Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

In Hospital

As may be evident from my postings here, I am particularly proud and protective of my figures, especially my growing WSS army. I have mentioned that my army does not travel, and that the games are played by a great group of guys that I have known for years, and with whom I share a strong interest in History and wargaming. They are great fun to be with, and very tolerant of my latest whims and ideas for rules and scenarios. They are also careful with my toys, which I appreciate!

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The Usual Suspects: L.to R.-Terry Shockey, Greg Rold, John Mumby, Ed Meyers, Chris Caudill


However, even with their great care occasionally accidents do happen. It is a fact of wargaming life that figures will be bent, snapped off their bases, flags will be dislodged, buildings scuffed, and even an occasional spillage of beer or coffee will happen. It is best if a person adopts an attitude from the very beginning that this will occur. I am so fatalistic in this regard, that I actually have a designated few hours later in the week after every wargame, where I take my troops to “hospital.”

This allows me to sort through my forces and note any wear and tear and immediately repair the damage leaving the troops ready for the next engagement in all their splendor. I find if I do this small amount of maintenance on a regular basis, the amount to be done is minimal at any one time and takes far less effort than a general overhaul required over several games.

As many of you know, I am not fond of repetitive tasks, especially painting umpteen copies of the same figure, same pose. Therefore, I concentrate on doing special units or mini-dioramas, such as the Siege Train, Louis XIVth’s Wine wagon, or The General’s Carriage, but am more than happy to send my infantry and cavalry units off to Fernando in Sri Lanka for his expert staff to paint. I have never been disappointed in their work. Usually I use the Collector’s standard for most units, but Guard units, Command figures, and a few others are done to a Showcase level. When spiffied up with flags from The Flag Dude or Maverick UK, and mounted and stands terrained by me, they look very good. (Check out the WSS gallery on the photo section of the Yahoo! site)

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I also use the hospital session to improve the figures, so that over time, my army not only is maintained but actually improved! With the Collector’s Standard this usually entails adding extra detail on the lace or buttons, adding fur textures to thing such as dragoon bonnets, and some additional shading to the horses of mounted units. The Showcase Quality seldom need much, but, even there, a touch of added lace or shading can make them sparkle all the more. I think of it as using the professional painted figures as a base and taking them up a level. I do this gradually over time and find it more creative, and very much as rewarding as starting from scratch.

It also allows me to do minor corrections of painting errors. The most common correction is tinting any white belting so that it is in a natural tan in the WSS, and correcting any errors in minor detail. Hair colors can be corrected to a more natural look if needed. This is seldom required as Fernando does an amazingly accurate and high quality job.

For those of you that are beginners and maybe a few others, I have a few recommendations for running this “hospital”.

Design your placement of units on their bases so as to minimize their exposure to damage. Keep them away from the edges, and make the bases thick enough for a good grip, nothing less than 3mm is, in my mind, sufficient. Keep gun barrels for men and artillery from hanging too far out over the edge of the stand. Deliberately choose poses that are most easily contained within the perimeter of the stand.

In the specific case of standards, they should be fixed at two points on the base and on the figure with super glue, and use a thinner, rather than a thicker wire for the pole. I have found that thinner wire than bends and “twangs” back into position, tend to survive a bit better than thicker more rigid wire. It also helps if the gamers observe the protocol of approaching the stand from behind and below, and not over! I have found that my adding of label bases to the rear of the command stand, has served as a crude, but usable, handle for that stand and flag damage has been minimized. (The label description is in an earlier blog entry-All details are found there.)

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There are also simple things you can do that add immeasurably to the diorama and aesthetic of the game. Among them is simple attention to detail. I find that by including items such as limbers, and wagons, the “look” of a game is immediately improved. I also have become very committed to adding easy detail such as harnessing, drapery, sacks, barrels, to the units. This takes very little extra time and I think takes appearances up by 50% or more.

Harnessing is easily constructed from .10 flat wire of varying widths. It’s very light, easily held by superglue, and takes paint without any problem (Paint it prior to fixing on a model, then touch up the bits where metal flakes off during installation). Be sure to form it with proper tension, taut or loose depending on the poses of the horses.)

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The drapes in my General’s Carriage were made of plain typing paper, cut to shape, painted with acrylics and glued in place; Simple but effective.

My Siege Train illustrates another technique, find unused and non-period specific castings and give them a new life by a new use. The Gun in my siege train is a GW Imperial gun, I re-fashioned the carriage, added Front Rank Wheels (which may be purchased separately) and then through careful painting, adding a Front Rank Limber and Oxen, plus some wire and balsa harnessing turned out pretty well. Both the Siege guns and the General’s Carriage made use of small, fine link chain for added detail to the gun and harnessing. Model railroad shops are pretty good sources for the balsa, wire, and chain details that are needed.

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You need a fairly well organized space in which to work, mine is a pine wood square surface on a cutting mat. A good strong light source, such as my magnifying light that can be repositioned over the work area is ideal.

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You cannot have too many different adhesives. Wood glues, super glues in different strengths (and debonder!), Plastic glues, Epoxy (5 minute) for heavy work that will take some stress, and the inevitable Elmer’s White glue. I also must recommend GOO (not Goop) for use as a strong, waterproof adhesive to mount figures to either metal or wood stands. A little goes a long way, it is easy to use, and allows figures to be cleanly removed from the stand with a good Exacto knife at a later date.

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For snapped off figures, or pinning broken arms, horse legs,etc, or for replace meant gun barrels, I have found fine .020 Carbon Fiber Rod to be invaluable. By drilling a hole in the two pieces and using the rod either as an added strengthener on a figure such as shown below, or a pure splint in a horses leg or tail, it can be glued with any number of adhesives and painted over. It is very tough, has enough flexibility that it is easy to use, and is practically invisible even when exposed. It weighs nothing and can be cut to length with a hobby knife or scissors. The center photo below shows its use as a “Brace” for a figures that had been broken off at the ankles. I also used it to create a whip on the general’s carriage.

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Tools are essential, and I have a number, but a few I particularly found the Chopper to be a handy tool for cutting balsa and basswood strips to exact measure, and with perfect angle cuts.

My other tools are pretty standard; Exacto 8 and 11 bladed knives, pin drill, files, small clamps both plastic and wooden clothes pins, but I might point out a few other nice tools. A metal forceps with clamping action is very nice for handling small detail and arranging and holding items such as flat wire for harnessing. Craft toothpicks are very handy for everything from paint to glue application. Lately, I have also gotten a box of clear, light plastic disposable gloves. These really make cleaning up your hands after spray painting or handling certain adhesives very quick and easy-you just throw away the gloves-no scrubbing! A steel ruler with a firm straight edge is also a handy, handy tool.

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I truly enjoy my “hospital” time, and encourage you all to spend a few minutes a week-repairing and improving your troops, the result will make you even more eager to show your troops on parade review!