From chatting to a 28mm Early Achaemenid Persian army
Discussing the new version of the DBA ancients rules with a colleague led into how he’d always wanted a hoplite army. Given I’d always fancied wargaming the invasion of Greece by Xerxes in 480 BC before we knew it we are planning armies.
We agreed on larger figures simply because Tony was keen on them and plastic ranges make such an ambition affordable. I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to get a 25/28mm size Persian army in metal as with all the cavalry and hordes it would cost a small fortune!
Planning out the Persian host
Having settled on DBA I looked at the Early Achaemenid list. Double bases for the Immortals and sparabara infantry increased the body count but using light infantry instead of hordes reduced it. Well, reduced by a small amount! Once I had worked out what I needed I looked at the Wargames Factory range of Persians.
Happily they cover all the troop types I needed and I set about planning the figures I needed. I then got a bit too enthusiastic and decided only Big Battle DBA would do justice to the battles of 480-479 BC. Some thinking later and I produced the army and list of figures needed at the end of this post. The number of figures was slightly daunting but having more time at home because of a health problem meant I had time to assemble them.
In the course of thinking about the army I used the usual references for wargamers from Duncan Head’s book on the Persians to Field of Glory army lists. Plus this made a great excuse to buy Tom Holland’s new translation of Herodotus!
Recruiting the plastic Persians
Happily I found some boxes on eBay and then North Star Figures had a sale of Wargames Factory at the right moment. Even so I found after much sorting out and assembling of figures more were needed! Caliver Books provided my last recruits so it was just planning how to paint them.
Painting 28mm Persians
Whilst the Wargames Factory Persians are not the finest figures on the market they provide the basis for a good paint job. I realised if I did that painting my miniature Persians would take longer than the campaign lasted! So I decided to go for the good old block colours and brown varnish technique.
This is also known as “the dip” method as marketed by the Army Painter company. I use a similar approach of painting in the basic colours in almost toy soldier style. I let them dry completely and then apply a coat of Ronseal acrylic varnish with a brown stain in it. Using lighter colours than you usually would helps the varnish stain combination do its work. The stain varnish combination provides instant shading and looks ok on the gaming table. A bit crude for 28mm size figures perhaps but gets them on the table.
Big Battle DBA Early Achaemenid Persian army list
General and sub generals 3 bases of 3CV = 9 figures
Cavalry 3 bases of 3CV = 9 figures
Light Cavalry 3 bases of 2LH = 6 figures
Immortals 3 bases of 8BW = 24 figures
Sparabara infantry x bases of 8BW = 72 figures
Hillmen 3 bases of 3AX = 9 figures
Medising Hoplites 3 bases of 4SP = 12 figures
Light infantry 9 bases of 2PS = 18 figures
There is an option to replace the light infantry with hordes but that would be another 63 figures to make and paint…
Back to my gaming roots
One of my first ancient armies for wargaming was a box of Airfix Ancient Britons. Despite the archaeological anomalies like the solid wheels on the chariots and odd arms and armour in places they were great fun to paint and fought many a battle in the 1970s. I did sell them off when I moved up to 25mm metal figures from Minifigs. However, the Roman invasions of Britain and Boudicca’s revolt kept the interest in gaming with Ancient Britons alive. Sadly I’ve no photos of those early Ancient Britons nor their Roman opponents
Airfix never had druids and screaming women!
Going down a size
Moving house twice in a year focussed my attention on just how many unpainted little metal men I had. Yes, I used the past tense there!
I decided to clear out anything I just have a few of and wasn’t going to turn into a complete army. I also decided that for big ancients armies I would move to 15mm size figures. This is because they take up less room, are quicker to paint (as I can’t see so much detail now!) and thanks to scale creep are almost as big as my old Airfix figures were!
Before making this decision I considered trying 10mm for ancient and medieval but found them not quite right for me. I used some Pendraken 10mm Vikings as a test and can while they did not suit me I suggest trying Pendraken if you are considering 10mm. I sold these on eBay as part of the grand clear out in the end.
Cracking on in 15mm
Another consideration was having a Peter Pig Roman army in 15mm I had painted for DBA and DBM. Getting a similar scaled opponent made sense of course but like most wargamers I try to leave sense out of it when choosing armies and scales!
Peter Pig Romans
The challenge with painting an army of irregulars is getting the variety there without painting each figure separately. I have a simple system for this involving strips of cardboard!
This is a rather ocd variant of the old take a colour and paint a different bit of each figure with it. To ensure variation I sort the figures into groups with a minimum of duplicates. Then each group is glued to a cardboard strip and undercoated.
I paint all flesh first using a red brown wash then a warm flesh colour.
After that the fun begins! Well my idea of painting fun anyway. Take a colour and go through a strip of figures applying it to different areas, so a dark brown is hair on figure one, trousers on figure two, belt on figure three and so on.
Then take another colour and move onto the next strip. As you can now see repetition of colour and pose is kept to a minimum. Having plenty of paints helps!
One point to keep an eye on is use brighter, historically more expensive, colours on better equipped wealthier types. Use patterns on clothing and showy shield decorations as well, again more so for those who could afford them.
For the sake of sanity and speed use one colour for shield backs, spear and weapon shafts, metals. Then varnish and base to taste!
Chariot Miniatures slingers
Chariot Miniatures Warband
A big bag of them, Sir!
Not exactly thousands of them but a bag of 50 Old Glory 10mm American Revolution Indians supplied by Caliver. I decided to use Old Glory so the British native allies would look different to the French. I plan to use Pendraken Indians for my French forces. So it was open the bag, clean up the figures, and paint!
How was it for you Hiawatha?
I have painted 30mm Indians for this period and found tattoos and war paint a mixture of fun and frustration. On these wee fellows the smaller scale let me use the daub technique to give a quick impression of warpaint. That’s the aim anyway! I enjoyed painting these although one or two figures have very over scale muskets. I would recommend considering them for any North American eighteenth century conflict.
Sharp eyed readers will see I have used a Pendraken British officer to further identify these figures as British allies.
One from another
Eventually I will have three units of these chaps. So how to tell them apart?
Clever micro painting with distinctive war paint could be one approach. I wanted something I can see when standing or sitting at the table so testing my badger paws painting technique to the limit was not the answer. I settled on making each unit’s basing distinctive. The result is one unit with a plain base using just some Gale Force 9 forest flock supplied by Maelstrom Games, a second using Woodland Scenics twigs from a model shop, and the third one will appear in a later entry! You can judge the effectiveness of this plan from the image below.
The flock and twigs were anchored with a mix of PVA glue and paint. The twigs were painted and washed with acrylics. The end result was then sprayed with Testor’s Dullcote – once we had a warm and dry enough day!
Before you start making bases check the rules and army list. Then you should be able to work out how many bases and of what size are needed.
Sometimes I use ready made plastic bases but the bulk of my painted figures are based on card. I use thin mounting card from art shops as I find it sturdy enough once figures and ground material is added, and it avoids the figures looking like they are mounted on a paving slab! I know thick (2mm or more) bases are robust but I feel a smoother join with the table top looks better. So what else do I use?
I use a set square and pencil for marking out the base outlines on the card. Then I use a steel ruler as a guide and cut the card with a heavy duty craft knife. Two key points are: a new blade in the knife and several gentle cuts. Oh, and a self-healing cutting mat so I don’t have to French polish the table afterwards.
Sticking it all together
Once the bases are cut out and any wounds dressed it’s time to stick the figures on. Yes, knifes are sharp and the best way to avoid cuts is a series of cuts rather than forcing the blade through the card.
I plan what figures are going on which base before I glue. I may go so far as to arrange them in the order I will glue them on in an assembly line manner. I find with WRG rule the bases sizes are pretty tight and this is essential. In fact sometimes it’s like trying to build a Twister diorama …
Then get gluing and I use a standard contact glue – Uhu is my favourite. PVA is just as good and really it’s using something you are happy with. I regard super glue and epoxy as overkill for card.
Today I am mostly basing Orcs
Yep, it’s time to base some Mithril Miniatures orcs for Hordes of the Things. I had these based for Warhammer but now have enough suitable figures to retire these. The idea is to use these for HoTT Middle Earth forces.