Total Battle building project

I have written a few articles on the TOTAL BATTLE miniatures buildings and how much I liked them. Well I still like them and everyone who plays in my battles echos that along with my decision to go with 10mm buildings in 15mm games for a better look when representing towns and villages.

The slightly smaller 10mm buildings allow more buildings using the space that would only allow two or three 15mm buildings

Over the last year in between other projects I have been painting these buildings and occasionaly transporting them to games not at my place. I quickly realized that to prevent dammage to them I needed to come up with safe and easy way to transport them.  For years I have made an effort to bring innovation to wargaming with miniatures, especially when transporting miniatures and terrain. I dare say some of the things that are common today in the miniatures world where developed by myself and a few others. Bold statement? Yes but when I started miniature gaming people were slapping 3-4 colors on mini’s, gluing them on some painted cardboard, and transporting them to games in old pizza boxes!  Times have changed!

So this article is about finding a way to store and transport all my lovely Total Battle miniatures buildings easily and with out damage!  Recently I decided to change the way I store terrain at my place because overtime I found much of my terrain was getting dusty and dull looking even though it was stored in those multi level plastic storage drawers. The drawer system did a pretty good job but over time dust would still filter in especially since my gaming area shares the same space as my shop and terrain making area. The drawers were also not that convenient for transport. My career in the movie business had given me a lot of experience in storage and moving of equipment safely so I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to this. I want a system that works quickly, easily, and most important does the job. I searched long and hard and finally settled on a plastic stacking box system from “the Really Useful Box” system. The system is readily obtainable, strong, and economically priced. In the US they can be found at Office depot and Office Max as well as tons of internet sellers, I’ll list the common sizes I use at the end of the article but the one used for my buildings box is the 17 liter box.

The beginning of the “new” system. Old drawer storage on right and new “Really Useful Box” system on left. Easy to see and grab what you need and the stuff stays clean!

Over the last year or so I have been replacing my “plastic drawer” system with the “Useful Box” system and had reached the point of finding a good way of storing my Total Battle buildings in one. I wanted to keep all the buildings in one box but I also did not want to use too big a box (length & width) so I settled on one that was smaller but deeper. This box would to hold most of the buildings in it on one level but required me to “create” a second shelf in the box for the balance of the buildings with a bit of room left over for a few other terrain items.

The next step was to figure out how to keep the buildings organized and secure in the box so to prevent damage as well as easily see that everything was there (useful when picking up after a convention/away game when your tired and may miss something. My first idea was to use some powerful Neodymium Magnets in the base of each mini and then line the box bottom and shelf with thin steel. This required drilling the base of a building and then gluing a magnet or two flush in the bottom. It worked ok but not perfect. If there was a jar or a lot of vibration to the box the buildings could shift and it would be a bit of work to modify all the buildings….I didn’t like it. Next idea was to go back to another tried and true method we use for camera gear and other delicate gear, foam cut to size. This too required some work but in the end was a better system and not that hard, it was the way I went.

The right tools always make the job easier, safer, and faster. Note the single sided razor blade.

I recommend getting a good piece of foam not the white or tan soft foam found in chairs and couches as that foam tends to age and deteriorate when not sealed up in furniture. Use the grey packing type foam, it’s stiffer, last longer, and cuts easier. You can pick up this foam at any foam supply cheap. I bought a 2’ x 6’ one inch thick piece for $12. This project would only use around 2-3 feet so plenty left for other projects! To cut the foam a RAZOR sharp tool will be needed, utility knife, xacto knife, or even the razor blades made for single sided cutting. I used all 3 types and found the simple razor blade to be the best. Blades will dull up and this project took three.

Measure the bottom of the box and cut a piece of foam to match. Make sure to get a tight fit. I cut a bit over size and then trim down. Next the buildings are laid out on it and using a fine tip permanent ink marker (this ink wont later rub off on buildings), one by one mark the buildings position on the foam. Turn on some music, take your time and cut out foam from where the buildings will sit. It’s important to make these cuts just right. Too tight and paint may rub off over time, to lose and your buildings will fall out. Take your time and watch your fingers.

My first attempt at spacing was a bit to crowded and would have required the foam to be cut to thin and then lose needed strength so after a bit or rearranging the bottom layer looked like this.

Now that I had the spacing to my liking it was time to cut the foam.

Check your arrangement several times and when you are sure it works its time to mark the areas that will be cut out. Use a fine tip permanent ink sharpie for this if you have one, other markers may have cheap ink that wont really dry and rub off later on your buildings!

Cutting foam or anything else requires careful attention to what you’re doing! First to prevent injury to yourself and secondly to make sure you get the cuts right! Take your time! There is an old saying about cutting “measure twice cut once, measure once cut twice!” and its always possible to remove more material but once a cut is too big your in trouble. I did all this building cutting and fitting with a single sided razor and used 3-4 blades since even foam dulls the blades.

When cutting I made sure I cut slightly on the inside of the line ensuring a tight fit and remembering I could always take more off if I needed to. Switching to new blades after abut 5-6 buildings made sure the blade was always sharp enough to be able to cut by simply pushing straight down using a slight side to side motion.

As with most of my projects and articles at a certain point I get so wrapped up in it I start forgetting to take pictures! When I finished the bottom section and started work on the second level that was the case for this project.

My top shelf will sit on these two wooden “runners” holding the top shelf just above the bottom buildings. For my project full length runners on each long side were strong enough to support the top shelf. Take care to make sure these are level and an equal distance off the box bottom on each side so the shelf sits correctly in the box.

The second level would be made of 1/8th inch plywood (luan) and sit JUST above the tops of the bottom level of buildings. The bottom level hold the biggest and tallest buildings, the top shelf the smaller buildings (height wise). Make sure you plan all this out at the beginning of the project!!! Be doubly sure that all the measurements and tolerances will work out!

The top shelf being 1/8th inch is easy to cut using a small power or hand saw, again cut oversize and trim to fit. A second piece of foam is cut for it and the process of layout and cutting in the buildings happens just like the bottom shelf. I haven’t yet but I may use some spray contact cement (3M 77 spray) to bond the foam to the top shelf.

As a final step I put a couple of flexible “tabs” on each end of the top shelf so I could lift it out and get to the bottom section. I started with couple of temporary tape tabs to allow me to get the correct spacing and balance for the tabs. Later I used some 2 inch webbing material pop riveted in to create a strap for this purpose. Don’t complete this step until you have arranged and cut in your buildings since the weight may not be balanced meaning your straps may need to be off set so you get level lift out of the box! Find the balance and center of gravity and adjust the straps to match this ensuring a level lift. Pop Rivet guns are cheap and a really useful tool to have around the house! Holes are drilled in the shelf insert and the strap where the rivets will go. I used a hot wood burning pen (a small heated nail will do!) to burn and seal holes in web strapping and a lighter to melt and seal edges of strapping after cutting.

Top shelf in and tabs just lay across the top. Some lose stuff has still not been cut in yet.

Finished box. You could drop this setup from several feet and have no damage to the buildings! the box may be damaged but the mini’s will not be.

All in all I think this project came out very nice and made my hauling these buildings down to a game easy and safe from any damage. It’s also going to do a much better job of keeping my terrain looking good for years to come!

The only fault I could find with these boxes is they do not give dimensions on the box except to list capacity in liters. Their website does give the dimensions as well as a picture that does a fair job of letting you see which ones match for stacking.
I’m currently using:
64 L, 33L (both stack) Big
32L, 17L (both stack) Medium the 17L was the size used for the building box.
9L, 4L (both stack) Small

 

The Building continues!

Set3

The “Homeowners association” in this Village is tough! Red Roofs only!

As a follow up post to the last one on the “Total Battle Miniatures” 10mm Buildings for the Napoleonic Wars in Europe I figured I would post pictures of all the buildings as I worked my way through painting them. Here are the next five I have done. In the “Total Battle” base system five buildings would be the number required to fill one of the “Village” bases and is a comfortable number to paint as a group, speeding things up as you can paint the same areas such as roof, walls wood, ect…at the same time. This set of five I did a bit different look for the roofs, using a red/orange color for the tiles and selected some of their buildings with a distinctive style “cap” to some of the roofs. This different roof treatment was treated as a “copper” sheet roof, not uncommon back then in Europe and other places. I gave it a weathered look to show copper as it looks after years of exposure to the elements. I also did a bit of house numbering as well and signage.

Set3dWhile these buildings are all painted with the same style and color palette they can easily be mixed into the other buildings as some towns had buildings that looked very different from one another. Painting this way however speeds up the process enormously and helps you to have a consistency when you want it.

Here's the whole set as ordered.

Here’s the whole set as ordered.

BasepaintWash

In the last post you saw this picture of the whole unpainted set. All the buildings need to be washed in warm/hot water with dish soap to remove any mold release. I was told no primer was need and a good acrylic craft paint would be fine. I used a combination of craft store paint with some Vallejo and washes.

Basepaint1I have several large old paint brushes picked up from garage sales and swap meets that I use for big projects. You want to make sure of complete coverage, push the brush in every nook and cranny.

Basepaint4 After a few base coats you can begin “texturing” in roads and details. This is a good look at the fluffy brush I use! Many people toss out brushes like this but they are perfect for big terrain projects.

All the bases done and detailed. I used no clear coat on them as I did not want any paint that might not take the slight bending of the base.

Basepaint5All of the Church buildings come with a couple of “dome” or “steeple” options and I was had pressed to select one so I decided to to make the different “steeple” options for the church’s secure yet ale to quickly be switched out. This involved a simple drilling enough space to insert a magnet in each piece and gluing flush. To do this you take a ruler and draw lines from on corner to the opposite corner giving you an “X”. Where the lines cross is exact center and where you dill your holes in the church steeple base and the “dome” top.

ChurchMagDo not drill the wholes any deeper than you need and be sure to check polarity of the magnets before gluing to keep their facings correct since one way they attract and the other they repel! When you glue in the magnets take special care to get them set in deep enough so that the dome sits flat or it will stick up looking silly. I was off on this one at first and you can see where I had to drill another hole to allow me to pop the magnet out and reset depth.

Tops1Some of the tools for this project, not shown are a drill motor (I cheated using a drill press!) Exacto hobby blade for flash, Drill bits (use a drill motor, Dremel tool, or even a hand pin vise) the Magnets are off ebay, I bought 25-100 of several different sizes just to have around the work bench. The dentist toll is just one of a dozen or so collected over the years (ask you dentist if they have a few old ones) a small ruler. You can see the “X” marked on the church steeple and the roof section.

Tools1Assembly line painting methods save time and money when doing large projects of even small projects where the pieces or miniatures all require a couple of the same steps such as priming, base color coats, washes, ect….For Resin buildings my “go to” primer is always Krylon Automotive Charcoal Grey (black) as it really adheres to surfaces well and is fairly unaffected by dirt, mold release, or other contaminants left on the model or mini, yep use this on my minis although I have just started trying Vallejo’s primer with very good results! It’s water based and allows me to use smaller amount in my airbrush (paints on with regular brush as well) saving both time, money, and the environment while still doing a bang up job! The Vallejo primer is also safe for plastics like the Perry and Warlord miniatures that the “Auto” primer would damage!

PrePrimePlease leave a comment if you enjoyed this article on these fine Napoleonic Buildings, I truly enjoyed painting and now using them on our battlefields! Here are a few more pictures, enjoy! Bill W

 

 

Our Napoleonic battles expand (or shrink?)

Always start a Napoleonic post with the French marching!

Always start a Napoleonic post with the French marching!

Been doing so much SAGA (battles in the Dark Age Skirmish) around here and painting 3 Warbands for it from scratch that there has been little time for any other projects or gaming in any other periods. So after finishing my last Warband, Anglo-Danes, I decided to take a break from SAGA painting and dive into the prepped and primed set of Napoleonic buildings that I had gotten over the summer from “Total Battle Miniatures”. I had looked at re doing my Napoleonic buildings for some time now as Steve and I have a collection of random 15mm buildings but we were just not real happy with their effect on the battlefield.

One of our "15mm" buildings by I think "hovels" its not really true to scale either. This building is about medium size for a 15mm building.

One of our “15mm” buildings by I think “hovels” its not really true to scale either. This building is about medium size for a 15mm building.

Our 15mm buildings looked fine paint wise and good on the field but the size of the building meant that in the scale we play (Age of Eagles rules) towns were represent by one or two buildings and even then the large size of the buildings did not give either a good look or anywhere near the correct ground scale. Now ground scale was not that important to me as I was going to modify the AOE town combat any way into something slightly simpler and I really just wanted towns to look like towns, or closer than what we had now.

The way we had been showing "Hamlets" or "Villages" not very satisfying in my opinion.

The way we had been showing “Hamlets” or “Villages” not very satisfying in my opinion. I later went to placing brown felt under the building to show the towns outline for troop disposition.

I had looked over the “net” for over a year at different building manufactures, comparing look, variety, size, and price. I finally settled on “Total Battle Miniatures” because their “Big Battalion-Black Powder Europe” line was not only beautiful it was extensive, giving me a selection of 20 different buildings and 3 different bases to use. The line is well thought out, well cast, and priced very fairly. I liked the novel hamlet, village, town, base system they have where all the buildings in the line have “foot prints” that fit into the village, town, or hamlet, so that you can vary the look of several villages infinitely! Some footprints allow either 1 big building or 1-3 smaller footprint buildings to be placed in them. The bases are made of a soft synthetic material and allow a bit of conforming to uneven terrain. The buildings could certainly be used with out the bases but I like to over all effect as well as it would give me a definite “boundary” to define units being in or out of the urban area.

Now that is not the end of the story or even the reason for this post….. the real reason is to talk about the decision I made to go with their “10mm line” instead of the 15mm buildings, YES they not only make this line in 15mm, they also do the line in 10mm!!! and they also have some of the buildings in 20mm and 28mm!!! So after a bit of discussion with the chaps (Pete & Mark) at Total Battle about the size difference in 15 verse 10mm they mentioned that a few of their customers had used the 10mm for 15mm games and had good feedback on this. They were also kind enough to send me some comparison pictures showing a 15mm figure next to the 10mm buildings. Looking at the pictures I was sold on 10mm and decided to order the complete line, well actually more… I ordered 2 Hamlets, 2 Villages, and 2 Towns, that gave me 6 bases and 29 buildings! This is plenty for even large Napoleonic battlefields up to 4’x12’. (we play mostly 4’x6’)

This shows the difference in the building scale between 15mm (left) and 10mm (right) with a similar foot print. The 15mm occupy an area of aprocimatly 9" by 10" while the 10mm are 8" x 8" to the base edge. Figures are "Old Glory 15mm.

This shows the difference in the building scale between 15mm (left) and 10mm (right) with a similar foot print. The 15mm occupy an area of approximately 9″ by 10″ while the 10mm are 8″ x 8″ to the base edge. Figures are “Old Glory 15mm.

We just did our first battle using the first of the painted 10mm buildings and both Steve and I were quite pleased with the look and playability the 10mm scale gives us. We used two “Hamlet” sized bases with 6 buildings, 3 finished painted, and 3 almost finished. They look awesome and give a great look. You now have several buildings representing a small hamlet instead of one and you have some room around them on the “base” to deploy troops, clearly defining who is “in” town and what bases are “out”. The scale of the 15mm figures is in my opinion fine compared to the 10mm buildings and the look on the field more than out weighs the slight loss of real scale figure wise after all the figures are already much larger than the ground scale so this puts the buildings closer to ground scale.

The whole picture, now that looks like 2 "Hamlets" instead of two buildings!

The whole picture, now that looks like 2 “Hamlets” instead of two buildings! Sorry forgot to place the “trees” in the green cutouts.

The battle we fought was fairly small 2 “division’s” per side with a small Cavalry Division…30 infantry stands and 8 of cav apiece. It was a meeting engagement with the Hamlets and control of the road net the objective. Steve’s Austrians reached one town first and deployed, other Prussian brigades turned both north and south to counter expected French thrusts. The French commander (me) however used the legendary French marching speed to fall instead on the center where the Prussians had occupied the town.

Wide

Austrians move around and into the Hamlet of Hoffbrau, drinking a bit to much on the way through…..

The French assembled 2 battery’s, a 6 pound horse battery, a 12 pound infantry battery, and 3 Brigades for the assault on the Prussian held Hamlet. Preliminary fire by the French got lucky and rolled very well disordering the Prussian defenders while only suffering “disorder” to one of their own brigades. The French assault threw the smaller Prussian force back out of town with a “breakthrough” charge catching and “shattering” the Prussians fleeing the town as well as over running a Prussian Heavy battery. This pretty much ended Prussian hopes and the game.

French Breakthrough3

While he Austrians set up to fight a proper battle the French cheated as usual and out marched them arriving in mass at the Hamlet before the other Austrians were were close enough to lend support.

People who know me “know” that I am the first to speak out when shits not right and conversely I like to sing out when companies get it right and in the “miniatures” hobby it is sometimes rare to find one getting right, well “Total Battle Miniatures” got it right start to finish! from their great packaging (from England), to the casting, the range of beautiful terrain pieces, and even prompt answering of all my email questions!!!

They paint up very easily, typical resin buildings, wash, dry, prime…paint. The bases however are a SOFT synthetic material so you must use paint that has the ability to flex over time as well. I was told no primer was needed…things are so far OK with only minor chips in just a few spots…I would have like these bases to be resin or at least had the choice…that’s just me. I will do a separate post soon on the painting of these guys, I’m currently on three out of the six you see here!

Here's the whole set as ordered.

Here’s the whole set as ordered.

Here are some more pictures to give you all a chance to decide for yourself, and if you buy from Total Battle Miniatures please tell them you saw it here!

 

 

AOE Napoleonic’s “The Battle of Souffel”

In an attempt to guard Frances borders while he defeated the main Allied force (British and Prussians) Napoleon had stationed several “Observation Corps” on the most vulnerable approaches. On June 28th 1815 French General Rapp and 19,000 French infantry and around 2,000 cavalry squared off against Austrian Crown Prince Eugene, 34,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry, this was the very last battle of the Napoleonic wars.

Newly conscripted French infantry prepares to defend the town and river crossing

Newly conscripted French infantry prepares to defend the town and river crossing

 

An English reporter for the London Times (Percy Wordsmith) sent this eye witness report while traveling with the Austrian army.

Map showing initial French deployment (Yellow) and Austrian advance (Orange).

Map showing initial French deployment (Yellow) and Austrian advance (Orange).

French troops had spent most of the early morning pushing civilians out of their homes and out of the villages. Other French units set to work clearing fields of fire building barricades, and improving their lines along the river until the scouting Hussar units galloped back across the bridges with reports of Austrian columns fast approaching. As the French hunkered down in their defensive positions the far side of the Souffel river bristled with the bayonets from half a dozen Austrian columns. Huge Austrian brigades nearly the size of French divisions maneuvered around each other in an attempt to quickly close with the French. The French artillery opened up on these columns, seldom causing real damage but throwing them into disorder and slowing them down. In the center Austrian heavy cavalry pushed to the center causing the French horse batteries to withdraw and French heavy cav to counter the move in order to guard the flanks of both towns.

AustEarly1

Austrian commanders position their supporting Artillery battery’s with a cheer ans a “Hats off” salute!

FrenchEarly2

French Cavalry and a Horse battery cover the center

Austrian forces in the center had finally started to push across the bridges but were repulsed at both crossings by stubborn French resistance losing a few troops along the way. The Austrians retreated back across the bridges to regroup and await the redeployment of their gun batteries in a better supporting position. Over two hours had passed by now and as general Rapp anticipated the Austrians had detected his weak undefended left flank. Reports of Austrian cavalry and guns crossing there in force were now coming into his headquarters, Rapp quickly dispatched an ADC to Colonel Merlin commanding the French cavalry to move west to block the Austrian flanking move. Rapp also gave orders to send a brigade from each of his other divisions to also move into a blocking position to the west allowing his cav to resume their job as a mobile reserve in the center.

AustBridge2

Austrians mass and move to the assault. Austrian Cav gives french Cav something to think about in the center.

The Austrian commanders however had planned this diversionary attack on the French left flank to do just exactly what it had done, weaken the center, and they choose that moment to launch a renewed assault, a much more coordinated, powerful, attack. The Austrian batteries roared, slamming shell after shell into the French defenders. The French defense remained firm and the artillery had little effect but that of making a shambles of the town. Now over the bridges came the renewed attack of the Austrians, two brigades now reformed into assault columns (thanks AOE Yahoo group) and combining their numbers for the assault against the small French brigade left in town.
On the eastern side of the battlefield the Austrians were finally sorting out the traffic jams caused by their massive and unwieldy brigades. One of the Austrian brigades charged forward across the bridge but suffered the same results as the Austrian attacks across the bridges there. The eastern Austrian push settled down to an artillery dual with the Austrian commander waiting for developments elsewhere on the field. To the west the French and Austrian forces squared off and waited for one another other to see make the first move.

Auststare

Austrian troops across the river at Souffelweyersheim spend most of the battle just tossing angry shouts and an occasional cannon ball at the French.

The center now erupted into pitched battle over the bridges of Mundolsheim and again the Austrian dragoons once attempted to cross the Souffel in the center, succeeding in causing the French cavalry to move back from their blocking position in the east  to the center, again countering the Austria dragoons. This time the Austrians Dragoons charged, the French Hussars counter charged and after a brutal fight the weight of Austrian heavy cav succeeded in crushing the French Hussars. The Austrian commander had watched intently this clash and was now joyous with the possibility of splitting the French center and even falling onto the rear of the French line to the west. However he had no cavalry reserve to push across the center and the Dragoons were far from fresh. The Austrian Dragoons sensing that this was the moment, their moment shook off their disorder and preparing too charge the rear of the French defenders to the west.

Austrian columns assault and shatter the french center, the french Officer and gun battery in the picture have been "captured" survivors flee to the rear.

Austrian columns assault and shatter the french center, the french Officers and gun battery in the picture have been “captured” survivors flee to the rear.

Meanwhile the Austrian infantry attack on the French center had succeeded in forcing the crossings, nearly destroying the defending French brigade, the French losing two regiments, their guns and their commanding general captured, the remnants falling back out of the town.

The final positions just before dark and the close of the Battle. French / Yellow, Austrians / Orange

The final positions just before dark and the close of the Battle. French / Yellow, Austrians / Orange

The Austrians now sensed the French were in trouble and pressed on, their infantry columns flooding through and out of the town in pursuit, forming up in line of battle preparing to roll up the French left flank. Once again as they had done several times already this battle French forces despite being of less than normal quality (50% of the infantry were conscripts) rose up in defiance and struck back.

French Infantry and Cavalry make a last ditch counter attack to stem the Austrian tide!

French Infantry and Cavalry make a last ditch counter attack to stem the Austrian tide!

The French reserves had finally arrived in the center and deployed with a heavy battery with in effective range of the reforming Austrian dragoons and just as they were about to charge, delivered a devastating combined volley killing several stands, throwing the Austrian dragoons back into disorder, and pinning them in place where they stood till they died. A small victory for the French but it had little effect overall the Austrians had pushed back the french left flank and now four huge Austrian brigades had were in position to move forward taking the rest of the French positions in the flank or rear…. Fate and darkness intervened at this point with the battle ending at 7:30 pm. General Rapp ordered skirmish screens and a general withdrawal towards Strasbourg.

From the Austrian camp,

Percy Wordsmith, London Times

When the victory points were added up the French were ahead, coupling that with their success in keeping at preventing the Austrians from archiving a quick crossing of the Souffel and possibly trapping Rapps main force gave the French an overall win. Herr Gausche playing the part of Archduke John did a splendid job in forcing the river crossing against a determined opponent. We learned how to do a few things within the rules that we had not come across before. Once again the “Age of Eagles” rules rose up and proved to be equal to the task and provided us with one of the best Napoleonic battles yet played by us over the years.

Rules: Age of Eagles (AOE) by Bill Gray from Fire and Fury

Scenario courtesy of the Susquehanna war-gaming group

French, 5 Commanders, 50 infantry stands, 11 Cavalry stands, 4 Batteries

Austrians, 6 Commanders, 90 Infantry Stands, 25 Cavalry stands.

A Balloons eye view of the Battlefield at the end

A Balloons eye view of the Battlefield at the end