Thursday, August 18, 2011

28mm Plastic Ancients

My First 28mm Plastics

If you have been following the blog you will have seen that I spent part of my recent time in Gaul productively in raising an ancient Gallic army in 28mm plastics. I took a small kit of selected paints & tools and some Wargames Factory figures (topped up by more by mail order). Assembling and painting them filled in the some of the spare time between the eating, drinking & battlefield hunting. I left the basing until I got home as they packed better unbased & I didn’t have the gear for it with me anyway.

I found the assembly of the figures to be easier than I expected, and actually quite fun, though it takes a while to get the hang of getting the arms & weapons at realistic angles. In the end only one guy finished up with his feet pointing the wrong way.  I was impressed with the strength of the plastic glue and thus the robustness of the assembled figures, (which is why the guy still has his feet pointing the wrong way), although the fumes are pretty lethal – guaranteed headache if I don’t do it outside, or at least by the window.

The painting was straightforward compared with 15’s, though my results look pretty ordinary compared to the pics in Hail Caesar. I consol myself with the fact that they look great if you stand back far enough – as you do when actually fighting a wargame. The shield transfers defeated me despite finding several sets of instructions from mates & on the web, but in the end I decided that simple paint was good enough for a bunch of grotty barbarians.  I can retro fit the shields if I ever master the art.

I put a lot of thought into how to base the figures. My final decision was to base them individually and use magnetic movement trays. This suits Hail Caesar very well as it is the tray size that matters and the figures can be placed on the trays in the way that best suits the particular figures & the numbers available. The Gallic infantry, bristling with javelins as they are, take up more space than the commonly used 20mm base width, but with this system you just space them on the tray to suit. There is also no need to have precisely N figures for every unit, you can just spread them out a bit more if you’re a bit short.

I based the figures on 22mm diameter steel washers. These are cheap and easy to get in bulk, they provide a bit of weight to stabilise the lightweight plastic figures, and they facilitate the use of magnetic movement trays as well. The infantry bases don’t quite cover the hole, but a bit of polyfilla both fills the hole and roughs up the surface of the washer for painting or flocking. For the cavalry I used 2 washers linked by the horse base. It makes a dumbbell shaped base that actually looks ok.

For movement trays I’ve used magnetic plastic sheet glued to 3mm balsa sheet. I used balsa as I happened to have a heap of it the right size for the job, though thin plywood or craftwood would do it too. The 3mm is just thick enough to grab hold of comfortably with fingers spanning over the figures. Plastic magnetic sheet with enough magnetism to hold the figs on upside down is available from sign makers. The stuff is expensive off the roll, but at the place I went to the bloke gathered up a pile of offcuts about 100mm wide from around the workshop and sold them to me for a nominal cost.  For now I’ve just painted the bases and the edges of the trays - I’ll experiment with ways to make the bases & trays look better in due course.

The consensus among the CC blokes working on 28mm troops for Hail Caesar was to adopt 200mm as our standard unit width.  I have made movement trays in 3 sizes to comply with that:
200x75mm – for standard sized warbands & phalanxes with 3 ranks of figures
200x50mm – for standard sized units in close order; infantry in 2 ranks or cavalry in 1 rank; and for small skirmisher units deployed in open order.
100x50mm – for small units – infantry in 2 ranks, cavalry in 1 rank

In the book they use 3 or 4 ranks for warbands or phalanxes and 2 ranks for cavalry. But 3 ranks of infantry gives a good enough impression of depth and 1 rank of cavalry looks fine, so I prefer to use the thinner formations to make the figures go further. Maybe when the group has accumulated enough figures we can go up to 4 rank warbands/phalanxes & 2 rank cavalry on 100m deep trays.

The overall result is very satisfying despite my limited modelling & painting skills, and remarkably economical - it only cost about $150 - approximately $100 for the figs (the A$ was roaring at the time), $20 for bases & trays, $5 for glue, say $5 wear & tear on paintbrushes and say $20 paint.

The force is a good sized Hail Caesar division comprising 1 heavy cavalry unit, 1 light cavalry, 3 warbands, 3 slingers & a small unit of leftovers.  In the pic the light troops are in open order on 200mm trays, but there are also 100mm trays for them to use when they close up.

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