August 31, 2013

Flashpoint Miniatures US HQ Blister–First Impression

Pheew… almost three months after opening it for the first time, I am happy to report that I am done with first batch of minis for Vietnam project. Three months to paint a little more than 30 15mm minis, that must be something of a record… and they’re not even properly based yet (that’s why there are no pictures of them here).

Anyway… immediately after placing finishing brush strokes on the last figure in the initial batch, I rushed to pick up the US HQ blister and check out its content. Sadly, I have to say that it didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to transform into a mix of disappointment and bewilderment.

There is a grand total of 33 miniatures in US HQ blister. Over half of them are “repeats” from the Platoon blister – with few exceptions, sculpts of the officers, NCO-s, riflemen, guys equipped with Thumper and LAW are the same as those in the Platoon blister. A slight let down, but understandable from economical perspective. The fact that they are there actually made me quite happy – together with the content of Platoon they will now allow me to field a complete company of 3 x 3 bases with four figures on each base.

Additional M60 gunner (different sculpt than the two gunners in Platoon blister) is also a welcome reinforcement to my heavy weapon platoon. Last, but not least, I very much appreciated the inclusion of two man scout/sniper team.

Over to the bewilderment and consternation part of this quick review. It was mainly caused by some rather peculiar choices in selection of the remainder of this blister. Let’s start with the fact that there is a grand total of five figures chatting over the radio – there is already a bunch of similar figures in the Platoon blister, so why include so many RTO-s in this one?

Even more mysterious is the choice of having two dog handlers… and a single dog. Finally, the decision to include two ammo carriers in particularly odd – as already mentioned, there is only single M60 gunner in this blister. The mystery grows when one remembers that the Platoon blister contained two gunners and a single ammo carrier. (???)

Two medic minis included in this set is sensible. The fact that one of them is carrying a wounded buddy over his back isn’t. This particular figure will be fun to paint and will probably make a very nice “one off” vignette, but on the tabletop it will be of limited use. Also (sorry if I’m sounding petty), sculptor’s decision to burden this guy with a belt of M60 ammo while he’s in the process of carrying his buddy to safety made me rise an eyebrow.

The disappointment part is mainly caused by what’s not included in this blister. First and foremost – it’s a HQ blister, where are the guys with binoculars? I know, it’s such a clichĂ© pose, but couple of guys doing some recon would be a nice variation on RTO theme. Second obvious omission – what about the 60mm mortar team? It was used frequently in the field and would be far more useful than a dog handler without a dog.

Final conclusion – in combination with Platoon blister, the HQ pack will provide enough figures for a complete company and support. But its content could have been better thought out and leaves me wishing for more.


August 30, 2013

GHQ Terrain Part 4–Hills

Vacation – ironically, in wargaming context, this word means for me at least no games and very little painting. Thus, there is very little to write about… which in turn leads us to the next (and probably last) instalment of “filler” cycle of articles about my experiences with GHQ Terrain system.

Since GHQ Terrain system is hexagon based, making hills are pretty straight forward – you take a hexagon and cut it up in two or more subsections. There are three basic cuts you can make, as shown in the pictures below, each variant giving two useable hill “pieces”.

Couple of things to keep in mind when making the cuts:

  • The initial alignment of the cut is the most important part of the cutting process. Once you progress “into” the hexagon, mistakes or messy cuts can be easily fixed, but a bad initial cut will result in hill pieces not aligning with each other. This in turn will result in sloppy visual effect.
  • In the images below, the cut line is marked with red lines. Keep however in mind that once the cut progresses into the hexagon, you can cut whatever shape you want, as long as the diagonal lines at the edges are consistently aligned.
  • Try to keep the cut on the horizontal surfaces of the hexagon at least one centimetre away from the red line in my pictures. This will give you a ridge with a horizontal surface, a very useful “feature” when trying to place miniatures on the top of the hill.

Let’s now take a look at different hill shapes and how useful they are. Figure 1 will give you one “short” hill edge and large one “indented” hill side. In my experience, you will need a whole bunch of those “short” pieces – try to make at least ten of those in your first batch. The other piece is far less useful. Observe however that with some care when cutting, it is possible to get two “short pieces out of single hexagon – something definitely worth considering when working with the initial batch of hill pieces.

Figure 2 is pretty straight forward – this cut will give you two  identical “linear” hill slopes. Those are very handy for creation of those long ridges, stretching over large parts of the battlefield, but are of limited usability when trying to make terrain with a lot of smaller elevations. For the initial batch, I would recommend for six, maybe eight such pieces.

Finally, the cut shown in figure 3 provides one hill piece necessary to “expand” the hill slope 60 degrees outward  and one hill piece that “retracts” it 60 degrees inward. Both variants are equally useful, but keep in mind that you will need the “retracting” pieces much more for terrain setups with many smaller elevations.

Personal experiences, troubleshooting and variations on the themes

The guide that follows with each pack of GHQ Terrain hexagons shows you different cut variants. Its illustrations are much more instructive than pictures I’ve included with this post, so take a moment and study them.

Guide’s suggestion to use a saw to make the cuts is however not so nice. I tried to follow this advice initially and found out very quickly that cutting styrofoam with a saw makes incredible mess. Furthermore, saw cuts give very rough surfaces and if I am to be perfectly honest, working with saw felt generally like a bit of a hassle. So no, I would not advise you to use saw for this job. Instead, invest in a proper wire foam cutter.

Now, cutting the hill pieces with foam cutter presents its own set of challenges. First and foremost, if you set the temperature of the wire too high, you may find it difficult to control the cut. Try to find a temperature that allows you to make the cut easily, but you should feel a bit of resistance while slicing through the hexagon. Biggest challenge for me personally was to keep correct alignment of the wire when “exiting” the hexagon, especially when making the tiny “corner” pieces shown in figure 1. After a while I decided to bypass this problem by making two “halfway” cuts instead of a single one – one cut from each side, meeting (hopefully) in the middle of the hexagon.

As with everything else, experience comes with practice, so don’t worry if you make a mess out of a couple of hexagons. Keep in mind though that even if you make a “bad” cut, don’t fret over it. Unless you manage to really butcher the hexagon, most mistakes are easily corrected with some filler; my personal favourite is smooth wall putty. It can be purchased in any DIY shop in plastic tubes – one of those will last you forever. Wall Filler is also quite useable for creation of variations in slope shapes – you can use it to make the slope gentler, more irregular or to create narrow “fingers” that extend from the main hill piece.

To mount or not to mount

Once you cut your first hillside piece, you will probably immediately notice one thing – the lower part of it is very fragile indeed. This is especially evident when working with the hexagons that are 1/4” thick. Now, you may of course be of different opinion, but my personal view is that hillside pieces cannot be used on their own and need to be mounted on another hexagon. Yes, this means that you will need to use two hexagons for single hill slope hex, thus doubling the price of the terrain piece.

White glue can be used to glue two pieces together, but personally I prefer to use contact glue specially made for styrofoam. Woodland Scenics sells such a glue, but see if you can’t find it (usually for significantly less money)  in your local DIY shop.