Saturday, 24 October 2015

Scenery - woods, rough ground and fields

I have just made myself a new war-games board to fit over the dining table and bought one of the excellent Mat O’ War cloths from Antenocities Workshop and wanted to upgrade my scenery to match the mat, my basing colours and be compatible with the rather prescriptive rules of Field of Glory Renaissance.

I already had some hills that could be re-surfaced and plenty of hedges and trees so my main requirement was for the various types of flat area terrain: woods, broken ground, brush, fields, vineyards, plantations, etc. I looked at the ready made scenery from Miniature World Maker - I liked the way this lay flat on any surface and its durability but it seemed expensive and wasn’t a very good colour match for what I wanted so I decided on the home made approach. 

Antenocities recommended a particular static grass as a good match for their green Mat O’War so I  had ordered a couple of packs of that but when they arrived they seemed too bright. Luckily I already had a bag of darker and duller static grass which I had been using, dry-brushed with yellow ochre to lighten and high-light, for basing my Italian Wars army. This mixed in to give a much closer match and plenty for my needs. 

The first question was what to use as a base material. I wanted something flexible, tough, not too thick but heavy enough to lie flat and not move about. Many years ago I acquired some green and grown carpet tiles to use as a playing surface and give a patchwork field effect for 1/300 scale WW2 (you could get away with simpler scenery in the 80s!). After pulling the felt-like covering off and singing the last fibres off, wire brushing and sanding the surface of the rubber-base, I was left with just the type of base I wanted. These were only one foot square and It would be great to get some slightly bigger pieces but all the modern tiles I have seen so far have the carpet surface too deeply embedded in the rubber. 

I decided to just use the same basic technique and colour scheme that I use for figure bases. A base of sand, glued on with PVA. A base coat of dark earth then dry brushed first with yellow ochre then a couple of progressively lighter yellow ochre and white. The static grass is then glued on with more PVA, followed by any tufts. Instead of my usual Humbrol matt dark earth for the base colour, I bought a brown emulsion match pot and mixed in some other acrylics to get a fairly close colour match. I should have just got a litre of Dulux mixed to match a colour swatch - I’ll have to do that anyway as the first pot has almost run-out now.

The first thing was to make some general purpose irregular terrain areas that could serve as woods, broken ground or brush with different types of add-on features. The rubber cuts easily with a craft knife then it was just a matter of applying the fine sand, painting and glueing on the static grass.

This shows both trees and broken ground markers - in use it would be one or another. The broken ground markers are offcuts of Amtico flooring with caulk to add height, granite chips and sand. All painted and with static grass and tufts as usual and Woodland Scenics clumping foliage as bushes.
Next on this list was some straight-sided pieces as fields, plantations and vineyards. I wanted to put some more detail into these, sacrificing flexibility of use. One advantage of the fairly thick (about 3mm) base, is that features can be carved into the surface so I cut shallow trenches along some parts of the sides to indicate ditches. I left a wide enough space around the edges to take the hedges I already had so I could distinguish between open and closed fields. 

I wanted a ploughed effect on some field sections so spread decorator’s caulk over the surface and used a piece of card with a serrated profile cut in the edge to drag across creating the furrows. I also used a coarse brush to create tracks between field sections. For the fields, I added a few small rocks and grit around the edges to add interest. 

After the usual painting I used dark washes to deepen the ditches and added dark green 6 mm tufts to represent reeds and unusually lush grass in the arid Italian countryside. I considered using a proper water effect but was worried that might crack and settled on a couple of coats of gloss varnish - over such a small and thin area I think the effect is just about OK. I only applied static grass around the edges to blend in with the Mat O’War. 

I wanted part-grown crops along the tops of ploughed areas. I imagined this would be easy - brush across with PVA which would only catch on the high points then scatter on finely minced clumping foliage. That didn’t work at all. After some more trial and error, the best result was a couple of cycles of painting along the furrows with PVA and covering with a fairly fine turf mix.

Even with painting the tops with PVA, clumping foliage didn’t give very clear definition.
Foam particle turf mix worked better, I think.

This empty field shows how the hedges fit on to make it an enclosed field. My plan is that this could also be used as a plantation or vineyard (the vines are a story for another day).
It would be great to get some comments on these posts. So far, there have been a few hundred views but no comments but I'd really welcome some constructive feedback. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Louis II de la Trémoille

Now I am catching up with actual painting progress - this is one of the most recent groups that I have painted. Louis de La Trémoille was one of the most prominent French Generals of the Italian Wars from Fornovo to his death at Pavia.

The figures are Minifigs - the current 3rd generation with some Milliput modifications to the gendarme and general's skirts and the gendarmes' horse barding as well as my usual replacement of the bendy lance with brass rod and Lilliput. Whilst the general and gendarme figures are pretty good, I don't think the bugler is anything like as nice a figure as the 2nd generation one which I used with Bourbon. Unfortunately there aren't many options for early 16th Century heralds. 

I have read that coats of arms were not worn by this time but the pictures I found of Louis all show him with an elaborately decorated tunic with his own arms and those of a Marshal of France so I was in two minds about it. In the end the fact that the model's tunic has a lot of creases persuaded me to believe the 'no heraldry' line.

Overall I was very pleased with these. I seem to have got the hang of varnishing and have had no problems with either a satin finish or white patches in the creases. 

Charles III, Duke of Bourbon and some Mounted Crossbowmen

My plan original plan was to build a collection with a core that, with a few flag swaps, could pass for French, Imperial or one of the Italian states. Who better then as a general than Charles III, Duke of Bourbon who was Constable of France, played a prominent part at Marlignano then switched sides in 1523 and fought for the Imperialists at Pavia and finished up sacking Rome with an Imperialist army.

The figure for Charles is an old Asgard/TTG general on a Minifigs horse, accompanied by a current Minifigs (3rd generation) gendarme with a hand painted banner and a Minifigs 2nd generation bugler. I don't understand why some of the Minifigs 2nd generation figures were replaced as many - like this one - are much superior to the ones which replaced them. I had some varnishing problems and ended up with a slightly satin finish and too-thick varnish.

These were some Minifigs 2nd generation figures which I had had in the lead pile for a long time. They look a bit early to me but are nicely proportioned and moulded.