Military Miniature

Organizing a Wargames Army, Part 4

As we talked about two weeks ago (sorry about that, but Turkey Day intervened), I was going to show the finishing steps one must take to proclaim a unit as complete. The final step in churning out a unit is basing, flocking, and finishing touches. These are important to make the unit playable and add to the aesthetic look of the unit.

Final Basing Work

The first thing you do is pry the finished figures off the temporary popsicle stick base. Do this carefully, and do not be surprised if you must repaint some shoes and the like towards the bottom of the miniature once you get them on the new permanent base. I am mounting these figures two to a base for my For the Proletariat rules. I made use of #14 bases (1” x 1”) stands from Wargames Accessories. They are excellent solid metal stands that will not warp and will last you for a long time. I used a mix of Loctite Superglue and Elmer’s White Glue to secure the miniatures to the stand. I then let that mixture dry for a bit.

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Next, I pulled out my secret weapon – Golden’s Pumice Gel. This stuff gives your bases a nice texture and gives the other terrain features something to stick to. This step is particularly important, so give it time overnight to dry. Now, for my For the Proletariat armies, I am leaving about a 1/8th of an inch-wide metal strip uncovered. This will be for the unit ID that we will get to later. 

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Once you have let the pumice gel dry, it will have a nice, hard, rocky consistency and go from white to light grey. This is exactly what you want. Make sure there’s an even coat across the figure as the stuff tends to shrink as it dries. Don’t be afraid to put on some extra gel to fill gaps and let it dry another night as required. But, for this example, we are not going to do that, as I am happy with the results. 

Take some suitable brown craft paint that matches the color of the earth you are trying to paint (some research here helps, or if you’re not too picky, go with a darker brown color.) Do not use your nicer Vallejo colors, as this is going to a) take a lot of paint, and b) you are not going to use the paint alone. You want to mix this paint with a healthy dollop of white glue. Let’s call it a 1:1 ratio. Take a brush you are not too attached to (this process is hard on brushes) and simply paint on the base. You will want to take care not to get any of this on the figures you just worked hard to paint! Also, have your chosen flock ready! You will need this in about ten seconds or so. 

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Once this is done, take your base and gingerly dip it into the flock. Do not worry about the wet paint and glue mix. The flock will stick well enough. After that, tilt the base at a 45-degree angle, then simply tap the bottom of the base gently with your finger and shake lose the extra flock back into your flocking storage container. I would then let this dry for a few hours before the next step.

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The next item of business is to work on the unit identifier. This should be simple. For my units, I am going to hit the bare metal with some gesso to prime it. That will take a little bit of time to dry, but once that is done, I will let it dry before painting it red, as it is going to be the color for this regiment that the battalion is attached. After we let it dry, a bit of white paint marker will be used to write out the battalion designation carefully. Then let it dry again while you perform the final manual step, attaching a flag!

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Flags are as easy as a good internet search or your paint program. Just be sure the flag is not so large that it seems out of place. Another good thing to do with your flag is to “accordion fold” it to give it that “flapping” appearance. You can distress the flag with some tears and shell holes, but again, less is more, and at 15mm, it is easy to go overboard with this. Attach the flag to the flagpole with a bit of white glue, and then let it dry.

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Varnishing and Storage

Well, now comes time to protect all your hard work. There are two ways to do this. Spray and brush on varnish. Both have advantages and detractions. Spray is easy and goes on quick. But, like spray paint, it is weather dependent. Brush on is not subject to the weather, but you must get the ratios right or you will get “frosting” on the figure. I find 2:1 or 3:1 water to varnish ratio works well.  Be sparing with the varnish. Less is more, and a little goes a long way if you brush it on. As for spray, treat it like spray paint, with the usual safety rules. Do not spray inside, and be careful as to where you are spraying. I would again give this about an hour to dry.

After that, it is time to store your armies till you are ready to play with them. I am using my usual Michael’s storage solution for 15mm. I simply cut a piece of magnetic sheeting to size (the self-adhesive sheets are great for this!), carefully place the figures inside the small box, and voila! Done. Long as you do not turn the whole lot upside down, you should be fine. A bit of work with a dark-colored sharpie on the box will do wonders to let you know the contents of the box. 

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And that is it, a unit done! We will check back in a few weeks to see how much I have gotten done and how I have organized my army as a whole!

At SJR Research, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse SJR Research’s service on our site at SJR Research.


(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)

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