Wednesday, 31 August 2016

On the worktable 1

Given I started this blog to get me to spend more time making and painting Cuties this is the first of a series of (hopefully) regular updates on what I have managed to get done.

Progress continues on my 19th century Imagi-Nations, Bombenburst has three units of artillery crew ready to be based, GrosseKleeinStadt has the same plus a unit of guard infantry and a unit of curassiers.  The guns are half way through painting, but as they are added towards the end of the basing process they should easily be ready in time.

A medieval archer and a Zulu with rifle are ready for mould making.  I have a medieval spearman halfway through the process at the moment, combined with the knight I already have this will give me enough to do a very basic medieval army.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

More Cutie talk

A word from the Cuties

What scale are Cuties?

Ok, first things first, obviously they aren't compatible with any other figure ranges, no matter what scale I say they are. In terms of height they are 15mm, but they have the bulk of  25mm figures.

So I thought it might be helpful to post some pictures of my Cuties alongside real wargame figures.

These are 15mm Mahdists from Peter Pig.

Peter Pig again, British for the Sudan.  The helmet adds half again to the Cuties height.

The Sumerian battlecart is from Magister Militum.

I think these knights are from Lancashire Games.

I don't have many 25mm figures, this one is from Black Hat Miniatures, their Three Musketeers range.

Dead ends, for now

There are some figures I've made that aren't going anywhere for the moment, tests to see if I could do certain periods.

I don't think any of them are failures and they may end up as part of an army one day.

From left to right these are a Yeti from Doctor Who, a Napoleonic French infantryman, a Vietnam Era American, a Greek hoplite and a pirate.

I was really pleased with the Yeti, the look was perfect, but it's meant to be taller than a normal figure, not shorter. Ooops.  The Napoleonic figure was great practice for doing detail, with the back pack and the turnbacks.

The American will most likely see service in an Imagi-Nation or as part of a National Guard force fighting off zombies. Yes, I plan on doing zombies, hopefully in resin to make them child friendly.

The Hoplite will definitely be part of an army one day,  The Pirate needs a ship and crew to go with him, and that is so far on the back burner it's almost in the freezer.  I have no idea how I would make a Cutie with a peg leg...

Umm and Ummer

My second major project was to create a pair of Sumerian armies, taking advantage of being able to use the same castings for both sides.  Once again I got caught up in enthusiasm for another subject and they remain only partly done, hopefully blogging will provide the impetus to complete all these unfinished armies.

The opposing sides are identified by colour, one has red shields and battlecarts, with yellows and browns for their clothing, the other uses blue and white clothing.

The Battlecarts are my most complicated model so far.  The onagers and wheels are cast separately, the rest is a one piece casting. 

The spearmen come in three variants, unarmoured, with helmet and with helmet and cloak.  Separate shields make for six variations of the figure.

I went with just the one version of the archer, I should probably go back and make a variant without a helmet.  One day, maybe.

The javelin armed skirmishers are on round bases to indicate they get no benefit from forming in ranks.  I have some slingers cast but haven't painted them yet.

The villagers are from my prehistoric tribe with a different paint job, the bald men are javelin skirmishers with the javelin removed.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Just My Imagi-Nation Part 3: A few calculations later...

The army generation table in One Hour Wargames has maximums of four for infantry and two each for cavalry, skirmishers and artillery.  Doubling this requires me to have eight infantry units, four cavalry units, four skirmish units and four guns and crew.  But it's never that simple.

Changes in infantry weapons during the period have no effect on the figures I need, I don't need to model the particular type of firearm they are equipped with.  But the change from bronze to steel guns does need to be shown. Only Bomenburst will adopt steel guns, and only towards the end of the period, so I can put off making those for a while.

Troop quality is more of an issue.  Skirmishers and artillery will be the same quality at any time. Cavalry will be represented by a variety of different types (all function the same in the rules, but it looks much better) so different levels of ability and enthusiasm can be assigned to cavarly types as required, four units is enough.

But for the infantry, quality does make a difference.   I need to have line troops, guards, militia.  This requires more units as each type has to be identifiable on sight.  Both armies will have two units of guards, and GrosseKleinStadt will also have four militia units.

Infantry and cavalry units have eight figures each, skirmishers have four and artillery has one gun and two crew.

The Army of GrosseKleinStadt

16 Guard Infantry in 2 Units
64 Line Infantry in 8 Units
32 Militia Infantry in 4 Units
8 Curassiers in 1 Unit
16 Dragoons in 2 Units
8 Hussars in 1 Unit
16 Skirmishers in 4 Units
8 Artillery Crew and 4 Guns in 4 Units

Total: 168 figures and 4 guns in 26 units

The Army of Bomenburst

16 Guard Infantry in 2 Units
64 Line Infantry in 8 Units
8 Curassiers in 1 Unit
16 Dragoons in 2 Units
8 Hussars in 1 Unit
16 Skirmishers in 4 Units
16 Artillery Crew and 8 Guns in 8 Units

Total: 144 figures and 8 guns in 26 units

Quite an ambitious project, but achievable I think.  I will be able to stage battles along the way as the forces grow, helping keep up my enthusiasm,  

Just My Imagi-Nation Part 2: Neil Thomas Rules OK

Neil Thomas is the author of several excellent books on wargaming.  He favours a simple, fun approach to rules, avoiding unnecessary detail but including just enough to give the flavour of each period he covers.  His two latest books, Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878 and One Hour Wargames, both cover the time of my imagi-nations.

Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe is the more detailed of the two, showing the changes brought about over the period by developments in troop deployment and weapons technology.  Artillery goes from Napoleonic bronze smoothbore cannons through rifled bronze guns to steel artillery.  Infantry firearms develop from smoothbore muskets to advanced breechloaders via rifled muskets and early breechloaders.  The infantry also moves from close order formations to a more open order deployment.

Army lists are provided, with special rules to make each one unique.  All this is handled elegantly so as not to increase the complexity of the game.  

In addition to several historical scenarios (which are unfortunately of little use to my imagi-nations) it has four scenarios for generating fictitious battles.  These use tables which create random forces for both sides, either five or ten units strong.

One Hour Wargames devotes a couple of very short chapters to this period, and goes into much less detail.  Opposing armies are identical to each other, the rules appear more interested in showing differences between various historical periods than the differences within a period.  I see the rules in this book as a very basic introduction to the hobby or as a solid base from which the player who wants to write their own rules can start.

The true value of this book, which makes it well worth getting, are the scenarios.  Thirty scenarios are provided, again using tables to generate random forces, in this case either six, four or three units strong.  These use the same categories as Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe does, Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry and Skirmishers.

I will therefore combine the best from both books.  The rules used will be from Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe and the battles will be created using the scenarios from One Hour Wargames, but with the tables deciding army composition being rolled on twice for each side, giving opposing armies of twelve, eight or six units depending on the scenario,  

With this decided the next step is to work out how many units I need to cover all the possible forces generated by the tables and to model, cast and paint the necessary figures...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Victoria's Wars

One of my favourite films of all time is Zulu.  Could I make Cuties to represent the brave men on both sides at Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift?

Given that I like to use the same mould for more than one army if possible, those British Cuties could expect to be visiting the Sudan, to face off against the forces of the Mahdi.

And the Mahdist spearman will find himself used as a Saracen defending against the Crusades, but that's another period entirely...

A Mammoth Task

As mentioned previously, my cavemen need something to hunt.  Mammoths would seem to be the obvious choice. Given their size, making moulds and casting them would be inappropriate, so each one has to be hand made.  I decided to experiment by making a dead mammoth first, to see if the technique I planned on using would work and if I would find the outcome in keeping with the Cuties visual theme.

So off to work I went, with some helpful advice along the way from my grandson Toby.

The body is a wooden half egg from a craft store, the rest of the mammoth is sculpted from Milliput.  The eye isn't very clear in this picture, but at Toby's prompting it is an X, which is how you are supposed to indicate something being dead according to him.

The hairy parts of the mammoth were then coated in white glue and it was dipped in scenic flock.  Much easier than sculpting hair over the same area and if I'm going to make a herd of these I want an easy way of doing it.

The whole thing was then painted black, both as an undercoat and an additional way of holding the scenic flock in place.  The eye is a lot clearer in this picture.

A quick paint and base later, and the cavemen celebrate their success.  I think the mammoth fits in well with them, so it looks like the herd will be a possibility.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Just My Imagi-Nation Part 1: An Introduction

Imagi-nations are fictional countries, usually loosely based on  historical countries of a particular time period. Ruritania from the Prisoner of Zenda is a good example, or consider Hollywood movies where (presumably to avoid offending a real nation) the story is set in some invented African or Middle Eastern country.

In wargaming the most popular setting for imagi-nations seems to be the 18th century, with modern Africa another popular choice.  While I am tempted by the idea of making 18th century Cuties and will probably do so at some point, I chose to set my imagi-nations in the mid 19th century.

So, somewhere in Central Europe...

GrosseKleinStadt is based on Austria-Hungary, though much smaller in size.  It is an old kingdom, its glory days long behind it, but it still has a large army though much of it is of poor quality.  With a history of dominating its neighbours it has yet to accept it's reduced position in the world, which can lead it into wars it would have been better avoiding.  

Bomenburst is more modern in its outlook.  It models its army on that of Prussia, so while smaller in size than GrosseKleinStadt it is a serious threat to it.  Constantly seeking to expand its influence and power, it all too frequently come so blows with its larger neighbour.

With two rival countries invented, I now have the choice of how much detail to go into. Maps must be drawn, cities named, troops cast, painted and organised into units.  Significant people in both nations must be named, their personalities considered and possibly figures made to represent them.  Perhaps most importantly, rules are needed to enable these countries to determine their fate on the battlefield.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

ACW = American Cutie War

When I decided to make figures for my first proper Cutie army the American Civil War was an obvious choice.  The same figures would do for both sides, and I could get away with one mould each for Infantry, Cavalry and Artillerymen.  The Cannons required two moulds, one for the wheels and one for the rest of the cannon, modelled as a single piece.  Five moulds to cover both sides was perfect.

Not sure why the Cutie second from the right in the back row is sticking his tongue out, certainly wasn't painted intentionally...

An army marches on it's stomach, doubly true for Cuties.

Union Cavalry prepare to charge!

I'm aware Civil War Cavalry made extensive use of firearms, but swords were easier to do and the figure can then be used as a base to model a wider range of cavalry simply by altering the head gear of the rider.

As with the Cavalry, a change of hat would make these figures useable across many periods.

Unfortunately for the poor American Civil War Cuties they showed that Cuties could work as wargames units and that simple conversions could allow me to cover many different armies across history.  After painting up one unit of each troop type for both sides the urge to see whether I could be as successful with more ambitious projects grew too strong, and so they still await completion.   

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Cutie Masters

A few pictures of the original masters of my cuties.

My Kingdom for a Horse

For most of recorded history armies have used cavalry and it follows that my Cuties need to be able to be mounted on horses.  This presented a problem.  Given they have no legs, how would they sit on it?  Another practical problem is that horses, having four legs, are more complicated to model and make moulds for.

After some thought I realised the obvious solution, the Cuties are egg shaped, it followed that their mounts should be egg cups.  Placing all four legs of the horse egg cup together as a central supporting column made modelling and making moulds simple.  Problem solved!

A happy side effect of this decision is that it greatly simplifies painting the finished horsemen.  With no saddles, trousers, boots or stirrups, cavalry becomes as easy to paint as infantry.

Cuties in Space

One reason for making my own figures was to enable me to play games which aren't covered by available figure ranges, or are covered but not in my preferred 15mm scale.  Star Wars and Doctor Who were obvious choices for me, and so I made a few samples to see how well I could capture them in miniature.

The Darth Vader figure is an original sculpt, there is no point making a mould for a figure I will only ever want one of. The Stormtroopers are castings.

The Daleks are cast in four parts, body, eye stick, gun stick and sucker stick.  Holes are drilled into the body and the various sticks are glued in place.  The Daleks are slightly shorter than my usual figures, as they should be.  These ones are intended to represent them as they looked when encountered by the 2nd Doctor.

The Cybermen Cuties are one of my favourite models I've made.  Slightly taller than a standard Cutie, they are based on the Cybermen from the Patrick Troughton story 'The Invasion'.

The Star Wars figures are, for now, a bit of a dead end.  Doctor Who Cuties are an ongoing project, there are many more monsters I intend to do and I also need UNIT forces and the Doctor and his companions.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


'Cuties' is the term I use for the figures I make.  They are egg shaped little people, 15mm tall, with no facial features other than eyes, and no visible legs.  The intent is always to make them crudely cartoonish, with just enough detail to make them identifiable.

Hopefully the figures above make you think 'Cavemen', and I score bonus points if you consider them to be cute too.  I find them adorable, but I'm biased.

Another aim was to make them virtually accident proof. It's very hard to damage a 15mm ball of lead by dropping it and the spears are thick enough that they bend rather than break and easily survive straightening.  While I have had some figures come off their base after a fall I can honestly say that I have not had a single figure damaged or broken.

The three figures above were all made from one mould, of the spearman on the left.  The torch holding pyromaniac in the center has the tip of the spear snipped off and flames modelled using modelling putty.  The stone thrower on the right has the spear hacked off with the remaining part of it painted as a rock.  Multiple use of moulds helps keep down the cost, and mould making is a messy business which I avoid when possible.

The woman with baby and the small boy shown here are also used for civilians in other periods, simply through the use of different paint schemes.  Again, it saves on moulds.

The Cavemen are very much a work in progress, intended additions are expansion of this tribe, a second rival tribe, and animals to hunt or be attacked by.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

I wonder how long it will take me to regret this...?

This is my first attempt at a blog, so please bear with me while I figure out what the heck I'm doing.

The aim of this is two fold, firstly to put my (I think) unique approach to wargaming out there for others to see and secondly to motivate me to spend more time on the hobby, if only so I have something new to post about on here.

In addition to the figures I make myself I also do more mainstream wargaming, which will be covered too.

But mostly it's about my own little creations, the world I am building for them and the rules I make them live and die by.  Crazy, huh?