Category Archives: English Civil War/Thirty Years War

A category for historical and swashbuckling goings-on in the English Civil War, Thirty Years War and similar eras!

Colourful Cavalry, Part Two

Horses in colours other than brown!

Armour in colours other than silver!

Dogs and cats living together! Chaos and disorder!

Well, something like that. Horses and armour, at least.

I realized that all twelve horses for my regular ECW cavalry are all brown. Every last one of them. There’s a bunch of variation in tone, mane colour, stuff like that, but they’re all bay, which is horse-speak for brown. Well, some of them might be chestnut, which is horse-speak for “lighter reddish brown”, more or less. For the six horses I needed for the current batch of cuirassier I decided to mix it up a lot. There’s a white horse, two different shades of grey, two different bay, and one black horse.

All six cuirassier horse. Hair, mane, and tail all done. Hooves, tack, and some details still to do. Click for larger.

Unfortunately I totally forgot to write down any of the paint mixes or layers I used for this batch of painting, so I’ll have to re-invent the wheel, or at least the horse paint, next time I do horses!

For the armour, I put pins up into the backsides of all six cuirassier, making them extra-long to make painting easier. Then I used a scrap CD, two lengths of scrap wood, and my hot glue gun to create a very useful little painting stand, seen in the photo below.

All six riders got all their armour basecoated bright silver (Reaper’s True Silver), then various inks and washes were layered over to try for a treated-metal appearance as discussed in my last post on coloured armour.

GW’s washes don’t work as a base layer for this, I discovered right away. They’re not designed to stay on flat surfaces particularly well, although they shade crevices and lower areas of a surface very nicely. I used India ink for the three blacked armour sets, Reaper’s Red Ink for the russeted armour, and FW Artist’s Acrylic Inks for most of the rest of the colour.

The three blacked armour riders were basically done after one coat of thinned India ink, and then I went back in with metallic paint to do some of the edges and highlights, especially on the rider in the foreground of the photo with the hammer and plume.

Armoured riders. Front right blacked with silver edging, rightmost russet, two background guys both blacked, blued armour on the far left, then the second russet armour guy foreground centre. Click for larger.

The two russetted armour guys and the one blued rider (far left) got at least a couple of more layers, including either very, very thin India ink or GW’s Nuln Oil to darken the bright initial ink coat. The blue guy especially looked incredibly bright and weird after his first coat of just blue ink – my girlfriend saw him and said, “Seventeenth Century Power Ranger!” and damned if she wasn’t right…

I’ve also discovered that these guys are nearly impossible to get a decent photo of in their current setup, the above blown out and fairly crap photo is less crap than all the rest. I’ll try for better pictures once the riders and horses are all attached to each other. Still to do is boots, saddles, faces, and weapons.

I’m really pleased with how these guys are turning out so far, and I think they’ll look great on the tabletop once they’re all finished. Ink over silver is definitely a win for doing coloured armour!

Colourful Cavalry: Armour as well as horses!

I’ve posted links to horse painting articles and tutorials before, including the exhaustive “horse of a different colour” series over at Trouble at t’Mill. Mike even gives you some rough math on what colours any given troop/regiment/herd/group of horses should be: “One tip – if you’re batch painting, the maths works out roughly that you should pick out your hero horses that are going to be fancy colours, then split about a quarter of the rest off and earmark them for chestnuts, split a quarter of the leftovers from those off and earmark them as blacks, and paint the rest (which should be a bit over half) bay. The further back in history you go, the fewer chestnuts you’ll probably have.”

But what about the riders? Unarmoured or mostly unarmoured riders provide obvious opportunity for colour, depending on the army or era you’re modelling, but if it’s knights or early 17th Century cuirassier in full plate it’s all going to be silver/grey metal armour, right?

Armour can, in fact, be lots of colours than just “shiny metal”. It probably should be, in fact. Blacking, russeting, or even painting seems to have been fairly common. Keeping armour “white” (shiny) was a lot of work on an ongoing basis so a lot of munition-grade ordinary armour was finished in some way.

A lot of the armour in museums that’s shiny these days probably shouldn’t be. As the Wallace Collection says on their website about one partial suit of 17th C armour, “Like the others of its group, this one originally had a ‘black-from-the-hammer’ finish, but was polished bright comparatively recently, almost certainly in the 19th century.” Another thing we can blame the Victorian era for!

Russeting, blacking, and other forms of surface finish are done with various oils, acids, and other chemicals along with heat to seal the surface of the metal and protect it from rust and other corrosion. An interesting and informative thread over on My Armory (an arms/armour collector and creator forum) talks about various historic and modern treatments and the various shades that can be achieved. One essay on russeting I found uses modern Clorox bleach and baby oil!

There’s a great essay on the Met about decoration and surface treatment of armour. From that essay:

Heating metal produces a coloration of the surface, which changes from yellow to purple to deep blue as the heat increases. When taken out of the fire at a particular temperature, the metal retains this color. Considerable skill is required to achieve a consistent and even heat-patination of large areas (e.g., a breastplate) or groups of objects (e.g., a complete armor, 32.130.6
). The favored color for armor, edged weapons, and firearm barrels was a deep blue, in a process is referred to as “bluing.” A range of colors could also be produced chemically, using a variety of different recipes, such as a rich brown color that was popular on firearm barrels in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. Besides being attractive, patination and painting also inhibit rust on metal surfaces.

This gorget is contemporary with the English Civil War (c. 1640) and is blued with gilt edging. Image off the Wallace Collection website. Click image to see the listing there.

The entire Wallace Collection website is well worth looking through, by the way. It includes a huge collection of arms and armour through the ages, and a really well organized Advanced Search function to make things (slightly!) easier to find.

Also from the Wallace Collection is a “black and white” set of cavalry armour, almost certainly from an officer, with distinctive polished/silver bands around the edges of otherwise blackened armour. The Wallace writeup say, “Most military armours worn by lower-ranking troopers or infantrymen were left ‘black from the hammer’, that is, the metal was worked only up to the point when the armour would function as required. The surface finish was left black and hammer-marked. Bodies of cavalry wearing such armour were therefore often described as ‘Schwarze Reiter’- black riders. The armours of officers commanding groups of men armed in this way often had the bands and borders of their armour polished bright, producing the distinctive visual effect characteristic of ‘black and white’ armours.

For a straight-up painted helmet, this one is 15th C, much earlier than the period I’m currently concerned with, but had red and white (now discoloured almost to yellow) paint that is still colourful and must have been spectacular when it was new. I don’t think, from what I’ve seen, that full on painted armour was still current by the mid-17th C, but blacked, blued, russeted, and even gilded surface treatments were certainly in regular use.

When it comes to miniature painting and armour, I’m thinking that the best way to represent coloured armour would be a metallic base coat and then inks or washes over that. I’m going to do some experimenting on the six cuirassier current on my painting bench and will report back!

Incidentally, if someone managed to save a copy of the Games Workshop article from back in 2011 I once linked to here I’d love to have it. I recall it opened with joking about how the author just painted all horses brown until his daughter told him his horses were boring, or similar!

Finished English Civil War Figures

Not the greatest photographs going, but so far the only ones I’ve gotten of all of my recently completed 28mm ECW figures all together!

Every figure finished recently! See text for details, and click for larger.

Starting top left, the dark yellow coats belong to six firelock musketeers (in Pikeman’s Lament terms, either a Forlorn Hope or Commanded Shot). Clockwise we have two troops of regular horse, six per troop. One unit is brand-new and the other had most of it’s painting done years ago but have been touched up and re-based just recently. Somewhere in amongst the other horsemen is the mounted commander as well, finally finished and based.

The bottom centre infantry unit is a dozen muskets in green, then a dozen pike in green, and finally a dozen muskets in blue. There’s a couple of extra officer/sergeant figures in there as well.

The only unit not on the tray in the photo above is the twelve pike in blue I finished back in July 2017.

All these figures are from Warlord Games.

The new horse, with blue and white horse blankets, as well as some of the older horse with blue and yellow on the horses. Click for larger.

Finally, for fun and extra colour, I’ve been painting up the farm animals I got from Warbases early in 2017.

Geese and sheep, all from Warbases. See text for details, click for larger.

The geese are on a 40mm round styrene base, while the two sets of sheep are on roughly rectangular bases about 1″x2″. They’ll mostly be just scenery, or objectives in games that need loot tokens, but I’m also planning on using the flock of geese as a hazard in games of Pulp Alley, because big geese can be scary psycho critters!

Still in progress on the farm animal side are five or six ducks to go in and around the ponds I made in 2017, two big cart horses, and a couple of goats. I’ll probably get a few more animals on my next Warbases order, they’re fun to paint and provide great extra detail and colour on the tabletop.

On the ECW figure side of things the first six cuirassier heavy horse are in progress, and I’ll be doing up at least one more unit of firelock muskets. There’s also six officer/sergeant/character figures in progress – more on them in another post!

Happy New Year!

Slightly belated Happy New Year to all!

After months of doing absolutely zilch on the gaming front I saw the year out in some style, at least, with a whole bunch of English Civil War 28mm figures pushed through from “almost done” to actually finished in my time off between Christmas and New Years.

Two units of musket, one of pike, one of firelocks, all DONE! Click for larger, see text for details.

This means that all of the regular soldier figures seen on the workbench back in June are now finished and ready to game with, just the four officer/character figures seen there still to finish off.

The cavalry on the table now include five figures that I “finished” for the Lead Painter’s League way, way back in early 2011 (!) that have sat around ever since. I had thought these ECW figures had sat around for four or five years, but apparently it’s been more like seven. Yikes. “Finished” is in scare quotes in here because I was never happy with some of the details and finish on the riders, having put most of the effort in the horses. They’re back on the painting table for touchups, as are the other seven cavalry figures from that box of 12, and the first six heavy Cuirassiers for extra cavalry punch.

Cavalry of various flavours in various stages of completion, and the four officer figures. Click for larger.

Finally, I pulled out a bunch of farm animals from my Warbases order of early 2017 and cleaned up and based six sheep, two cart horses, and a flock of geese, just for fun and extra flavour in games. They can act as loot markers in Pikeman’s Lament, just as scenery, or (especially the geese, geese are evil!) as unique hazards in Pulp Alley games!

Cavalry, sheep, geese, and some barrels. The unpainted horse on the far left are for the cuirassiers. Click for larger.

Looking forward to a bit more gaming in 2018 than 2017 had to offer, including more Infinity and some games at Trumpeter Salute 2018 in a few months!

Back To Painting, Finally

I’m fairly sure the last time I touched a paintbrush was back in July. Maybe August. As posts here will show, all wargaming activity of any sort coasted to a stop sometime in the first week or so of September, mostly due to a brain- and free-time-destroying family health crisis and associated astronomical levels of stress.

Most of that is sorted and past now, thankfully, and I did some fun non-wargaming creative stuff before Christmas so I’m finally sitting back down at the painting desk and getting stuff moving again.

I’ve committed to running at least two games at Trumpeter Salute 2018, as I mentioned last post, so I need a bunch of my ongoing English Civil War figures and scenery done by March. To that end, I’ve started cranking through the long-neglected ECW figures, most of the plastic Warlord figures.

I finished the last details and added flocking to a unit of six firelock musketeers, half a unit of regular musketeers, a full unit of a dozen pike, and a dog.

I’ve since moved on to another dozen mostly-finished musketeers and four more officer/character figures. The officer/character types are a chance to bust out some fun colours, as officers rarely wore uniforms in this period and often dressed like the gaudy wealthy gentlemen they were.

Finished figures – six firelock musketeers in mustard yellow, six regular musketeers in blue, and a full dozen pike in blue. And a dog. Click for larger.
Four colourful officers in the background and part of a unit of a dozen muskets in blue in the foreground. Click for larger.

I have this week between Christmas and New Years off, so before the end of 2017 I might actually get a usable 24 point Pikeman’s Lament force finished by forcing myself to deal with a lot of the mostly-painted figures!

The Assault Group ECW Artillery

The Assault Group (TAG) has a huge range of Thirty Year’s War/English Civil War/general Renaissance figures that I’d heard good things about, including that they were fairly compatible in size and style to the Warlord figures that make up the entirety of my TYW/ECW collection so far.

The only major piece missing from my 17th C forces so far are guns, so I ordered TAG’s English Battery Builder pack which has a culverin, eight crew, and accessories. To give me some game options I also picked up a falconette light gun on it’s own. That gives me a light gun, a heavier field gun, enough crew to do a full six man gun crew per the Pikeman’s Lament rules for either of them, and some nice extra bits for base decoration – gunpowder barrels, piles of shot, that sort of thing.

Then I waited.

And waited some more.

Then I got an email apologizing for the wait.

This wasn’t a surprise by this point, because a significant number of posts on the TAG blog are, in fact, posts explaining how backlogged their orders are.

Then I waited a while longer.

My initial order was made on June 22nd. The “we’re backed up” email came through on August 4th. My order was apparently “completed” on August 11th. It showed up in Canada on September 11th.

Nearly three months wait for this! The culverin, both crew packs, and the gabions are part of the Battery Deal; the falconette was separate; and the praying cavalryman is, as the sticker says, the ECW/TYW Bonus Figure, apparently. Click for larger.

That’s… goddamn glacial. In nearly two decades of ordering stuff from overseas for wargaming I don’t think I’ve ever had an order take so long from initial order to the toys actually showing up, even back in the late 1990s when I was just starting out and an order to the UK or the States meant snail mail, paper order forms filled out by hand, and an International Money Order.

So, don’t order from TAG if you’re in any sort of hurry for your toys. I have a generous backlog of painting and loads of scenery projects to distract me, thankfully.

Eight figures, two guns, and accessories. Click for larger.

Now that they’re finally here, what about the figures themselves? I quite like them, the casts are very clean, the sculpting is well proportioned and nicely detailed, and while they’re mostly a little bit smaller than the Warlord figures they’ll look fine in adjacent units on the table!

Warlord’s plastic figures are actually slightly bigger than most of their metal figures; their metal ones are a pretty close match for TAG’s while Warlord plastics are bigger. Odd that Warlord has that difference between the two materials they produce figures in…

Left to right: Warlord Firelock officer (metal), TAG artillery officer (metal), and Warlord musician (plastic). The two metal figures are a pretty good match, the plastic guy is half or one-third of a head taller than either. Click for larger.

The two guns are four parts, two wheels, the stock (carriage?), and the barrel, and fit together easily. Mold lines and flash are minimal, just a few minutes cleanup for the whole lot.

The two crew packs are available separately as English Artillery crew loading and English Artillery crew sighting, each consisting of an officer/sergeant figure and three crew. The loaders have a powder scoop, rammer, and swab; the sighting crew have two with large timber levers to adjust the gun’s wheels and a gunner doing the actual sighting.

Both guns and most of the extra bits they come with. Click for larger.

The culverin is also available separately; it comes with the gun, a powder barrel, a water bucket, and a small pile of cannon balls. The falconette has the gun, a wedge, water bucket, and a bucket of small shot.

I still haven’t quite settled on how I’m going to base the guns and their crew, but I’m looking forward to assembling and painting them up; the whole unit should be pretty quick to paint up, and while I usually base figures before painting them, I might well tack these guys down to craft sticks to get them painted before I make any basing decisions. Basing might involve a custom movement tray of some sort ordered from Warbases that can fit six crew on 25mm bases and the unbased gun, to match the 2mm MDF movement trays I’ve already got.

I’ll probably order from TAG again; they have some different figures that Warlord don’t offer, I like their sculpting style, and variety is always useful, but the insanely long order times are offputting.

Modular River, Part Three: Paint & Sand

Last time we saw the river modules, they were bare white plastic with clay banks. I’m happy to report that progress has been made!

Sand and paint on the river modules, and paint on the bridge. Click for larger.

Nothing fancy, just a coat of black paint mixed with some white glue, then sand shaken over while everything was still wet. I’ll put another coat of paint and glue over the sand to fully secure it, then get on with the rest.

As seen in the photo above, the bridge is also fully painted. Over the black primer (mixed, as usual, with white glue) I blobbed two different green shades and some rust brown, then started drybrushing with a dark grey, a bit of tan, then lighter grey and finally just a bit of pure white on the edges and upper surfaces.

Black primer coat with blotches of other colours. Click for larger.
Drybrushing in progress, starting the greys. 28mm Warlord pikeman on the 25mm base to the right for scale. Click for larger.
Bridge all painted, being guarded by a trio of Warlord 28mm musketeers. Click for larger.

I’ll do the river banks alongside the bridge next, then paint and sand so all ten river segments are at the same stage, then it’s off to doing water effects, probably with epoxy resin.

Modular River, Part Two: The Bridge Begun

Realized I forgot to include the photo of the river modules with the air drying clay banks in place, so let’s start off with that! I rolled clay snakes out, mushed them into place, and left everything to dry.

Clay banks in place on some of the river modules. Click for larger.

On to the actual subject of this post, the bridge! This river project is initially intended to go along with my English Civil War pike & shot project I’m painting figures for, so I started with a classic stone arch bridge. The base module is one of the two short river modules, so it’s 6″ long and 6″ wide. I decided to make the roadway portion of the bridge 50mm wide, which will fit at least two foot or cavalry figures side-by-side, or a wagon or vehicle. The whole bridge is roughly 5.5″ long, more or less.

The roadway is three layers of light card (90lbs or so) laminated together with white glue and left to dry under a couple of heavy books. After that dried overnight I cut it to length to form the arch, then glued more small rectangles of light card to it for the flagstone bridge surface. While that was drying I superglued two little strips of card in place on the styrene base to hold the arch in place – you can see them at either end of the roadway in the picture below. These gave the roadway something to be braced against while I superglued it into place.

The inner arch was formed similarly, although I only used a single layer of card as it won’t be exposed in the final model.

For the sides I started with an offcut of one inch thick pink styrofoam insulation. I marked the roadway and inside arches on the side of the piece with a pencil, then carefully cut the curves and the end pillars with a brand-new Xacto blade before slicing the entire piece in half lengthwise to get both sides of the bridge. They were glued into place with white glue – you can’t use superglue on styrofoam, it melts! – and braced with various heavy things overnight so they dried in place.

The bridge with sides held in place while the white glue dries, top-down view. The figure on left is on a 25mm wide base. Click for larger.

After the whole assembly had dried for about six hours or so I started carving the stone sides, using my usual combination of an Xacto knife and a pencil. Cut patterns with the knife, then open up the cuts with the pencil for a nice easy stone effect. I also used a ball of tin foil to add a bit of stone texture to the sytrofoam; I might yet go back and add more to the parts that are still too smooth.

Carving started on the walls of the bridge. Horseman is on a 20mm by 40mm base. Click for larger.

After doing the carving I decided to put a row of capping stones across the tops of the arches and pillars. Making them out of heavier matt board (picture framing card, one of my favourite building materials) means they’ll protect the styrofoam sides of the bridge, much the same way a harder stone like slate is often used to protect a more carveable stone! I cut a strip of matt board then chopped slightly different sizes rectangles from it, to make the result more varied and interesting.

Cap stones in place on the arches and pillars. Click for larger.

To add texture, especially to the card, and to help protect the whole structure a bit more, I put a coat of GW Liquid Greenstuff over most of the bridge and, for now at least, declared construction finished! I still need to do the river banks, obviously, and might yet add some small buttresses to the sides of the end pillars of the bridge. The stonework might need more texture, too, but I’ll wait until I get a primer coat of paint on it before making that decision.

Liquid Greenstuff applied, bridge construction basically done. Click for larger.

Finally, here’s a miniature eye shot (more or less!) of one end of the bridge looking up the roadway. This shows the flagstones of the roadway nicely; I’m really pleased with how they turned out. Individual little rectangles of light card is a painful way to do flagstones, but it does look good! You can also see the card strip I glued down to brace the road arch in place; I’ll eventually cover that in clay or putty to disguise it as flagstones or hide it.

Low level view across the bridge! Click for larger.

The main river modules are also proceeding, all the clay banks are straightened and glued down, so I might be able to get texture on them in the next few days, although we’re going to have a house guest in our spare room (usually my workspace/man cave) for all of this coming week!

Modular River, Part One

A relatively large modular river setup has been on my Things I Want To Build list for years. I went through the excellent set of scenarios that come with Pikeman’s Lament recently with an eye toward what additional scenery I might need to do them properly, and one of the scenarios is a bridge seizing/river crossing that needs a river the long way down the table — suggested table size for Pikeman’s Lament being 4’x6′.

Perfect, a good reason to shunt the river project to the front of the queue as my summer project! It’s also universal scenery that I can use on pretty much any of my tables, possibly with alternate bridge modules eventually to better match, say, my Russian Civil War setup or even Infinity’s cyberpunk future!

To check proportions and the basic idea I fired up Inkscape. You can work in real-world units in Inkscape really easily, so it’s ideal as a super-basic quick layout tool, faster than doing things by hand on graph paper and cheaper than wasting materials! I decided on 6″ wide modules with a 3″ wide river in between 1.5″ banks, which will let me put lots of flocking and foliage along the banks. The bridge is 50mmm wide across the road part, which gives enough width for at least two figures across and will accommodate figures on 40mmm wide multibases as well.

Screenshot of my river planning setup in Inkscape. Top is testing different river widths, bottom is messing with different module layouts. Click for larger.

I started construction by buying a 4′ by 2′ sheet of .040 (~1mmm) styrene plastic sheet from our excellent local plastic store, Industrial Plastic & Paint. The big sheets of bulk styrene are identical to the 8×10 pieces you buy in a hobby store but much, much cheaper! I cut two 12″ by 24″ pieces, enough for six 12″ straight river modules, two 6″ long short modules, and a pair of curve pieces about 3 or 4″ long. That’s enough river to get from one side of a 6′ long table to the other at an angle, and keeping the bridge piece on one of the 6″ short modules makes placing it more flexible.

The long straight sections aren’t perfectly straight, incidentally. I offset each one by about a half inch, so the river will wander back and forth a bit on the table, or angle gradually one way if you align all the long pieces the same way. The long sides are cut slightly irregularly and then sanded down to smooth out any jagged edges from the scissors.

Styrene sheet all cut out for the rivers. Six 12″ straights, 2 6″ straights, and two short curve pieces, over 7 feet of river all told! Click for larger.

There are cheaper material than .040 styrene, even at bulk rates, and there are certainly stronger materials, so why thin styrene? Because it’s thin, strong, and waterproof. I dislike scenery that stands up really high off the table, the styrene is going to be strong enough provided nobody abuses it, especially once all the clay, sand, glue, more glue, etc etc is on it, and I can slop paint, water, and glue around with abandon without anything warping or being destroyed.

For the banks I decided to use air drying clay and picked up a cheap pack at one of our local art stores. I marked the 3″ standard width of the river on the ends of all the styrene pieces, rolled out snakes of clay, and mushed them into place with my fingers. Good old kindergarten-level stuff, nothing fancy. Keep a little pot of water handy to wet your fingers in and smooth the clay.

The best way to use air drying clay is actually to put a layer of white glue down on your base material, and then mush your clay around on top of the glue. They’ll dry together and bond to the base material. I didn’t do this, so now I’m gluing the dried pieces of clay back to the styrene… this does give me a better chance to correct any warping caused by the clay drying, which has happened. Gently bending the clay straight then gluing it down with a weight on top of it – I used figure transport cases – has so far sorted out all the warping issues.

A thicker more heavyweight base material wouldn’t have warped, but see above about disliking scenery that stands too proud of the table surface. Always about the tradeoffs!

With the clay done on all six straight long modules, the two curves, and one of the short straight modules – which I’m doing up as a shallow ford – I started building the bridge on the last short straight module. More on that soon!

Pike In Blue

First unit of foot for my English Civil War project is done!

28mm pike from Warlord on 25mm wide bases. Click for larger.

Ten pikemen, an officer, and a flag ensign all lined up ready for battle.

I’m plugging away at the shot in blue to go along with these guys… the musketeers have a lot more equipment hanging off them and are a lot slower to paint than pikemen!

There’s also a second unit of pike almost finished, these ones in green uniforms, as well as six firelock musketeers for a forlorn hope or commanded shot unit. The mounted commander from my last post has also had a few more details completed and is inching toward the finish line. Lots of assembly line style painting currently, which makes for really boring photos to share here until a unit is suddenly done…

Onward!