTube to let me find the other folks doing weird natural terrain yet. If you know of any, let me know in comments, please!

Anyway, I started with a scrap CD, hot glued some washers to it for ballast (because I knew I wanted my final tree to be five or six inches tall), and then used the light cardstock from a Frostgrave figure box to start forming the trunk, with lots (and lots) of hot glue to hold everything down and together, fill gaps, and add some texture to the trunk.

Initial construction underway. Rolled up and scrunched around light card for the trunks and root structures, washers and tape on the base, and loads of hot glue everywhere. Click for larger.

The stone platform is half inch foam insulation, cut as if it had at one point been octagonal before splitting in half somehow. I spiked a toothpick into the foam and then down into the cardboard of the trunk, and it’s solid enough to hold large metal figures without worrying me, even though it’s only attached to the trunk at a single point.

The whole trunk and roots covered in toilet paper and white glue. Fantastic easy bark texture. Click for larger.

I pushed a couple of toothpicks into the trunk in a few places, securing them with more hot glue, then covered the entire tree with clean toilet paper slathered with white glue. Push it around a bit with a stiff wet paintbrush and extra white glue as needed, let it dry overnight, and it’s fantastic easy cheap bark texture for bigger trees. I first used this on my big jungle trees for Infinity a few years ago, and it’s fantastic.

Black primer everywhere, start of paint on the platform, and grit going down on the base. Click for larger.

Next step was black acrylic craft paint, mixed with a generous amount of white glue for extra strength. That took a while to dry on the tree, so I stuck sand and grit onto the base while it was still wet, as well as adding a few bits of scrap foam for stone blocks.

Foam foliage on the trees, base flock and bushes on the base, paint mostly done on the platform. Frostgrave female wizard facing off against a Reaper demon. Click for larger.

The platform got the same black primer, then various shades of grey, tan, pale blue, and white on the stone. I shaded the centre section with blue ink, then used both pale blue and white as final drybrushed highlights.

The two smaller trees in the photo above, incidentially, were made from wire and hot glue several years ago, got put away unfinished, and I just found them last week while looking for something else. They got extra basing materials and tree foliage alongside the big one, and are finally finished, at least five years after I started them. Yeah, I’m organized.

The base got foam foliage bushes, a base coat of my usual mixed grass flock, patches of several other types of flock, a few mushrooms from Bad Squiddo Games, and then a lot of tufts, both grass and flowers.

Tree complete. Mushrooms, bushes, grass, and flowers on the base in abundance. Click for larger.

The grass and flower tufts are mostly from Rain City Hobbies, who do all sorts of great stuff including a bunch of styles of grass and flower stuffs at really good prices. I’ve been using the flowers on my English Civil War/generic English terrain already, and dailling them up higher to get that fae-touched lush look was the right choice, I think.

Weird tree all finished, front view. For my next trick I need to finish that Frostgrave summoner, her apprentice, the rest of her warband, and the demons she summons… Click for larger.

There’s still room for figures on the base, despite the abundant plant life, and I’m looking forward to doing more scenery like this soon!

And again, if you have a line on good inspiration for this sort of faewild overgrown haunted woods scenery, please let me know!

Forge of Ice Serpent Idol

Painted this guy up fairly quickly over a couple of days, after getting it a few weeks ago from Forge of Ice. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the statue up in bare stone, painted, or a mix, but it wound up being mostly painted. Basecoat in black, and then lots of drybrushing in various tans up to a bit of pure white, and then I used inks and washes to add the colour while keeping the drybrushed highlighting visible.

snake statue 1
Snake idol, front view. The base is about 1.5″ wide, and the whole thing is just under 2.75″ tall. Click for larger.

The final product looks like an ancient statue painted a very, very long time ago, which seems right for something either in a ruin somewhere or populating an unimaginably old Lost World temple complex!

snake statue back
Rear of the snake idol, nice sculpted folds in the hood and robe. Click for larger.
snake head
Closeup of the upper half of the snake statue, just for fun. Click for larger.

I also have this fun sabretooth tiger skin rug in progress, and I like the blends I’ve been getting so far on the fur, thanks partially to using glaze medium. Just a few details to finish up on this one.

sabretooth tiger skin rug
Just the right decoration for a timetraveler’s study or somewhere in a Lost World. Forge of Ice sabretooth tiger skin rug! Click for larger.