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
Order of attack
I take a methodical approach to basing so I get everything done with no omissions. This is my order of attack:
- Glue figures to bases and let dry
- Make sure I have enough basing mixture – gloop – for the job in hand
- Have PVA glue and scenics ready
- Have tools ready
- Have some paint for touching up edges and any awkward bits
Tools for the task ahead
Over the years I tried different tools from dentist’s tools to carved wooden brush handles for applying textured gloop to bases. This experimentation led me to the conclusion that you need something pointed, flat, and capable of holding enough basing gloop for the job. While in an art shop buying a palette knife for a friend I had an epiphany.
Spreading gloop on bases is like spreading mortar. Therefore a palette knife shaped like a mason’s trowel should be the ideal tool, and it is indeed! I recommend trying one if you haven’t already. The other tool is a brush for brushing gloop into small gaps – and washing gloop off figures where I have spilt it!
Gloop or sand dip?
Putting a basic texture on a figure’s base can be done in two ways. One is to cover the base in PVA and dip in sand and then paint it. I prefer the alternative approach of using textured paint to cover and paint the base in one go.
I make my own textured paint for basing and have put the recipe on a separate page. There are commercial products you can buy but I enjoy the DIY approach – a bit like wargaming meets cooking.
If you wish to buy ready made ground texture I recommend Basetex. I used it for years and in terms of texture and sensible colours I have not found anything to beat it.
On with the show
Once the glue has dried and your figures are secure on their bases put on the gloop and paint any edges. Then leave to dry for some time – overnight usually does it.
Once everything is dry I give the textured surface a quick drybrush with a lighter colour. For standard green temperate bases I drybrush with a light yellow ochre artist’s acrylic.
Then I mix PVA glue and the paint I used as the base for the gloop 50:50. I then spodge this on clear areas with an old brush and while it is thick and wet press any scenics I am using into it. I use gaming and model railway scenics according to what looks ok and is on special offer!
Again let it all dry and blow (a photographer’s rocket blower is good but use it outside) or dust with a brush to get any flock or debris off the figures. Then give a final coat of spray varnish in a well ventilated area. This fixes the scenics in place and protects the base paint work too.
If you are using a spray matt varnish make sure you shake it well; it is not cold; use it on a dry day; don’t pick up a can of undercoat by mistake. This may sound neurotic but temperature and humidity can affect matt varnish.
Unintentionally spraying everything you just finished with undercoat is bad anytime!
You can’t beat a traditional start by welcoming people!
The intention behind this blog is to present my various interests from cafes to heritage to photography to model making and gaming activities for anyone who might find it enjoyable. This means it will include posts ranging from reviews to practical demonstrations with related information. And lots of coffee and cake I expect!
My current games interests are the Seven Years War in Europe and America, Classical and Hellenistic Greece, and Lord of the Rings. Being a hobby with no plan imposed or deadlines to meet I jump about a bit. So expect generic fantasy will appear along with other historical periods.
My heritage interests are mostly prehistoric to Roman-Britain but with museums, art and Gothic Revival thrown in to an eclectic mix. A lot of my photography relates to heritage sites and the odd project I am involved in.
Being a personal blog other random material will doubtless creep in too.
All views expressed on this blog are my own unless explicitly attributed to others