Monday, October 31, 2016

Getting Minimalistic Over the Weekend

Hi Everyone,

I was going to hold off posting my bead warriors since Dale just posted, but he encouraged me to go ahead and post.  Over the weekend I put together three stands of troops.  I will discuss the building process, the painting, and then also my subjective feelings about these little fellows, both good and bad.  In terms of historical miniature gaming, I am one of those people that has one period that I like significantly more than all others.  For me that's ancients, and specifically ancient warfare from about 500 BC to around 100 BC.  Because of this, I am a sucker for Alexander the Great and the Successors battles in particular.  So, not surprisingly, this is the army I started with when doing my first batches of bead warriors. 

Over the weekend, I got three bases done, two phalangite bases and one skirmisher base.  I try and use everything from a craft store or online craft shop, so even the bases are precut ones that I buy online for not much money.  They are about 3 inches wide (just a little shy of that actually), 1.25 inches deep, and 1/4 inch thick.  I wanted thick bases for these little fellows because a) I think it looks cool, and b) while in play I want people handling the bases, not the figures.

They are essentially painted the same as my "28mm" wooden ancients figures I make using spools and such.  So they are way more "meeplish" than Dale's figures in appearance.  Here is a closeup of the phalangites.

And here is what they are made with.
The body is a 5/16" Flat Head plug, and the head is a Maple Button Plug 1/4" in size.  You just glue the mushroom plug on top of the wider end of the flat head plug and that's it.  The pikes are toothpicks with the sharp end cut off of one of them.  The shields are called "brads."  You get them in a craft store in the area that has the paper and scrapbooking stuff.  They are designed to hold pieces of paper together as they have two sharp prongs that you can bend open and then shut again to hold the paper, but I snip those off.  Honestly, this is just a 10-12mm version of the same figures I do at 28mm with spools and mushroom caps, it's just that the mushroom cap is smaller, instead of a spool for the body I used a flat head plug, and the brad I use for the shields is smaller.

To illustrate this, here is a comparison photo of the 28mm phalangites I made years ago, and the new 10/12mm phalangites I made this past weekend.

As far as painting goes, very, very easy.  Dale is right, you can really get lost in painting details that don't matter.  What I tried to do was identify what was the most distinctive thing on the actual soldier and just paint those things.  So for the phalangites, it's obviously the helmet and the linen armor.  The linen armor pattern is just made up, it is just a "suggestion" of the linen armor.  You can't really see it in these pictures but I did paint hands on the back side of the pikes to give the appearance of them holding it, but that's it for details.  Helmet, face and eyes, linen armor, and that's about it for painting details.
For my skirmishers, I wanted to try and give some variety in appearance.  Also, obviously, there are way fewer of these figures on the base, although the base itself is the same size.  Here is what these guys are made from.
All have the same 8mm bead body.  The first one on the left and the third one from the left have the same head, which is a 1/4" round head plug.  I actually bought these thinking I would use them for the hoplite heads when I get around to doing them, but they are too small.  I need one size larger, which I will eventually get.  The second one from the right has a head made from the same mushroom cap as the phalangites, and the one on the far right has a head that is simply a 1/4" round ball.  The bows they are holding are the ends of a tile spacer cut in the horseshoe shape and glued to the body.  Painting was easy, although I thought they looked funny until I put the belts on them

What I like about these little guys:
1.  Inexpensive.  Even me buying "custom" parts instead of just going with the standard beads from a craft store, they are still really cheap to make if you buy the pieces in bulk.

2.  Fast to paint.  Wow, I literally did the bases staggered, so that I was at a different point with the painting of each so that I could be painting one while another one was drying.  For these three bases, with a total of 28 figures, I may have 3 actual hours of work in them, and honestly, a lot of that time was waiting for the glue and paint to dry.

3.  Mass effect.  Just like with all 6mm or 10mm figures, you can get so many of them in a small area on the board it looks really good, even with my cartoony meeple style, they look good when they are put together like in the first picture.

4.  Light.  Especially if you used a thinner wooden base, you would find that each base weighs less than one 28mm metal figure.  Actually, I think even my thicker bases still weigh less.  So for those of us like me that like to run convention games, or run games at a gaming club where you have to transport everything, my old back is very happy to be moving a box of these guys around compared to a box of 28mm metal figures.

What I don't like about these little guys:
1.  Fiddly.  There is no real way around this unless you do what Dale does which is paint them on the base.  I don't do that, and by not doing it they are hard to hold onto when you paint them.  The phalangites are not, you can hold onto the pike, but the skirmishers and the base of Hypaspists I am working on now, it is impossible not to get paint all over your hands.  In the future I might try to use some sort of putty tack to stick them to a base that I can hold onto when painting them.  That should help to solve this problem.  It's always risky with wood, though, because it absorbs everything, so if the tacky stuff is damp at all, the wood will absorb it and possibly alter the paint.  I hope not though.

2.  <Yawn>.  Okay, I admit it, I can be a bit of a painting snob.  Painting these guys this weekend made me feel the same way that painting 6mm figures made me feel when I used to paint them.  <Yawn>  On the good side, it's hard to paint them poorly.  On the bad side, it's very difficult to paint them very well.  This is definitely a double-edged sword characteristic, because if you wanted to put together an army quickly that looks good on the table, but you didn't care if they looked great, just to try out a period that you do not normally game or something like that, they are perfect for that.  But the point of them is to be minimalistic, and simple, and paint just the most important elements of the figure.  That's great for speed, and for identification on the table top, but for those paint snobs like me out there, it can get really boring really quickly because it is very assembly-line like.  So for me, personally, the level of enjoyment in painting them was far less than for the 28mm ancients I have done with the spools, and definitely less than for the 32mm fantasy figures for rpgs I've been doing of late.

Will I keep doing some?  I will.  I want to do an elephant, and I want to do some cavalry.  I will eventually do enough to put on a game.  I like a huge battlefield with lots of troops on it and this will really fit that bill.  Actually, I sort of like knowing that between even just Dale and I, we have 10/12mm army options, 25/28mm army options, and 40mm army options for figures made out of inexpensive and simple craft store parts.  I, personally, think that diversity in scales for these types of figures is just darned cool.


  1. For the fiddly part, just use a small dot of LOW temperature hot glue on a popsicle stick. then hot glue a spool to the bottom of the popsicle stick to act as a handle for painting. The only bad part is prying the figures off an not damaging the paint.

    I agree that the painting is not the exciting part. Nor is the construction. It is using the end result, quickly. And when you are jonesing for a painting or construction challenge, you switch to a larger scale and grind out another skirmish figure. :)




Popular Posts

Labels I Use in Posts