Sunday, 6 May 2018

Wargame tokens vs painting masterpieces

Recent thoughts have turned to the number of 15mm figures I have and the number that are still unpainted. I thought about painting or selling. 

I also remembered a while ago, a friend posed the question - "when did our wargame tokens start having to be painted masterpieces?"

It's still a really good question for me to ask, particularly as last week when we had a great 15mm ACW bash at the club using my figures. Several thoughts went through my head during the evening, including do I want to get more figures painted, or should I keep the painted ones and sell the unpainted, or should I sell the lot after our current campaign. For the record I have over 2000 15mm ACW figures, and just under half are painted. 

After some thought, my friends statement came back to mind and I then thought back to the old wargame adage of - the 3 foot test, i.e. what can you see on a figure 3 foot away in the middle of a table. If you cannot see it at that distance, do you really need to paint it in detail.

Then I thought of all the boardgames I have, such as Commands and Colors, Squad Leader or any number of Russian front or Bulge games, where I'm quite happy to play with wooden blocks or cardboard counters. 

Now there's also the aesthetic side of a game and seeing nicely painted figures, but I guess I'm questioning the need for me to do detail on 15mm figures.

So, my solution to test is just basic colours, and here are some photos. In a sense, I'm thinking of these figures as we did back in the days of good old Airfix, where we happily accepted blue and grey plastic and pushed them around without a care in the world. 

These have all been undercoated white for ages. I splashed on some washes. At the back left is Army Painted green shade. In the middle is Vallejo blue wash, and at the front right is a mixture of Army Painted blue shade and Citadel fancy-name wash. I noticed the Army Painter and Citadel shades are more indigo and the Vallejo more blue. Not pictured was a test with Vallejo inks and their blue is a beautiful striking colour.  

Just a closer view of the Vallejo blue. On a first try, I think I'm happiest with this tone. At the back are some chaps where I'd previously painted the faces, and was wondering how fast and casual I should be with a blue wash over them. I've decided to leave them for the moment and go back later.   

And now with the confederates in shades of grey. The Vallejo wash was a bit light so I went back to my old DIY ways of doing washes and used 3 or 4 different greys. I worked very fast with these and didn't bother if paints were mixed or not. 

I then took some half-painted figures and quickly painted a wash of earth on the bases. The end results look OK. 

And a closer shot of the Berdan Sharpshooters in green with the bases given a wash of earth. This gives and idea what the 'finished' figures may look like, though I may want to add a couple of touches like rifles and faces.  

At the moment, I think I'll carry on with this experiment and see what they look like with the minimum painting necessary to look reasonable from 3 feet away.  They would certainly do as rear rank chaps, supporting fully painted chaps in a front rank.  I'll also have to think about flock if I'd want to add it.  At the moment I'm thinking yes.

Also, as far as I can remember, this took an hour or so.  Not bad for 60 bases. 


  1. Holy f....

    This is more heretical than army painter :)

    Having just started looking at the 200 plus ACW figures I have it might however have merit!

    Cheers Ross

    1. Thanks, Ross.
      I'll carry on and see where this experiment leads. I'd like to see how much detail I don't need.

  2. I certainly get the point about masterpieces, especially in a fast paced world, where my time is divided between boardgames and figure games and on the figure side of things I have multiple periods of fancy.

    I have recently been writing along similar lines and agree that for whatever reason, as we have become more sophisticated as a hobby (and indeed most areas of life), we have lost a certain naivety that allowed us to enjoy simple pleasure a bit more than we can now.

    I am going for the 2- 3 foot rule, block painting, inking and then going back in with a few choice highlights. This still takes quite a long time, but I am happier with a 'rougher' application of paint to reach my goal.

    I don't think I could liberate myself to the same degree that you suggest here, but rather, I see your process as being a great way to kill the lead, get it on the table and then over time, just take a units worth of bases and add give them a basic painting, so that the building of a force is not a 'job' and does not get in the way of play.

    1. Thanks, Norm.

      I like what you said about killing the lead and getting it on the table, and add a bit more over time.

      I also liked what you had to say on your own blog and your approach to the 6mm figures. That may well have been another inspiration for my experiments here.


  3. Admittedly I am a newcomer to 15mm, but the approach your using above has worked for me since day one.

    I do love to see the masterpiece stuff with buttons and badges painted but if I did this I would a figure once a month.

    The issue I have with this method is at every step the miniatures look like garbage, it always looks as if it needs more. The eureka moment happens once you decide that’s enough, finish the base, add some flock then stand them side by side and stand back(at least 2 feet) and viola, job done.

    Try a few first, all the way to completion, if you like it go with it.

    1. Thanks Russ.
      I liked your comment "at every step the miniatures look like garbage". So funny and so true. I had to steel myself not to go back and tidy up or do more.


  4. Looking good! Love to see clever production line techniques. I think you're onto a good thing here.