Tag: warfare

Miniature Wargaming Series- 4 Painting the Marines

by on Sep.24, 2010, under technoPHOBE

This will be the final installment of my Miniature Wargaming Series.  Again, we are covering the Ambush Alley rules system, with minis purchased from RebelMinis.  I hope you’ve been able to learn that it is possible to not have to anguish over the last meticulous detail to field a squad or ten.  In 15mm I would not go so far to say quantity over quality, but close.  For those who have been following along, we’ve made our board, we’ve built our sprawling metropolis, populated it with some ill tempered insurgents with frickin’ laser beams on their foreheads, and now its time for our Marines.  We’re good to go…

Marines hold out while sniper provides overwatch

The Paints List:

  • Olive Green
  • Medium Gray
  • Spanish Olive
  • Camel
  • Desert Sand
  • Black
  • Twill
  • Acorn Brown
  • Medium Flesh

1 - Black primer

2- 50/50 Olive Green w/Medium Gray basecoat.

The 50/50 mix is simple.  Just blend 50% Olive Green with 50% Medium Gray.  Swirl them together and drybrush.  This is your basecoat color.

3- Medium flesh on face

4- Spanish Olive dots- 50% coverage

For step 4, you will be using Spanish Olive for the first coverage of camo “dots”.  Cover about 50% of the mini.  Don’t stress over precision.

6- Boots in Camel

Paint the boots solidly in Camel color.

8- Camel Backpack

9- Medium Gray - Gun

Cover the backpack in Camel.  Use top down drybrushing to show some highlighting.  For Step 9, you will use the Medium Gray to drybrush the gun and bring out some of the details against he all black primer.

10- Twill mixed 50/50 with basecoat. Dots - 50%

11- Medium Flesh - Hands

In step 10, take the basecoat mix (50/50 Olive Green and Medium Gray) and mix it with 50% twill.  This will result in 50% twill, 25% Olive Green, 25% Medium Gray.  Use this to dot as you see fit.

For drybrushing the hands, remember to go against the features to ensure there is a gap for the individual fingers to show.  Use VERY LITTLE paint, and just keep going over it.  Too much paint and you’ve lost your natural shadows where the primer shows through.

12- Black - Dot goggle centers

13- Glue prep base

Apply two small black dots for the goggle surfaces.  Place your white glue down.  Apply evenly with small coffee stirrer, or the like.

14- Gravel base

15- Acorn brown base coat on base

Base: As in  the previous post, use black glass-like gravel found in Craft/Hobby store (Michaels).  Once the base of Acorn Brown has been applied, it will form a nice base coat.

16- Desert Sand on base

Final step!  Take your Desert Sand and highlight the base texture with very light drybrushing.

And there you have it!  I hope you give boardgames and wargames a try.  This truly is an opportunity to have an old fashioned good time without the need to plug anything in or even know what “log on” means.  It is fun, engages the imagination, and hones the skill of detail orientation and making something with your hands.  Drop me a line and let me know how your painting goes.  Also, if you have a great technique you use, let me know.  I am always interested in other people’s hard-learned simple techniques.  See you at the table, my friends….

Completed Front View - Marine

Completed Back View - Marine

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Miniature Wargaming Series- 3 Painting the Insurgents

by on Aug.27, 2010, under technoPHOBE

Welcome to the third installment of our wargaming series (focusing on Ambush Alley).  Just a note before I begin about 15mm miniatures.  There are tons of people out there who can make stunning, photo-realistic, perfect minis even at 15mm.  28mm minis can show a lot of detail and painting errors on the table top.  However, 15mm minis are more forgiving (and are less expensive to get lots of figures out there).  The world is zoomed out just a bit more in that scale.  A perfectly painted table top is ALWAYS better, but I don’t have that kind of skill, so this is about how to get that pack of shimmering lead-free lead on the table and made “field grade”, as I call it (as opposed to “demo grade”).  It’s not perfect, but at a glance, its good enough.

Miniatures Source:

The minis I am using here are from Rebel Minis.   This is where I have also purchased my Regulars troops (the good guys).


The primary technique used is called “drybrushing”.  The intent is that you lightly brush on a LITTLE BIT of paint onto the high areas as the light would naturally fall on the higher regions of the model.  Google “Drybrushing” or watch youtube.  There are probably 1000 videos out there to get you started.  The rule: dip your brush, and brush away virtually ALL of the paint.  Then start lightly feathering on the paint across the grain of the high regions.  If there are vertical bars raised, brush horizontal, for example.

3 colors of depth look really good, but I use 2 plus the black primer.  The trick is using progressively less paint and lighter colors as you move up to the highest surfaces of the mini.  Also, the rule is work from the inside out when painting the mini.

You’ll need

  • Fairly fine paint brush
  • Fine black stone (craft store.  Looks almost like ground up volcanic glass)
  • Black spray primer (hobby store)
  • Penny (for the miniature base)
  • Elmer’s glue for the mini/penny
  • Minis
  • Assortment of acrylic paint (get it at any craft store)
  • Spray sealer (hobby store)

Here is the full assortment of paint I used for this mini:

Assortment of paints used

  • Pure White
  • Black
  • Dusty Khaki
  • Ocean Blue
  • Blue
  • Medium Gray
  • Quaker Gray
  • Medium Flesh
  • Acorn Brown (oops, didn’t make it into the picture)

Mini Prep

Cut away any of that extra metal hanging off the mini that is a result of the casting process.  That crap is called flash.  Next glue the mini onto the center of your penny.  After the glue has dried, use your black primer.  A couple coats sparingly, but cover fully.

1- Prepped Mini

2- Medium Gray base coat on pants

3- Blue basecoat on shirt (hard to see but its there)

4- Flesh on face slit through ski mask

5- Ocean blue highlight on shirt

6- Quaker Gray highlight on the pants

7- Dusty khaki on head mask

8- Acorn brown (very light) on gun to set off details

9- Flesh highlights on hands (be careful across fingers!)

Completing the Miniature Base

A little bit of work really goes a long way towards the overall look of the miniature.  It gives the figure a real world look, and sets up a nice contrast for the rest of the mini detail.  I’ve chosen fine black stone, and will dry brush 2 “sand” types of colors over the top.

10- Glue across base . Not on feet.

11- Apply stone to feet and let dry overnight.

12- Rub off loose stone, and anything around penny edges.

13- Drybrush acorn brown on base.

14- Mix a bit of white with brown, highlight base.

Completed Figure

Front View - Note painting of flesh on face

Back View - Pack is Dusty Khaki

Paint black around penny edge, yellow to mark him as a "leader" in the game, and seal the mini. Done.

And there we have it.  You can use all different mixes of pants and shirts colors.  Mine are a good mix.  Also, the minis are good to do in batches because you can be working on the next mini as one dries.  It’s  kind of a like an assembly line where you do all the same parts that are the same colors at once.  You’ll have your baddies on the table in no time!  Good luck!

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Miniature Wargaming Series- 2 Making Terrain

by on Aug.21, 2010, under technoPHOBE

Full city ready for some wargaming

In the last post, we got a simple sense of what this whole wargaming thing is, and have our own 2 feet solidly beneath us (for those paying attention, its a 2 feet by 2 feet board).  Now, lets get on to arguably the most fun part of the whole deal: Making Terrain.

As I mentioned in the last article, my grandfathers were great at modeling life in miniature.  This is the appeal of meticulously detailed model railroads.  While non static, once they are set up they are set up.  This is where wargaming is set apart.  You can reconfigure, and use the terrain to play a game.   Well, let’s get cracking here.  We have a city to build.

Foam Board Selection

The first step is foam board for building our houses.  Pick it up at local craft store.  Lots of colors available, but brown, tan, black, and white are probably the best for you (depending on the region you want to model for your wargaming).

Foam board used. Buy at any craft store.

Available in several colors. Most used for this game are white and tan or brown.

Cutting Foam and Scale of Minis

First, a note on scale.  I am sure that it’s well posted somewhere, and there are lengthy dissertations on the matter, but I homegrew scale.  First, I took a look at an upright standing 15mm miniature, and he measures approximately 3/4 of an inch.  If an average man is 6 feet tall for these purposes, then its 2 feet per 1/4 inch.  Thus, for a one story building at 10 feet per story, it should be 1 1/4 inches per story.

Prescribed Cutting Widths:

  • 1 1/4 inches (for the reason noted above.  For 1 story buildings.)
  • 2 1/2 inches (for 2 story buildings)
  • 4 inches (for roofs for buildings that are 4 inches long and wide)

Set the bandsaw and cut lots of strips of prescribed widths. Have a good stockpile.

Three prescribed widths: 1 1/4 inch, 2 1/2 inch, 4 inch

A bandsaw is simply magic for cutting foamboard.  It is loud as hell indoors, so wear ear protection, but it cuts perfectly every time.

Measuring, Cutting, and Scoring the Foam

In this example, we are going to walk through the creation of a 4 inch square, one story building.

  • T-Square
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Cutting Surface
  • Measuring device (ruler, whatever)

Take one of your 1 1/4 inch strips and for the FIRST measurement, mark 4 inches, plus 3/16 inch.  This little extra is to account for the thickness of the cardboard when you fold your box so it will be perfectly square.  This only has to be done for the first wall, because the additional 3/16 inch will glue to the opposite wall (covered later).  Just remember the 3/16 inch for the thickness of the foam.  You’ve got to account for it in several places.

Making the measurements and marking 4 3/16 inch, 4 inch, 4 inch, 4 inch.

Cut the remaining bit off. Should be 16 3/16 inch long total.

Now the scoring bit.  This is to cut through the outer layer of paper and a bit of foam so you can bend it at an angle.  DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH!

Scored - use a metal brace, don't freehand it. This is just showing the depth.

Now you can bend each at the corner because of the scoring.

Test Fit and Cutting Windows/Doors

We’re starting to get somewhere now!  Ok, next just do a fest fit to make sure the corners are square, and you’ll see how the extra 3/16 inch lip fits against the edge of the wall flushly.  For windows, I have a little square stencil I use to draw squares and rectangles.  For windows, put their center about 1/3 up the wall, not at the midpoint.  If you cut them into the midpoint, you will see the roof supports through the window, which is unsightly.  How DARE you.  You could opaque the windows with some tissue paper in the back, but I am not that hardcore.  Just use the damn 1/3 up rule, will ya?

Test Fit. All good. Note top right where extra 3/16 comes in.

Drawing in some windows and a door. Whatever looks nice.

Next cut out the windows and door carefully with your X-Acto knife.

Windows and doors cut.

Becoming a Roofer/Closing the Deal

We’re now at the place where we are going to be prepping the roof supports.  Its nice to have a slightly recessed roof so the minis look like they are down on it, and its nice when you stack other buildings on top.  I recess it about 1/4 inch.  First, we cut roof supports.  These are thin strips that are 4 inches in length or less for this house.  They obviously can’t be longer than a wall because the house won’t fold into a square otherwise.

Cut the little thin strips.

Done! Two roof supports.

Now, mark your lines for where the stips will go.  1/4 down from the top for the recession, 3/16 to account for the width of the roof, and another 3/16 for the width of the roof supports.  I glue them in edge on.

2 opposite walls marked with lines for gluing roof supports.

All glued in on opposite 2 walls. Let it dry a bit.

Now apply glue to wall edge and glue the house closed (meaning into the square)

All held in place with a clamp. This is the PERFECT tool to let it dry in place.

Now, we cut a 4inch x 4 inch roof off our other strip, apply glue to the roof supports, and let it dry.  We are almost all done now.

Cut a 4x4 inch roof.

Apply glue to roof supports, and slide roof into place.

Home Sweet Home

Now, we’ll put the roof on, and admire the handywork as it dries.

A look from the top.

A look from below.

All built and dried it should look like this and be ready to remove from the clamp.

You've got yerself a wee home nah, laddy.

Texture, I didn’t even know her…

Now we apply a textured spray paint to give the house a stone look and feel.

Spray stone textured paint

Dry stone

Home on the Range, building your town.

Well, you’ve done it.  You’ve build your first building.  Now, you can vary number of stories, width, etc., using the same technique.  I really primarily rely on 4 inch, and 2 1/2 inch square buildings.  They stack well, and can create a nice little town.  Enjoy the tour…

Our 4 inch building on our gameboard.

Oh wait? The STACK? This is a 2 1/2 inch square on top. You'll also use the 2 1/2 to roof. It's a good system!

Going into Mass Production, and Building The Metropolis

Build, build, build.  Get creative with walls, decorations, and stuff lying around the house.

Arches, walls, 3 stories, etc.

Accessorize for Realism

I don’t know a lick of Farsi, so I went to my favorite neighborhood kebab place and got a regional newspaper to make signs. The Kebab e-Kubideh was also delicious.   The generally have them there.  Look in the advertisements and cut some out for signage.

All signed up.

Finishing Touches

I grabbed some blocks from a craft store, grabbed some scale cars (N-scale, I think?!!) and have a nice little town where trouble’s-a-brewin.  Happy Hunting!

Looks like a delivery for ol' Polymythic. I hope its some chow. It's been a long day building a city from nothing..

I hope this shows you it really is not hard to get going.  Your creativity will take you a long way.  Look around the craft store.  Imagine some of the things you’re about to throw away spraypainted black.  If the shape is interesting, you can probably use it.  I’m looking forward to taking a virtual tour of your tiny ‘ville sometime soon.  In the next post we’ll paint up some baddies to introduce a little turmoil to our currently placid burg.

4/17/2012 Note: Found another blog whose stuff is just too good not to link in.

The lights are much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, and go DOWNTOWN!

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Miniature Wargaming Series- 1 Building the Board

by on Aug.21, 2010, under technoPHOBE

This will be a slight divergence from technologies vs. anti-technology type projects. I have been an avid player of games for a long time. Perhaps not everyone is aware, but there has been an renaissance of boardgames while the American boardgame market has been fairly dominated by “old favorites” like Monopoly, Stratego, Risk, and others. Not making a judgement here, I do love me some Stratego.

The world of “gaming” is a wide one. The strongest of my callings in terms of hobbies is non-video games (ok, so this CAN qualify as a technophobe post). As a kid we would play Parcheesi as a family. My father never seemed to get the perils of creating roadblocks in that game! When the power went out and candles were lit, we could still play. There was something simple and grounding in that. This is not a boardgaming article, but I simply cannot avoid asking you, the reader, to give some Eurogames (as they are called because of the style of game originating in Germany) a shot. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride. All are simply fun, challenging, and addicting.

This 4-part series is about a style of game called the “Wargame”. I am not going to dig into the history, but the famous H.G. Wells would play these little games with his sons calling them “Little Wars”. From those humble and imaginative beginnings sprung the miniatures wargame. I have many, but I want to call attention to the one I have invested time into recently. It is a modern-combat (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, anyone?) game of squad level combat titled Ambush Alley.

I will cover the following in this series:

  1. Building the Board
  2. Making Terrain
  3. Painting The Insurgents
  4. Painting the Marines

My grandfathers were hobbyists and builders. One a model railroad builder, the other making RC planes and small buildings. I truly wish I could have grown up faster, or had them live longer and seen who I am today. We would have had much in common (unsurprisingly, because they consciously or unconsciously set me on this path). We could have built things together. They could have been aware of the impact they had on me, a little boy amazed at their detailed and beautiful craft.

Let’s Start Simple – Building the Board

Battlegrounds can’t happen without the ground, of course, so let’s whip this up.  This ain’t brain surgery, but lays the foundation..

This game is interesting in that it is played on a nice small 2×2 foot board, rather than the more typical 4×8 foot boards. The game is played with 15mm miniatures. As a thumbnail, movement is done by tape measure, combat resolved by dice, etc.


  1. 2×4 Thin MDF Board (Lowe’s, HD)
  2. Railroad Grass Roll (Hobby Store)
  3. Glue (come on, buddy!)

2x2 Thin MDF Sheet

Go to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot, and get a 2×4 sheet of MDF.  Ask them to cut it right down the middle, or do it yourself.

Get this, and cut it in half for a spare board

This is the thin stuff. We don't need the half-inch table stuff.

This is the model railroading grass surface sheet that comes in big rolls.

Grass sheet cut and fit to board.

As I said, this is super simple.  Don’t fall asleep on me, now we can start the good stuff.

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Tabletop Trebuchet

by on Feb.11, 2009, under technoPHOBE

Tabletop Trebuchet

The trebuchet was a siege weapon with an interesting and complex history.  Where some weapons employed torsion of ropes or sinews (such as the ballista, catapult, onager, espringal, etc) the trebuchet was a great advance as it used a massive counterweight to store the potential energy.  Nowadays, these machines are used to throw pumpkins, cars, or just about anything.  They are also the objects of much analysis for people trying to understand physics.  This is an interesting and efficient throwing machine, so I had to build one.  It has even recently been featured on Make.

While there are many kits out there and “right ways to build” a trebuchet, I wanted to simply go on illustrations from a book I had received for Christmas.  Reverse Engineering, old school.

Armed with the tools of the trade, a book on the subject, and some time,it was time for a build.

Armed with the tools of the trade, a book on the subject, and some time,it was time for a build.

Here is the workspace in my basement.  The trebuchet was to be built from scratch using balsa, basswood, and some dowel rods.

Built base. Notched 6 positions for frames using X-Acto knife.  Also note lateral stabilizing arms.

Built base. Notched 6 positions for frames using X-Acto knife. Also note lateral stabilizing arms.

Counterweights- fishing sinkers

Counterweights- fishing sinkers

Building the Basket

This was one of the more “complex” parts of the build.  The basket had specific shape requirements to keep the basket from flipping over, and had to hold a good amound of weight relative to the build material (balsa).  Lastly, it could not dump the lead weight as it accelerated downwards.

Basket parts and throwing arm pre-assembly

Basket parts and throwing arm pre-assembly

The two basket sides and the basswood throwing arm.  Also 4 dowel rods are used to give additional support under the lead sinkers used as counterweight mass.

Built basket and arm.

Built basket and arm.

Almost fully built basket.  Need to add planking to the base so the lead won’t fall out.  Also need some washers on the sides of the arm to minimize friction loss.  The dowel pegs do add quite a bit of strength and stability.

Building the Frame

This was very derivative off what I saw the in my Ancient and Medeival Siege Weapons book.  Its a rather simple A frame with some additional supports, but I added 2 basswood squares to stabilize the frame and give the throwing arm axle something firm to rotate through.

Build stand and throwing track.

Build stand and throwing track.

The built up frame.  Also note the flat track for the sling and projectile to slide with minimal friction as it accelerates.  Here you can see the angled braces keeping the frame up (that were coming out of the sides of the base).

Sling release.  This is a small dowel peg at the end of the throwing arm where one end of the sling is tied, and the other is looped over the peg to slide off at the proper point.

Sling release. This is a small dowel peg at the end of the throwing arm where one end of the sling is tied, and the other is looped over the peg to slide off at the proper point.

Detail of the sling.  I screwed a small brass eyelet here to tie one end of the sling string to.  The other has a simple tied loop, and is able to slide off as the sling angles around the throwing arm.

Illustration of the frame, and the book image used as the subject of some reverse engineering.

Illustration of the frame, and the book image used as the subject of some reverse engineering.

Take a look at the illustration.  See any similarities?  Ah, yes.  The hamster wheels are missing.  Those were used for men to wheel the heavy arm back down, and the counterweight back up.  Real hamsters would be appropriate at this scale.

Ready, Aim, Fire

Trebuchet in resting (vertical) position.  The counterweight is directly below the throwing arm at its lowest energy.

Trebuchet in resting (vertical) position. The counterweight is directly below the throwing arm at its lowest energy.

Trebuchet in loaded position.

Trebuchet in loaded position. I am holding the sling with my left hand.


I really don’t know when I became interested in this neat little machine.  I had stumbled upon The Grey Company’s Site, and their trials to build this class of tabletop trebs called “Cheese Chuckers”.  There are sophisticated software packages that will allow you to run simulations to optimize your machine.  Whether you want to build one to throw a car, or as I did, one to roll a die in a room at least 30 feet long, you can rest assured that your home is safer with one of these siege engines standing guard.

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