Old School Ral Partha and Minifigs Vikings for Aztec War Canoes

I was originally enticed into the hobby by way of 25mm metal figures from Ral Partha, Grenadier, and Minifigs back in the 1980’s. Some of you of course are remarking to yourselves at this point that you have no idea of those days!

Well, no internet existed such that one could go out and find whatever one wanted with a click. You either ordered from a catalog or got lucky at a hobby store with whatever existed in the shop (insert bad joke here).

Some of the figures were pretty simplistic, others were (and are still) marvels of art. Most readers of this blog will recognize that until recently, I have been very much involved with painting and building figures and terrain for my Civilizations Collide project (Aztecs, Conquistadores, etc. for Feudal Patrol. So, you ask, Mark, what the f**k you doing with old school Vikings?

Well, this is related to my recent trip to Historicon (which I wrote about here). Several of the scenarios that I am developing for the Spanish Conquest require Aztec (and Tlaxcalan) war canoes, which were involved in many of the battles, both along the causeways out of Tenochtitlan and in naval combat with Spanish brigantines on Lake Texcoco. At Historicon, I searched high and low in the vendors area and in the flea market for reasonably priced war canoes. All I found were a Blood and Plunder model for $20 (not reasonable) from a vendor’s booth and a single $3 scratch-built balsa-wood version from the flea market.

I got both as options for considering how to design and scratch-build my own. As I estimate that I need 4-6 war canoes for each of the 4 brigantines that I have in queue. That’s 16-24 canoes – and I am not going to pay $20 per canoe! Shortly after the convention, Greg Priebe (who was with me at Historicon) suggested that he could 3D print canoes for me! I was elated, and I asked him what I could offer in trade. Greg kindly said don’t worry about it. But, I thought that’s unfair, and I could paint some figures for him as a fair exchange.

Greg is the author of the Vikings Feudal Patrol supplement (which you can download for free here), so I offered him Vikings. He agreed, and when I got home I went into my unpainted stash to see what I had available.

My supply of unpainted lead includes many figures from the ’80’s. I got a lot of them when I returned to the hobby but have not painted a lot of the 25mm ancient stuff. We conferred, and Greg agreed that he would like ones from three blister’s of 25mm figures and a single 28mm berserker. They all work for skirmish games.

One was a six-figure blister of Ral Partha Imports “Viking Berserkers with Axes” (#DA45) – circa 1982. The second was a six-figure Minifigs “Viking Command” blister pack probably from around 1980-1982. The third was a six-figure pack of Ral Partha “Saxon Huscarle” (#1117) from their “1200 A.D.” line – circa 1982. The last was a single figure from RAFM, “Berserker” from their “Adventurers” line circa 1989. This adds up to 19 figures, and Greg is making me 20 or so canoes. So, the following will describe how I proceeded to paint all of these up.

Ral Partha Imports “Viking Berserkers with Axes

These were likely made by Citadel and marketed by Ral Partha – a common commercial practice back then. The bases had “1982” and DA45 on them. As my process was modified batch-painting, I’ll include some of the steps I took on all of the models here and spare you a repeat later. There were three poses among the six figures, which was a lot back then (most packs of six had just one pose). But, I needed on all of these to make them different enough for easy identification and for fun on the tabletop.

The blister pack of DA45. Opened after 40+ years,

The figures had substantial mold lines, which was common back then. That issue was easily remedied. Their axe shafts were also a bit bendy (common as well) – and I gave them all a light coat of Gorilla Glue – to stiffen up the shafts (insert bad joke here).

Mold lines seen here. Also bendy axes.

I then mounted all the figures on 1″ steel washers, and put them on poster tack on specimen containers for ease of painting. I primed them all white with my airbrush and after they dried, I washed with “Heavy Body Black” from Secret Weapon Washes (all of the paints that I used will be listed at the end of this post for those interested).

Close up of the HBB wash on the Berserkers. It helps me to see details and preshades the models – both very helpful steps with 25mm.

I numbered the six figures by the three poses (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, and 3B) so that I could plan differences in painting. At least these had no shields…for the rest that did I needed a plan as well. Yes, I used Excel!

Here all of the 19 figures are ready for varnish, but I did need to work on the shields. More on that in a bit.

On all of these, in terms of painting, I aimed for a good tabletop standard. While I do not think these are badly painted at all, I have done better work – but these reminded me of how much easier painting modern figures is now, especially 28mm. Another challenge was effectively painting blonde hair. I don’t think I’ve done that in 40 years. Anyways, I toned down yellow (very Sailor Moon) with “Snakebite Leather” contrast paint and Seraphim Sepia” wash and worked ok. The ginger hair was easier. I also added differently colored tufts to the bases for ease of identification as well.

Now, let’s see the models from this blister all completed.

The group. I tried to give the eyes a “mascara” look like the show “Vikings” did. At 25mm, this was hard to do, but you can let me know if it worked or not to your eye (pun intended).

Minifigs Viking Command

I remember painting a number of fantasy Minifig miniatures back in the day. They had square bases and the details were rather plain. These were the same as those. My guess is dating from the early ’80’s or possibly even the late ’70’s.

Unfortunately, these had a severe coating of oxide or something black and crusty on them. I don’t think it was lead rot, but I did clean them up with baking soda just in case. Their spears and banner shafts were even more bendy than the others – which was very much a common issue for this manufacturer back then. I added a second stiffening coat of Gorilla Glue to these bendy shafts, and then proceeded as discussed previously.

There were three poses here. Two with a horn, two with spears and axes, and two with either a banner or a long-shafted axe. For the last group, I gave one an axe and one a banner. They all had shields (unattached) so I did need to get some references for free-hand painting them.

The old blister – $3.98 for six figures!
You can see the dark oxidation (if that’s what it was) on all the figures – which needed filing, cleaning, and fixing of the more-bendy shafts.
Close-up shot showing issues.

Each of the three poses had a different number on the bases. Pose 1 (with horn) was DA97, pose two (with axe and spear) had only partially DA4-something, and the last one was DA42. I’m assuming DA stood for “Dark Ages”.

Second pose after HBB wash.

I tried to give different looks to these as well – again, a painting plan in Excel helped. As for the shields – they were fun the most enjoyable to paint – and different than the Aztec shields to be sure. I chose 6 designs that I thought would work with the colors. Instead of thinner, I used Vallejo Flow Improver with the black on a Newton & Windsor 0000 brush – and that worked (thanks to The Imperfect Modeler for that suggestion).

I would sketch lightly with a .5mm pencil, then line with black paint thinned with flow improver.
Painted shields.

After I painted the shields, I gave them a brush of satin varnish. Once they dried, I mounted them to the figures.

Then after drying time, they were off to varnishing and flocking (similar to the previous group). Below are the finished models.

The Viking Command Group together.

Ral Partha Saxon Huscarle

While housecarles in English is proper, the blister said “Huscarle”, so…

The old blister from the 1200 A.D. line.

The sculpts were pretty nice – especially the chain mail. However, these were in all the same pose (as was common back when these were launched in 1982). Therefore, differentiation was more needed.

I followed the same process as discussed above with priming and the initial wash application. Another nice thing about these was that the shields were already attached – that and the eyes would not need special attention.

After the priming and the HBB wash application. I could have used Nuln Oil but I thought I’d use the HBB before it became useless.

For shields, I looked up some images for Saxon ones and chose six.

The final six look as follows:

The Saxon Huscarle group.

RAFM Berserker

The last figure was a single one – and he looks to be 28mm hero-scale. That makes him a bit off of the others, but maybe he’s like the Mountain from GoT?

Anyways, he looks pretty Viking-like, and Greg wanted him, so he’s in!

In his 1989 blister.

This figure was so much easier to paint as it had virtually no mold lines and was well-sculpted. I only wish his axe was reasonably-sized.

That’s the last of the 19. Here’s a group shot of them finished.

Group Shot. All in the mail to Greg in Maryland now!

I originally wanted to paint them all up as part of Roger’s (over at Rantings Under the Wargame Table) “Mo’vember Challenge”, but between surgery in November, Historicon, Thanksgiving, and my garage +build, it did not happen. Still, check out Roger’s cool roundup – I did get in Cortes

As you may imagine, making all these figures different took a hell of a lot of paint! The list is at the end, but here’s a shot:

That’s a lot of paint!

I hope that this was enjoyable – and a change of pace was nice for me. Not sure what’s next, probably brigantines, but I do want to post a belated garage+ update by the end of this weekend. Thanks for looking and sharing any thoughts.

PAINTS, INKS, GLAZES, SHADES, WASHES, PIGMENTS, FLOCKING, GLUES AND MORE THAT I USED ON THESE VIKING FIGURES:

  1. Gorilla Glue
  2. 1/8″ x 1″ Everbilt Fender Washers
  3. Poster tack
  4. Vallejo Mecha Primer “White”
  5. Vallejo “Flow Improver”
  6. Vallejo “Airbrush Thinner”
  7. Secret Weapon Washes “Heavy Body Black” (wash)
  8. Vallejo Mecha Color “Off-White”
  9. Vallejo Model Color “Black”
  10. Battlefront “European Skin”
  11. Citadel “Flash Glitz Yellow”
  12. Citadel “Troll Slayer Orange”
  13. Vallejo Model Color “Black Grey”
  14. Vallejo Game Air “Wolf Grey”
  15. Secret Weapon Washes “Red Black” (wash)
  16. Vallejo Model Air “Dark Brown”
  17. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Snakebite Leather”
  18. Vallejo Model Air “Gun Metal”
  19. Vallejo Mecha Color “Light Steel”
  20. Hataka “Gris Blue Clair”
  21. Vallejo Game Color “Livery Green”
  22. Citadel “Mechanicus Standard Grey”
  23. Hataka “Beige”
  24. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Blood Angels Red”
  25. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Cygor Brown”
  26. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Gore Grunta Fur”
  27. Vallejo Game Air “US Olive Drab”
  28. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Black Templar”
  29. Citadel “Skrag Brown”
  30. Vallejo Model Color “Wood Grain”
  31. Vallejo Model Air “Steel”
  32. Vallejo Model Color “Brown Rose”
  33. Vallejo Model Color “Basic Skin Tone”
  34. Vallejo Model Color “Light Flesh”
  35. Citadel “Lamenters Yellow” (glaze)
  36. Vallejo Game Air “Chainmail Silver”
  37. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Shyish Purple”
  38. Citadel “Contrast Medium”
  39. Citadel “Ushabti Bone”
  40. Citadel “Seraphim Sepia” (wash)
  41. Citadel “Karak Stone”
  42. Secret Weapon Washes “Armor Wash” (wash)
  43. Citadel “Waywatcher Green” (glaze)
  44. Citadel “Drakenhof Nightshade” (wash)
  45. Citadel “Agrax Earthshade” (wash)
  46. Battlefront “Skin Shade”
  47. Citadel “The Fang”
  48. Army Painter “Red Tone” (shade)
  49. Army Painter “Green Tone” (shade)
  50. Citadel “Nuln Oil” (wash)
  51. Citadel “Bloodletter” (glaze)
  52. Vallejo Model Color “Vermilion”
  53. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Skeleton Horde”
  54. Citadel “XV-88”
  55. Citadel “Daemonette Hide”
  56. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Apothecary White”
  57. Army Painter “Purple Tone” (shade)
  58. Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSS” (wash)
  59. Vallejo Model Color “Dark Blue”
  60. Secret Weapon Washes “Sunshine” (wash)
  61. Vallejo “Satin Varnish”
  62. Elmer’s PVA Glue
  63. Citadel “Stirland Mud”
  64. Vallejo Mecha Varnish “Matt Varnish”
  65. Army Painter “Grass Green” (flocking)
  66. Army Painter tufts (various)
  67. Shadow’s Edge Miniature’s tufts (various)

Author: Mark A. Morin

This site is where I will discuss stuff that I find interesting and that includes family, friends, golf, gaming, and Boston sports!

32 thoughts on “Old School Ral Partha and Minifigs Vikings for Aztec War Canoes”

  1. Nice work on all the figures Mark. The mascara eyes look good and I love the various shield designs you came up with, they all look great. All in all I’d say your mate Greg will be dead chuffed. A fair exchange for a load of war canoes I’d say. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great trade between you Mark, and a good way to clear some of the lead pile. I would have mentioned earlier That my store has hollowed out canoes, but with the postage rate and import duties at this moment in time can make it very costly as the canoes retail for £2 each. Glad you’ve got a solution now though.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lovely stuff Mark, I think your mate got the better end of that deal in my opinion! Some of those older figures still hold up really well today, and these definitely fit into that category, sadly though not a Santa in sight 😁. (guess I was wrong again).

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Its great to see what you’ve been up to Mark and this is a nice change of pace as well! While these minis came out before I was in the hobby, it is neat to see them and it makes it easy to appreciate how far along sculpts have progressed. The minis all look great but that last one is my favorite. Its an excellent sculpt and you brought the character to life! If you ever decide to take up a new historical setting, I’d say you would excel with Vikings 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks Jeff – I do like Vikings and hope someday to return to them. The last sculpt is bigger and even hero-scale, and my only issue is that the axe is way too big, but that’s more what today’s are so you would be used to that. Certainly though his axe was far from bendy. Meanwhile, I have a lot of stuff (like we all do) in the hobby queue, like finishing off the brigantines and canoes when I get them – plus finishing the writing of the scenarios.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That would be awesome and I do agree about the axe. Its not historically accurate I imagine and the sculpt feels a bit more like a fantasy Viking to me. If he had some skulls on his base, he’d practically be a GW model! 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  5. These look really good, Mark! 🙂 Like TIM, I think the mascara look works and the shields really do a lot to differentiate them – you really do have well structured approach! I am, however, old enough to remember metal figures this old, so I love ’em!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Really great work on all these marauding maniacs, Mark, and the shields look excellent! It’s interesting to see such old figures (the oldest ones I own are Warhammer Fanstasy chaos minis dating back to around 1988) and you did a sterling job on fixing the bendy bits without breaking them off. I like your technique of shading after priming to better see details, that would certainly come in handy on some of the softer Reaper Bones I’ve painted LOL!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Actually Matt I learned of that technique from Chris Palmer of the H.A.W.K.’s who did that with Reaper Bones figures. Appreciate that you like them, thanks much. In case you are interested, there was a whole world of companies in the game before, during, and after GW more or less amassed huge market share. Check out the lostminiswiki at http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Main_Page and you’ll see a great trove of stuff that boggles the mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I have a lot of the older Ral Patha sculpts for my Saga force, and the nostalgic charm is always a fun trip into the past.

    These look great, and like others have said a good trade for the needed war canoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s a great set of figures, well painted and nice being something other than mesoamerica. Of course, there’s evidence that the Vikings did reach Mexico, so you could probably work them in with your own stuff! Wonderful work on the shields!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely stuff, the shield designs are especially nice. I reckon you and your mate did well here, always really nice to see hobbyists pooling their efforts and coming up with something that benefits them both. 🙂 Looking forward to seeing those canoes. 

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I think those oldschool minis turned out great, What they lack in variety, they make up with character. I have an old wizard by Ral Partha that stodd the test of time. Really great sculpt, so it is all about finding the gems.

    Like

  11. Great post Mark, these old guys came up a treat, one would not know they were from the eighties. I used Dave’s flow improver trick and found it has really made my freehand slightly better!! I do like your idea of the wash over the primer its strange that i never cottoned onto doing it , so thanks mate. Oh and I did have a chuckle over the jokes!!

    Liked by 1 person

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