Star Rovers Aphid Platoon for Combat Patrol (TM)!

As readers of this blog know, I have been collecting figures from the now-defunct Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line.  The figures from this line were made in the late 1970’s, and my goal is to get them collected and adapt them for use with Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol card-based rules.

There was a lot of work on this project  – so please enjoy the photos!

They show up from time to time on eBay, and my experience showed that the ones I found were more or less 25mm in scale.  However, the Aphids I am going to describe here were a surprise as far as size goes as you will see.  You have to be careful in acquiring these – there are a number of really bad recasters of these figures (and others) out there – selling them at exorbitant prices.  I have been sure to be diligent before deciding to buy them.

One listing is below.  I had seen it several times from the Noble Knight Games store on eBay, but I was initially unimpressed.  It looked like a hodge-podge of painted and unpainted figures and bases, and I could not tell what was there at first glance.

ebay-photo
The Aphids listing picture from eBay
On a phone call to catch up, I had a discussion with Buck about the Star Rovers line, and he pointed this listing out to me, so I gave it another look.  I compared this with Lost Minis Wiki Star Rovers page and saw that there were several figures that I did not have.  They appeared to be different Aphids types, including Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycles, Aphid Infantry, Aphid Officers, Aphid Mortar Crews, and a couple of robots.  Archive had two different numbers for the same miniatures, and Lost Minis Wiki does not explain why – perhaps Archive changed the numbers with later production?  In any case, they looked to be original, and I bought them.  This set included the following miniatures (I list both catalog numbers here for completeness but I am sure that they are from the older group due to the robots being included):

  • 11 examples of Archive #2060/2314 Aphid Scout on Grav-Cycle (11 riders and 11 grav-cycles plus bases).
  • 18 examples of Archive #2061/2315 Aphid Infantry.
  • 4 examples of Archive #2061/2316 Aphid Officer.  The 2061 listing included 5 Aphid Infantry and 1 Officer while the 2316 was just the officer.
  • 3 examples of Archive #2062/2317 Aphid Mortar Team (two figures per crew for 6 figures).
  • 2 examples of Archive #2011A (no later listing) Robot Group.  There were 3 robots originally in the set of different types.

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Archive Miniatures Catalog detail showing the Aphids with the newer catalog numbers
I will refer to the older numbers for the most part in this article as I think mine are older.

The figures were in good shape except for one scout rider who was missing a right leg and foot.  Surprisingly, they were small – really small – maybe 12mm.  The detail on them was appropriate for the time period – but as you can see from the eBay photo they were not greatly detailed.  To me, this was a challenge to let the brush bring out the potential of the figures.  Also, I thought that this acquisition presented me with an opportunity to field an entire platoon of Aphids for Combat Patrol™ games!

My first step was to strip all of them down of any residual paint – which I accomplished with a long (2 week) soak in Simple Green®.  I prefer the blue type as it seems to work better (and smells nicer).  This time I used some rifle cleaning tools (bore brushes) with plastic bristles in addition to tooth brushes to remove the old paint which was pretty thick.

 

1-aphids-on-grav-cycles-2061-as-received-not-assembled
The Aphid Scouts as received – just stacked together here

 

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Aphid Scout base detail showing #2060
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Aphid Infantry as received
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Aphid Infantry Officers as received
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Aphid Mortar Crews as received
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Close up of Aphid Mortar Crew as received – this shows their size and how the previous owner had painted them

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The two robots – look like self-propelled guns – in the form of a steam boiler!
I decided that I should first work on the Aphids on Grav-Cycles as they would be the most difficult due to the needed assembly.  There were 11 Aphids and 11 Grav-Cycles with bases.  More research showed me that these originally  came with piano wire to mount them – similar to the image below from Lost Minis Wiki:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Lost Minis Wiki
I did not have the piano wire and this did not seem to me to be a sturdy way of mounting the grav-cycles.  I wanted a more permanent solution, but one that was cool as well.  The cycles themselves seemed to had the wire in them at some point in the past, but nothing remained.  The bases still had the holes.  While shopping at Michael’s it hit me – I could use clear plastic push pins as mounting platforms.

To make this work, I needed a plan as I did not want to varnish the clear plastic and take away from the visual effect of flight that I was going to try to achieve.  I mounted the bases on two stacked and centered ¾” steel washers using wood glue and let the combination dry overnight.  I cleaned off the flash from the bases, filed them, and primed them with Krylon “Ultra-Flat” matte spray paint.  After that I flocked them with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” using white glue.  Once that glue was dry, I applied two coats of Testors “Dull Coat” to the bases.  Using wire cutters, I trimmed off the pointed tips of the pins to be recessed in the washers when inserted into the bases.  I then flattened and narrowed the rounded push pin tops with an Exacto knife, and sized them up with the base of the grav-cycles.  This was to make a small flat mounting platform.  However, I wanted more stability than super glue alone would give me.   My pin vise was the needed tool to make this happen.  Using my smallest drill bit, I made a hole in the top center of each push pin.  Using E6000 epoxy, I affixed and mounted the push pins onto the bases.  Once that had set, I mixed some Aves® Apoxie® Sculpt, and filled the bottom of the washer wells where the push pin tip was.  This had the advantage of giving the structure more strength as well as some weight for stability on the gaming table. I cut some pieces of wire from a thin paper clip and glued them at a nearly vertical angle in the hole in the top of the push pin.  This worked well as the wire was deep enough to secure the grav-cycle to the platform.

 

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How I used push pins – note the narrowed and flattened tops.  The paper clip wire was subsequently superglued into the holes in the pin tops
I then moved on to painting the riders and their grav-cycles.  This was more difficult as I could not mount these onto a suitable painting structure and paint them successfully – which took much longer.  I basically had to paint the Aphid Scouts and Grav-Cycles in my hand.

First I’ll discuss the cycles.  I painted the deep recesses of the bottom of the grav-cycles successively with Americana “Deep Burgundy”, followed by Citadel “Spiritstone Red”.  I wanted an “aviation” look to the cycles (which had flywheels and a big ray gun as part of the details!).  I gave them a heavy dry brush of Tamiya “Flat Aluminum”.

 

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Grav-Cycles after dry brushing
For the details, I used Americana “Ebony” on the seat base and the center of the exhaust port.  FolkArt “Gunmetal Gray” was my choice for the front ray gun support and the flywheel bracket, while the flywheel got Tamiya “Chrome Silver”.  For the ray gun cowling, Martha Stewart Crafts “Pale Bronze” was my choice.  For the tip of the ray gun, I used Craftsmart “Festive Red” metallic.  For the exhaust port. I used a combination of Craftsmart “Bright Yellow”, Tamiya “Orange”, and “Festive Red” in a concentric circling pattern.  Once this dried, I gave the cycles a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”, and let that dry.  Using “Flat Aluminum”, I highlighted the cycles’ edges and reflective surfaces.  Lastly, I used two applications of the “Spiritstone Red” to bring out the ray gun tip even more.

 

6-grav-cars-painted-before-assembly
Grav-Cycles painted
Let’s discuss the riders and the other Aphids painting in general.  As I wanted them to look similar (all in the same platoon and the same insect species), I wrote down each step of painting and washing and highlighting.  That helps with reproducing the same effects.  There are a few differences among each type but I’ll note those as I go along.  The only special steps for the riders involved basically repairing the one missing leg on one figure.  I used my pin vise, and drilled out a hole in the figure’s leg stump.  I cut a piece of paper clip, and bent it at 90°, and superglued it in place.  I sculpted a suitable leg with Aves® Apoxie® Sculpt, and let it harden overnight.  It came out acceptably!

The painting of the Aphids followed the same basic pattern.  I wanted to smooth over any rough areas, so I gave the figures a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Green”.  I then base coated the bunch with my old 1984 Polly-S “Slime Green” using a dry brushing technique.

 

3-slime-green
Amazingly, this 32 year old paint is still good!
Each of the Aphids (all types) was equipped with a couple of tanks on their backs, which I interpreted as being a breathing apparatus.  For these, I used “Chrome Silver” on the tank bodies and Tamiya “Copper” on the valve sections.  After this dried, I gave each Aphid a wash with Citadel “Nuln Oil Glossy”.  I wanted glossy so as to bring out the small details that were recessed.  Then I highlighted the flat chitinous surfaces of the head and thorax (these are insects) with Craftsmart “Apple Green” satin.  To smooth out the colors, I applied yet another wash of “Green” to the Aphids’ shells and “Nuln Oil Glossy” to the ribs on the breathing tanks.  For varnishing, I wanted to dull down the glossy a bit so the Aphids got two coats of Testors “Dullcoat”.

 

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Riders painted and awaiting varnishing
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After varnishing and awaiting mounting

 

Let me get specific about the Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycles, which were then ready for assembly.  I glued the riders to the cycles.  Then, I drilled a hole on the bottom of each cycle with my pin vise to fit the paper clip in the push pin with my smallest bit.  I needed to also use an Exacto knife to clear the hole of filings and another push pin to start the pin vise (pilot hole).  I had some of the riders come off during this process but was able to reglue them easily.

 

8-aphids-and-grav-cars-drill-hole
Hole drilled in bottom of cycle
These  were then finally assembled.  I used differently-colored flocking tufts from Army Painter to show their command and control relationships.  They are organized as one squad in the platoon – with one squad leader, and two team leaders each leading teams of 4 grav-cycles.  My thoughts initially are to treat the ray gun weapon as an automated analogue of a 37mm anti-tank gun and the vehicle as terrain-defying flying motorcycles.

 

 

9a-aphids-and-grav-cars-assembled-and-finished
Scouts out!  The Aphid Grav-Cycle Squad
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Close up of figure left side
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Right side of grav-cycle

 

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Coming at you!
The process of painting was the same for all of the Aphid Infantry, Aphid Officers, and Aphid Mortar Crews with some differences.  First, they are all mounted on two #8 steel washers that have been glued together with wood glue.  Second, the infantry is armed with tommy guns (I am assuming that Thompson submachine guns must have a thriving export market in the future!).  I used my 1987 Deka Lack “Braun” for the wooden parts of the guns, and “Gunmetal Gray” for the metal ones.

For the officers, three would be squad leaders and one would be the overall platoon leader.  The officers’ laser pistols got painted with “Chrome Silver” and the tips got the “Spiritstone Red” treatment on top of Citadel “Gehenna’s Gold”.  I chose “Flat Aluminum” for the squad leaders’ helmets, and  “Gehenna’s Gold/Spiritstone Red” for the platoon leader’s.  Once again, I used Army Painter tufts of different colors and locations to indicate command and control relationships.  The platoon leader has three mortar crews and the two robots reporting to him as well.  The only difference for the mortar crews was the mortar round and mortar tubes.  For the small mortar rounds, I used “Chrome Silver” on the body and “Spiritstone Red” for the fins.  The tubes got “Gunmetal Gray”.

 

2-aphid-infantry-base-coated-and-washed
Base coat on Aphid Infantry
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Base coat on Aphid Officers
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Base coat on Aphid Mortar Crews
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Painted and flocked, awaiting varnish and tufts
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Squad Leader with his Aphid Infantry Squad armed with Thompson SMG’s.  Tuft locations and color denote command relationships.
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One completed mortar crew.  Each crew has its own tuft color, and reports to the platoon leader.
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Three completed squad leaders

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Completed Aphid Platoon Leader
To round out the platoon, there are the two Robot self-propelled guns.  These look almost steam-punk-like in design.  I went with a very metallic scheme for them.  First, I gave the figures a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”.  The top part/gun turret was painted with “Flat Aluminum”, while the bottom of the chassis was painted with “Copper” .  I painted the wheels and lower chassis with “Gunmetal Gray”.  I added Citadel ” Auric Armor Gold” to some of the chassis attachments.  For the radiator in the back (!) I used “Copper” framed with “Gunmetal Gray”.  The whole assembly got a wash again, and then I painted the robotic insect eyes with Craftsmart “Festive Red” metallic.  I highlighted the figure with the same paints again after the wash, and I was pretty happy with it.

 

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From Lost Minis Wiki – Robot Group – I got two of the models on the top

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Completed Robot Self-propelled Guns
The platoon structure (41 fighting figures) is as follows in summary:

  • Aphid Platoon Leader (1)
    • Scout Squad Leader for Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycle (1)
      • Team A Leader, Grav-Cycle (1)
        • 4 Aphids on Grav-Cycles
      • Team B Leader, Grav-Cycle (1)
        • 4 Aphids on Grav-Cycles
    • 1st Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • 2nd Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • 3rd Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • Mortar Section A (2)
    • Mortar Section B (2)
    • Mortar Section C (2)
    • Robot Assault Gun Section (2)

 

8-group-shot-best
The Aphid Platoon
I have to say that this was a very challenging project – the figures were smaller than I am used to painting, and they were much less detailed.  However, I am pretty proud of what I was able to do with it and look forward to seeing them in action in a game.  It’s fun to bring nearly 40-year old figures back to life – especially with many old paints as well.  I’m glad I got these, and am very happy with how they turned out.  I’m planning on chatting with Buck about assigning combat values to them soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viking Game Set for Settlers of Catan

This is the story of the second game set that my daughter Ellen and her fiancé Chris got me for Settlers of Catan®.  RAFM in Canada makes these and you can see their offerings here.

The first one I completed was the Egyptian set (1202), and this is the Viking set (1200).  There are 25 pieces in each set – 15 roads, 5 settlements, 4 cities, and one themed robber.  These would take the place of the generic wooden pieces that come with the game.

I saw these on the RAFM website before when I was looking through their offerings there Egyptian, Bavarian, and Chinese set in addition to the Viking one.  Interestingly,  the box cover shows incorrect game play – each city or settlement needs to be separated by two or more roads, and there is only one road here.

1-viking-catan-set-box-1200
Cover of the box with incorrect play

 

1a-viking-catan-set-box-1200-side
Side of the box

There was very little flash on the robber, and none on the other pieces.  I did the robber last, so I will show that work after the others.  I cleaned them up with a quick scrub, then primed them with Krylon “Ultra-Flat Black” matte spray paint when I did my Slag Mound priming.

3-viking-catan-set-before-priming
Before priming (with Slag Mounds)

The first challenge I had was in figuring out how to mount these for painting.  Normally, I mount the figures on a washer and then mount the combination to a popsicle stick.  Here, I was only going to use a washer for the robber as the other pieces were not really configured for mounting.  I mounted each lightly to a popsicle stick with white glue.  In the end, this procedure forced me to retouch all the figures’ sides as well as deal with painting and varnishing the undersides.

I decided to try to keep a blue theme to these pieces to match the box and for ease of play.

In the set, the roads were much more road-like than the sand dunes in the Egyptian set.  The settlements and cities had a Viking row house look to them.

I needed to have a consistent color scheme as these are game pieces – and not traditional miniatures.  I wanted them to be very bluish but have some details.

I used another old 1987 Deka Lack paint – “Blau” (blue) as my base color on all of the pieces.  This made the roads look a bit like rivers, but for use as game pieces this is not a problem.

I used Americana “Zinc” on the rocks and steps, and Citadel “Caliban Green” on the foliage.  For the pathways on the towns and cities, I used Citadel “Balor Brown”.  I needed some highlighting for the structural parts of the buildings, so I used Citadel “Dryad Bark” to good effect.  Following this, I used Secret Weapons Washes “Blue” to wash all the pieces.  Then I added highlights to the foliage with “Dryad Bark” and Citadel “Niblet Green”.  I removed the figures, touched up any bare spots, and moved to varnishing.  I first varnished the set with Krylon “Clear Glossy” spray paint.  I then varnished the topsides with two coats and the underside with one coat of Testors “Dull Coat”.  I did this because they are board game pieces, with more need of paint protection.

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Figures before application of varnish

 

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Close up of a city and a town before varnish

 

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Roads before varnish

 

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Completed settlement

 

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Completed city

 

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Completed roads

After this I moved on to the robber.  It is a 28mm figure, dressed as a Viking berserker, armed with an spiked club.  The first thing I did was to glue the figure to a larger 1.25″ steel washer with wood glue.  Once that had dried, I used Apoxie Sculpt to create a base.  I decided here as well that flocking the robbers would be messy and not useful.

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Viking robber before priming

I primed the robber with Krylon “Ultra-Flat Black” matte spray paint.  I then covered the whole figure and base with Americana “Ebony”.  This was done in order to try a new dry brushing technique for armor that I saw Chris Palmer use in his blog.  You can see his entry here.

I first dry brushed the robber’s shield and shoulder guards with FolkArt “Gunmetal Grey”.  I drybrushed the base with Americana “Slate” which had a slight bluish hue to it.

I then worked on base coating the details.  The club handle got a coat of Americana “Bittersweet Chocolate” with the spikes getting “Gunmetal Gray”.  For the leather armor and gloves, I used my 1996 Armory “Leather Brown”.  For his shield I used “Gunmetal Gray” and “Blau” to tie into the color theme for the set.  His headband also got “Blau” for the same reason.  I used “Bittersweet Chocolate” on the boots and his rope.

I then applied P3 “Midland Flesh” on the face and arms.  For the hair, eyebrows, and beard, I used P3 “Sulfuric Yellow”.   I did the sclera of the eyes with Americana “Snow” and “Blau” for the pupils (he is Scandinavian after all).  I painted the lower lip with 1984 Polly-S “Demon Deep Red”.  The boots got a coat of Americana “Raw Sienna”.  I then used “Agrax Earthshade” on the blond areas and P3 “Flesh Wash” on the skin, and let the figure dry.

For his shirt, I chose another 1987 paint, Deka Lack “Dunkelblau” (dark blue). To highlight the club spikes and the bolts on the shield, I used Tamiya “Chrome Silver”.  I highlighted his nose and cheekbones with FolkArt “Light Flesh”, then used P3 “Flesh Wash” again to make his arm muscles more pronounced and defined.  I also used FolkArt “Light Flesh” to lighten his nose and forehead, and to highlight his arm musculature.

I used “Sulfuric Yellow” on the hair to highlight it.  I darkened the leather armor and the base with Citadel “Nuln Oil”.

I then went around the figure and highlighted all the areas that I thought needed more “pop”.  Lastly, once the figure was dry I then varnished it with two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”.  I did this because they are board game pieces, with more need of paint protection.

 

9-viking-catan-set-robber-after-varnish-settlement
Finished Viking robber

 

Overall, I am satisfied with the work – they are after all game pieces.  I hope to get these into a game of Catan soon.

 

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Example of play

 

Egyptian Game Set for Settlers of Catan

My daughter Ellen and her fiancé Chris got me a couple of game sets for Settlers of Catan® and I thought I’d take the opportunity to paint these up.  RAFM in Canada makes these and you can see their offerings here.

The first one I completed was the Egyptian set (1202).  There are 25 pieces in each set – 15 roads, 5 settlements, 4 cities, and one themed robber.  These would take the place of the generic wooden pieces that come with the game.

I saw these on the RAFM website before when I was looking through their offerings.  There are Viking, Bavarian, and Chinese sets in addition to the Egyptian one.  Interestingly,  the box cover shows incorrect game play – each city or settlement needs to be separated by two or more roads, and there is only one road here.

0-egypt-catan-box-top
Cover of the box with incorrect play

 

1-egypt-catan-box-side
Side of box

There was very little flash on the robber, and none on the other pieces.  I did the robber last, so I will show that work after the others.  I cleaned them up with a quick scrub, then primed them with Krylon “Ultra-Flat White” matte spray paint.

3-egypt-catan-set-begore-priming
Before priming (less the robber)

The first challenge I had was in figuring out how to mount these for painting.  Normally, I mount the figures on a washer and then mount the combination to a popsicle stick.  Here, I was only going to use a washer for the robber as the other pieces were not really configured for mounting.  I mounted each lightly to a popsicle stick with white glue.  In the end, this procedure forced me to retouch all the figures’ sides as well as deal with painting and varnishing the undersides.

I decided to try to keep a desert theme to these pieces.  I was somewhat familiar with this coloration due to previous experience in the desert.  I led a Mobile Training Team at an airfield project in the Sahara Desert when I was a US Army Engineer officer.

mark-in-niger-1986
1LT Morin back in the day…1986, Dirkou, Republic of Niger

In the set, the roads were merely sand dunes with two sets of footprints, and the settlements and cities were adobe-like structures (very similar to what I saw in the Sahara).  However, I needed to have a consistent color scheme as these are game pieces – and not traditional miniatures.  I achieved my coloration goals by making a 50/50 mix of my old 1987 Deka Lack “Gelb” (yellow) and Americana “Bleached Sand” and using that as a base coat.  This finished off my “Gelb” after 29 years!  I then applied a liberal amount of Citadel “Agrax Earthshade”.

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After basing and first wash

I then highlighted these with a 50/50 mix of P3 “Sulfuric Yellow” and Americana “Desert Sand”.

5-egypt-catan-set-after-drybrushing
After highlighting

Then I did a bit of detail work.  On the settlements, I used Citadel “Balor Brown” on the wells and “Castellan Green” on the foliage.  After another application of “Agrax Earthshade”, I used the previous mix of P3 “Sulfuric Yellow” and Americana “Desert Sand”to highlight again.  I also highlighted the foliage with Citadel “Niblet Green”.  Knowing that there was likely to be some bare spots from the gluing, I gently removed the pieces and painted the undersides and sides where there were some bare spots.  I first varnished the set with Krylon “Clear Glossy” spray paint.  After allowing the pieces to dry, I then varnished the topsides with two coats and the underside with one coat of Testors “Dull Coat”.  I did this because they are board game pieces, with more need of paint protection.

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Finished pair of roads

 

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Two settlements
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Two cities

After this I moved on to the robber.  It is a 28mm figure, dressed in desert garb, with an axe.  The first thing I did was to glue the figure to a larger 1.25″ steel washer with wood glue.  Once that had dried, I used Apoxie Sculpt to create a base.  I decided that flocking the robbers would be messy and not useful.

2-egypt-catan-robber-before-priming
Robber before priming

I first dry brushed the robber with the P3 “Sulfuric Yellow” and Americana “Desert Sand” 50/50 mix.

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After first dry brushing

I then worked on base coating the details.  The axe handle and the backside of the shield got a coat of Citadel “Dryad Bark”, and the axe got  a coat of FolkArt “Gunmetal Gray”.  I used P3 “Midland Flesh” on the face.  For the shield, I used another 1987 paint, Deka Lack “Ocker” (ochre), which had more of a metallic tint.  I then used “Agrax Earthshade” and let the figure dry.

I highlighted the figure and the base with “Sulfuric Yellow” and dry brushed some areas.  Then I did the sclera of the eyes with Americana “Snow” and “Ebony” for the pupil and eyebrows.  The boots and gloves got a coat of P3 “Bootstrap Leather”.  To create an edge on the axe, I used Tamiya “Chrome Silver”.  I highlighted his nose and cheekbones with FolkArt “Light Flesh”, then used P3 “Flesh Wash” to make it more tan.  I used “Sulfuric Yellow” on the boss on the shield, then darkened it and the base with “Agrax Earthshade”.

Lastly, once the figure was dry I then varnished it with two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”.

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Finished robber

Overall, I am satisfied with the work – they are after all game pieces.  I hope to get these into a game of Catan soon.

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Example of the pieces on the game board

 

Slag or Lava Mounds for Sci-Fi

I have been casting miniatures with pewter for a while now, and I usually use a spoon to remove any impurities, slag, and ash that are floating on top of my crucible before I pour anything into the molds.  Up to now, this material was useless to me.  As I am now working on creating retro sci-fi units for Combat Patrol™ games, I came up with the idea of repurposing this material for needed terrain – like old lava flow mounds or industrial slag.

To finish up for October, I created four CD-mounted slag/lava mounds using three regular size CD’s and a smaller one.  I used five slag piles, gluing each to the CD with wood glue and letting them sit overnight.  I also applied a coat of wood glue to the surfaces of the CD’s  for better paint and flocking adhesion down the line.

 

1-step-one-with-slag-on-cds
Step one – the slag is glued to the CD’s – and other projects look on!

 

I then primed the group with Krylon “Ultra-Flat Black” matte spray paint.  I took Reaper Master Series Paints “Grey Liner” and coated the slag and the CD’s.  After this, I applied a coat of Citadel “Nuln Oil”.  To bring out the highlights, I used Americana “Zinc” to dry brush the pieces.

 

3-step-3-with-slag-on-cds-for-priming-after-gray-liner-application
After priming and dry brushing

 

I then let the pieces dry.  Then, I used white glue to affix two types of flocking from Army Painter – “Ash Grey” and “Battlefield Black” in a random pattern.  I applied two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”, allowing for adequate drying in between each.

4-example-after-completion

 

5-example-after-completion

 

6-example-after-completion

 

 

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The four pieces completed

 

I am pretty pleased with the results.  It was not a difficult process at all.  Of course, I will need to acquire a dark cloth for covering my tabletop battlefield with these.  I thought about adding some grasses or tuft, but in the end went for a more wasteland look – devoid of life.  I look forward to having figures use them as cover in a Combat Patrol™ game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Casting Projects – more 1977 Star Rovers!

I have been collecting various examples of the long-defunct Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures from 1977.  This month, I have had some health issues that precluded being able to sit down (long story and a pain if you know what I mean).  Therefore, I chose to work on making molds and casting, focusing on Star Rovers, which is something I do standing up.

My overall goal is to create squad-sized units of these “lost” but very cool minis.  I want these to set up and play games of Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™, as well as to see if I can create a scenario using the Star Rovers figures that I have collected.  Combat Patrol™ was created as a WWII skirmish card-based miniatures rules set, but it has been successfully adapted to other historical periods as well as Star Wars™ scenarios.  To learn more about Combat Patrol™, click here.

Before I get to the figures and the making of the molds, I wanted to share information about my casting set up.  I basically use pewter and I use a Hot Pot 2 crucible with a Lyman pyrometer to measure the alloy’s temperature.

I also use appropriate safety equipment!

The Hot Pot 2 holds about 4 pounds of molten metal, and is used for making bullets, fishing sinkers, and miniatures.  Unfortunately, it comes with a tripod stand which teeters and is prone to tipping. Why the manufacturer did not use four legs on the stand for stability is beyond me.  After a couple of spills (where I dodged the 650° F contents and had a lovely clean up) I was determined to have a new set up.  Currently I have 1′ x 1′ steel sheets clamped to my old Sears Craftsman® work bench that I have had for close to 30 years.  My friend Jeff Smith came up with an idea that proved to be a great fix.  He had an old cast iron (heavy) Christmas tree stand he was not using.  I filled the large holder with play sand to raise the bottom up and put the tripod into the sand in the tree well.  This provided great stability and rendered the set up virtually spill-proof.  I clamped the tree stand to my work bench (after extending my bench depth about an inch).  This worked great and I am very happy with my new casting set up.

 

2-new-set-up
My new set up in the garage – clamped molds on the right

 

 

 

1-new-set-up
Close up of use of the iron Christmas tree stand to hold the Hot Pot 2, clamped to the workbench

 

Now I need to step back – I made four molds for five figures this month using Castaldo® QuickSil RTV Jewelry Molding Compound.  These Star Rovers figures were:

  • Archive #2064, Hurraku, Space Phraints
  • Archive #2075, Mark III Warbots
  • Archive #2020, Space Centaur Officer with Pistol
  • Archive #2050, Dragonspawn Advance Guard, Lizardaen
  • Archive #2052, Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper

To learn more about the Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line click here.

I cannot find any reliable sources to buy these figures – I only find them sporadically on eBay.  This is why I recast them for personal use and for gifts.

My first mold in October was for the Space Phraints.  These are 9 foot tall emotionless insect men that were in the old Arduin game.  These are armed with huge swords and a ray gun.

I found a nice synopsis on Phraints from Saundby.com that you can see here.  The photos below show the original I got on eBay (the blue clay you see came from the mold-making process and is easily removed).

 

4-space-phraint-master
Space Phraint front

 

 

 

5-space-phraint-master-back
Space Phraint back

 

Below is the first mold half set up for the Space Phraint.  I used an old metal mold plug to create my flow aperture along with some golf tees my wife gave me a while back for Christmas.  I also used toothpicks to create air flow vents and release points for better casting.  I also wrote a mirror image of the word “PHRAINT” on the clay.  The QuickSil is measured and mixed and put into the mold press for curing.  I generally wait 28 minutes for it to cure – and I use a hand-held hair dryer to warm the outside of the press to assist in curing the RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) compound.

 

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Space Phraint mold in the mold press – first half

 

 

 

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Removing the first half of the mold from the mold press before removing the blue clay from the RTV

 

 

3-space-phraint-mold-first-half-done
The first mold half of the Space Phraint mold

 

I then put the first half back into the mold press, applied a releasing cream to any wooden surfaces of the press that QuickSil would touch as well as the green set up rubber RTV.  I then measured and mixed more QuickSil and repeated the process.  After I made the mold, I cut out wooden backings for the mold from 1/8″ plywood using my scroll saw.

The Space Phraint mold was very successful and needed little modification during the casting process.  I was able to cast 42 figures from this mold.

 

6-space-phraint-in-formation-oct-2016-production
A formation of Space Phraints led by the original

 

The next mold is a Mark III Warbot.  As far as I can tell, there are no Mark I or II’s in Star Rovers!  He is clunky and retro looking, with a very cool ray gun/blaster.  He reminded me of Bender from Futurama, though he was created in 1977!

bender

 

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Mark III Warbot front

 

 

 

5-archive-mark-iii-warbot-back
Mark III Warbot back

 

I followed a similar process in making this mold as described above.

 

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Mark III Warbot first mold half

 

 

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Mark III Warbot mold completed

 

This also was a successful mold.  I cast 42 figures using it.

 

4-mark-iii-warbot-mold-october-2016-production-in-formation
A formation of Mark III Warbots led by the original

 

I then moved onto the Space Centaur, who has rocket packs on his back, but is only armed with a laser pistol!  This was my first try at making a mold of a four-legged creature.  The mold itself needed more tweaking during the casting process than I like in terms of cutting vents and opening up spaces.  I believe that I should have used more of a cone-shaped pour aperture for the mold.  Here I used a small hotel soap and golf tees to shape the pouring well – and I think that works less effectively than a cone.  I also had leaking issues with the mold initially.  I solved these with adding more C-clamps when casting.

I was able to cast 36 figures with this mold.

 

1-archive-2020-space-centaur-officer-with-pistol
Master Space Centaur figure

 

 

 

2-archive-2020-space-centaur-officer-with-pistol-october-16-production-in-formation
A formation of Space Centaurs, led by the original

 

The last two figures that I worked on were Dragonspawn Infantry.  There were actually three made by Archive, but I do not have the prone figure, only the crouching and kneeling ones.  My guess from these pictures is that they were originally painted but then stripped.

 

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Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper, right side

 

 

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Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper, left side

 

 

 

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Standing Dragonspawn Trooper, right side

 

 

 

5-dragon-spawn-standing-master-fig-leftside
Standing Dragonspawn Trooper, left side

 

I tried a new mold design – two figures in one mold.  I wanted to see if this would be more efficient.  It was not, primarily I believe that the cone aperture design works better, especially a tall one.  Here I used another hotel soap and golf tees – and I had a lot of casting failures with this mold.  With some adaptations during the casting process (making the pouring aperture and tees wider), my success rate improved, but the overall mold leaked a lot and was a pain to work with.  At one point, some of the RTV came off in a figure, but this did not seem to be a major issue with subsequent castings.

 

1-dragon-spawn-mold-first-half
My attempt at a new mold design – less than fully successful

 

I was able to cast 24 good figures of each type, but I probably had a 50% failure rate overall.

 

7-dragon-spawn-october-16-production-in-formation
Two Dragonspawn formations with master in front

 

I cast 168 miniatures in total with the four molds.  Some I am giving to friends, while the rest I an putting into the painting queue.

 

3-october-2016-production
October production on the table

 

I learned some new things about the process, and got a new casting set up that is much safer.  My next casting will be in a few months – I really want to start painting now that the weather is turning colder, and get them into a Combat Patrol™ game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 33 years, I finally have an ORIGINAL Ral Partha Rooman War Party Troop! (ES-44 or 01-044) from 1977!!!

Some projects take a while – and this one was over 33 years in the making.  As background, my first introduction to tabletop wargaming was in 1983 at West Point.  My classmate Dave Wood (USMA 1984) introduced me to Buck Surdu (USMA 1985).  Buck had set up a fantasy tabletop war game on a gaggle of desks in the Department of Foreign Languages, and from then on, a whole new gaming experience was open to me.

Buck wrote his own rules, and he and Dave had units of all kinds for the game.  One type that Buck had was a unit of “Roomans”, which he referred to as “Beaks” as well.  They were of course of the marsupial macropod (large foot) persuasion – more or less humanoid kangaroos.  Of course, the word play of Romans/Roomans is evident as well.  They were armed with pikes, had great movement and combat capabilities, and overall were just pretty cool.  I wanted to get some, and every time I went to a hobby store in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I looked for Roomans.  I had hardly any luck.

Little did I know back then that Ral Partha had produced only one type of blister pack of “Rooman War Party”, with production starting in 1977.  The original numbering of the blister pack was ES-44, and in 1978 and later years that was changed to 01-044.  This set  was in the “Personalities and Things…That Go Bump in the Night” line from Ral Partha.  Each pack in 1977 came with one Rooman with a shield in front, two Roomans with shields on the side, and three assembled pikes on piano wire.  By this I mean that the 1977 pack had pikes that were in one piece with streamers rolled up under the business end of the pike.  Later, Ral Partha changed the pikes to a two-piece type, where the point of the pike had smaller streamers coming off and would need to be glued to a piece of enclosed piano wire.  This latter type was the most prevalent type made by Ral Partha.

Let’s get back to my search.  As time went on, I became very frustrated in my attempts to locate any blister packs of Roomans.  Today, I’d just look on the company web site or call them – but back then – well kids there was no internet – and that would be a very expensive long-distance toll call to Cincinnati (especially from West Germany where I spent most of the latter 1980’s in the Army).  Alas, I found just one blister pack of Roomans at a hobby store around 1986 or 1987 – and that was it!

3 01-044 package
The Only Roomans I Ever Found in a Hobby Store

I put them away, awaiting the day when I would find another blister pack – and then I could make a unit of 6 figures perhaps…that wait was indeed over 33 years.

Now I must fast forward to my getting back into the hobby in 2014 and discovering eBay.  Wow!  Surely I will be able to find some Roomans on eBay!  So, I searched and searched, and was able to find 18 loose Roomans either singly or in larger lots, plus one original 1977 blister package over the space of 18 months or so.  Most times, they were called Goblins or Orcs by the sellers.  Almost all had very bad paint jobs that needed to be stripped.  This left me with 24 original Roomans.

I have not seen any in quite a while except for a poor recast here and there.  Buck knew some contacts at Iron Winds Metals, and we inquired as to the status of the original molds, but unfortunately they were either lost or destroyed.  This was sad.  But I was able to get pikes from Melissa Morello at Iron Winds Metals that matched the post-1977 type as most of the Roomans I got on eBay either had the wrong weapon type or none at all.  (THANK YOU MELISSA!)  Of course, I also learned how to make gravity molds during this timeframe and now can make my own castings of the original Roomans for personal use.  Iron Winds Metals told me that they are bringing back Roomans under a new name “Rues”, but to my knowledge that has not yet occurred.

The Roomans I acquired on eBay needed a lot of work to clean and strip.  Some were painted with what appeared to be a tough lacquer.  I used a combination of several sequential applications of Simple Green, vinegar, hot water, and pewter polish to remove old paint.  I also needed to use a lot of toothbrush scrubbing and picking with a needle to get the old paint off.

In August 2016, I gathered up my 24 original Roomans – and decided that I could not in good conscience open up my vintage 1977 blister given the difficulty in finding Roomans (let alone ones in an old blister pack).  That left me with 21.  I had two 1977-type pikes as well as the ones from Iron Winds Metals.  I decided that I would incorporate the two old ones within the mob and use post-1977 style pikes to arm the remainder.  One would be a leader, and the other 20 would form the mob or troop.

Yes, I said mob.  A group of 10 or more kangaroos is referred to as a mob, a troop, or a court.  Females (who are the only ones with pouches) are does, flyers, or jills.  Males are referred to as bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men.  Of course the term joey for the young is more commonly known.  This means that my Roomans that have a shield in front are males (pouchless), while the rest are females (having pouches).  Of course, being marsupials, and hopping ones at that, they have many unique qualities.  If interested, here is a link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo

1 Start of Rooman project
My Original 1977 ES-44 Rooman War Party Blister and those destined for the Rooman Troop
2 ES 44 package
Close up of the blister – note the 1977 pikes on the right

My first action was to glue the 19 newer pike heads to the piano wire with Scotch super glue, and the Roomans to 1″ steel fender washers with wood glue.  This size worked better as the Roomans bases were too big for a ¾” washer.  I used a slightly thicker 1″ washer for the leader.  I gently bent the arms of the Roomans and oh-so-carefully opened their hands to hold the pikes at different angles.  Some of the hands were not well-cast, and I fixed these with Aves Apoxie Sculpt (a two-piece clay that sets up hard as a rock in a day) https://www.amazon.com/Aves-Apoxie-Sculpt-White-pound/dp/B0013UFM7M/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1473111581&sr=8-6&keywords=apoxie+sculpt .

I then used the Apoxie Sculpt to cover the washers and create a sculpted ground around the figures (hiding the washers and the bases).  This was made easier by using a set of wax carving tools that I got that looks like a dentist’s tool kit – but really works well with the Apoxie Sculpt https://www.amazon.com/HTS-156W1-Stainless-Steel-Carving/dp/B01D56Q69O/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1473111766&sr=8-4&keywords=wax+sculpting+tools .

3a mounted on bases and pikes
The Pikes and the Roomans, note the Rooman Leader holding the older type pike
3b sculpting tools
My new sculpting tool set

After I let the glue dry and the clay set up, I primed the unit with Krylon “Ultra Flat White”.  I used Elmer’s white glue to lightly affix the Roomans to large popsicle sticks for painting.

4 Roomans primed
Primed and Ready for paint
5 Rooman leader primed
Rooman Leader Primed (front view)
6 Rooman leader primed, rear view
Rooman Leader, primed (rear view)
7 Rooman trooper newer pike side view
Rooman Jill primed, pike side
8 Rooman trooper newer pike side view shield side
Rooman Jill primed, shield side

Now I needed to have a plan on colors.  Buck always painted his Roomans green (he says that his are tropical).  I wanted to check out real kangaroos and see their colors.  There are two main types, the red and the grey, and the reds are larger.  Therefore, I went with a scheme based on the red kangaroo.

3c red kangaroo
Red Kangaroo (male Jack)

My first action was to use a light coat of Citadel “Agrax Earthshade” to the models.  I wanted a good reddish-brown, and I looked in my paint supply, and had a nice candidate  in the form of a 1996 bottle of Armory “Red Brown”.  I used this for the fur outside of the feet and the belly.  For the belly, I used Americana “Bleached Sand”.  I also used that color up to the jaw muscles and lower jawline to help accentuate the glare and demeanor of the figures.  I also used this for the eyes and for the ears.  I used another 1996 paint – Armory “Gloss Black” – for the noses and to finish off the pupils of the eyes.  For the feet, I went with Americana “Ebony”.  I also used this color for the tips of the ears.  The jack figures had two anklets, and the jills had one.  These I painted with Martha Stewart Crafts “Pale Bronze”.  I am not sure why the jacks had more jewelry than the jills!

9 Roomans base coated
Early base coating

As I moved on to the other metallic – armor, tail spikes, shields, and pike heads – I paused to think of a good color scheme and theme for the unit that would tie it together.  I particularly wanted a shield that would “pop”.  Looking at Greek phalanxes, one usually sees a bronze shield with a pattern upon it.  But these are not Greeks – they are Australians!  I decided to use the colors and symbols of the Australian flag for the troop.  For colors, I decided that the leader would have the red of the St. George’s Cross (in the Union Jack) on his pike streamer, with the rest of the streamers being evenly split between dark blue and white.  The shields would have a dark blue center circle.  There are a series of stars on the Australian flag. A seven-pointed star on the lower left quadrant represents the British Commonwealth.  The other stars (four seven-pointed stars and one five-pointed star) represent the southern cross.  I tried to draw a seven-pointed star, and that is nearly impossible.  Additionally, the ones that I would use on the shields would need no be 1/8″ from top to bottom.  My wife Lynn suggested I print them off from my computer.  Luckily, I found some seven-pointed stars on the internet, and shrunk them down to size, and printed them off.

Aus_Flag
The Flag of Australia

I used the “Pale Bronze” on the shields.  For the tail weapons, pike heads, gauntlets, and armor (on the jacks) I used Tamiya X-11 “Chrome Silver”.  For the shield straps and eyebrows, I used P3 “Bootstrap Leather”.  I wanted the pikes to look like a hardwood – so I painted them with Citadel “Dryad Bark”.

10 Roomans base coated shields
After metallic base coating – note seven-pointed stars in foreground

I then needed to move forward with my Australian flag color scheme,  For the leader’s streamer, I used Americana “Santa Red”.  The other streamers got either a blue or white treatment with another of my older paints.  For the dark blue streamers, I used Deka Lack “Dunkelblau”; for the white streamers I used Deka Lack “Weiβ” (Weiss).  Both of these date from 1987 when I bought them when I was stationed in Karlsruhe, West Germany.  I also used “Dunkelblau” on the shields’ centers.  I then used Citadel “XV-88” on the bases.

11 Roomans base coated shields with blue
Completed base coated troop
12 Rooman leader base coated shield with blue
Close up of Rooman leader after base coat

I considered using some dry brushing on the figures at this point but decided against it.  Basically, I wanted to darken the red fur and see if using a wash would do that and give some detail to the snouts and haunches of the Roomans.  I mixed a 50/50 mix of two inks – Secret Weapons Washes “Just Red” and P3 “Brown Ink”, and carefully covered all the red fur sparing the lighter fur.  I also used Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”  on all steel armor.  I then added another coat of “Agrax Earthshade” to my sculpted bases to bring out the earthlike shapes of the ground.  These washes really had a great effect and made the figures look like I desired, as well as bringing out important details that I feared to dry brush.

13 Roomans after wash with inks
After base coat and washes – nice darker hues

Let us return to the all-important seven-pointed stars that I printed off!  I used my Exacto knife and carefully cut out 26 or so stars with the assistance of the 2.5 magnification of my Carson glasses.  I used the best ones for the shields.  I applied a light coat of Elmer’s white glue to the underside of each star with a Testors microsponge (this is a good use of this tool).  I centered each star and ensured that each point was glued down.

Once the glue dried, I applied a coat of “Weiβ” to the stars and touched up the “Dunkelblau” around the shield where the glue seeped out.  I then applied three coats of varnish sequentially – first Krylon “Clear Matte”, then two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”.

14 Rooman leader after star
The Rooman Leader (a Jack) after varnishing
15 Rooman after star
A Rooman Jill after varnishing

Lastly, I added some Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” to give them the appearance of coming out of an Australian Desert.

16 Rooman mob after grass
Completed Rooman Troop, angled view
17 Rooman mob after grass front
Completed Rooman Troop, front view
19 Rooman mob after grass flank view
Completed Rooman Troop, flank view
20 Rooman close ups, front
Left to right, Rooman Leader, two Jills, and a Jack
21 Rooman close ups, males leaders
A Jack and the Rooman Leader
22 Rooman close ups, jills
Two Jills

I am more excited and happy with this unit than I had even hoped to be!  The unit looks positively awesome and the stars help it pop.  As I build more units with my self-cast Roomans I can incorporate the same color scheme (though I believe my 1980’s paint supply will run out!).

A final note of thanks – to Buck and Dave for getting me into this hobby – and especially to Buck for starting me on this Quixotic quest for a Rooman unit all those years ago!  I look forward to rolling dice and pushing lead with you soon!!

Minifig Halfling Battalion (World of Greyhawk 42 “Halfling Fighters”, with Grenadier Halfling Leader (Grenadier 2002C)

Halflings to the front!

Dave Wood was kind enough to give me an entire 24 figure battalion of 1977 Minifig World of Greyhawk (42 “Halfling Fighters”).  They are 25mm figures, so the photos below are enlarged.

Here is the link with the original package from Lost Minis Wiki:http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:Minifigs-wogreyhawk-wog42.jpg

After checking with Dave, we are sure that I painted some of these in the 1982-1984 timeframe while we were roommates at West Point.  A fading memory of my painting the eyebrows and the furry halfling feet somehow was still kicking around in my brain.  This gift jogged that memory to life!  Back then, Dave had a lot of figures (well, some things do not change).  I offered to paint some and he was kind enough to let me.  These were armed with axes, hobbit swords, hobbit spears, short bows, hobbit daggers, and what looked like adzes or mattocks.  At some point later, Dave remounted the figures on flat steel bases and flocked them a yellow greenish color.

There was also a Grenadier leader that he had included with the group.  This figure originally came in a 1980 boxed set (Grenadier #2002 Halflings).  This set had 9 halfling figures in the box.  The leader was “C” Halfling Thief“.  He does look the leader type.  He was mounted on a small washer and similarly flocked. Here is the list of the figures that came in the set from Lost Minis Wiki: http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:G-asfs-2002z.jpg

I have several of these in my collection from eBay.

Back in the 1980’s, it was easy for younger eyes to discern which one of the Minifig halflings had which weapon.  As those days are past, I decided to reflock the bases so that they would be easier for play on the tabletop.  I used a variety of flocking and grasses and meadow flowers to make them look slightly different from afar.

I did not want to do anything with the paint jobs except ensure that they were varnished.  I was unsure as to whether they were already varnished or not, so they got two coats of Testors “Dullcoat” after flocking.  I added all the flowers and tufts after the varnish applications were dry.  The results are below.

 

1-halfling-daggers
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with daggers.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Copper Leaves” and Army Painter white “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

2-halfling-spear
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with spears.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Green Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

3-halfling-sword
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with Swords.  Bases are flocked with Army Painter “Grass Green” and white “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

4-halfling-axe
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with Axes.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” and Army Painter “Wilderness Tuft”

 

 

 

5-halfling-mattock
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with mattocks/adzes.  Bases are flocked with Army Painter “Grass Green” and yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

6-halfling-short-bow
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with short bows.  Bases flocked with 4Ground “Copper Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

7-halfling-leader
Grenadier Halfling 2002C used as leader for the battalion.  Base flocked with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

I thought the use of different colored flowers and tufts would give the unit a hint of their origin – a happy, peaceful agrarian Shire.  I think that this color scheme worked, and I really like the effects.

 

8-halfling-battalion
The Halfling Battalion

 

Overall, I am very happy to add this unit to my armies.  Thanks Dave!