Vlad III Dracul

Back to the sculpting bench after a hiatus to focus on painting. I’ve had the idea to sculpt the Wallachian warlord Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) for some time now.

Besides the spooky factor, there’s lots of inspiration for wargaming in 15th century Eastern Europe. The Ottomans are finishing off the Byzantine Empire, taking Constantinople (1453) and the “Empire” of Trebizond (1461). The Italians are carving out an empire amidst the wreckage, there’s Catholic-Orthodox friction plus a whole host of ethnic warriors with their own distinct looks.

There’s some nice 28mm Vlad figures on the market, such as a mounted figure from Old Glory and foot figures from Citadel/Wargames Foundry and The Assault Group, but all have him in full plate armor. Certainly what he would have worn for battle, but I wanted him in clothes since the region and period had such distinctive dress.

First, the face. After a bit of fleshing out I finished the face first. I’m hoping to capture those arching eyebrows, long nose and large eyes from this picture:

Here’s the completed face, without hair.

The wire dropping down from his arm will support a Turkish-style sleeve similar to the one on the archer figure below. Vlad’s arm will be through the hole and the sleeve will hang down.

Plenty more work, the right arm, sword, hat details, but Vlad is moving right along. I’m not sure if I’ll try to cast him or just paint the green, but I’m sculpting him with casting in mind just in case.

Off to Indochina

If watching The 317th Platoon doesn’t get you intrigued about the Indochina War, I don’t know what will. While there’s certainly scope for major battles, the setting strikes me as one for small-unit actions. A handful of troops trying to make it to safety, a small fort holding out against a Viet Minh attack, French commandos turning the tables on the enemy and waging their own guerilla war. Black-clad partisans, French Foreign Legion, American WWII tanks, North African colonial troops – plenty of variety for painting even in a small engagement.

Eureka Miniatures make a great line of 15mm Indochina War figures. My only quibble is the Viet Minh are depicted as mostly regulars. I would have liked a few sets of partisan and local forces types – no gear, just a weapon and civilian clothes.

That aside, the figures are excellent. The detail takes washes very well which is how I plan to build up a good number on both sides for a skirmish game. Here’s the first batch – French colonial infantry getting ambushed outside a village.

Prince August Dwarfs

I’ve had some Prince August fantasy molds kicking around for years and decided to cast up a set and paint them.

I’ve got a soft spot for these figures. Before Games Workshop’s LOTR range, these were what I had for Middle Earth battles. Viewing them with a more critical eye, they do hold up fairly well for sculpts from 1987. Detail is good, posing is natural and the choice of weapons and armor is classic fantasy dwarf. Painted up, they look pretty good.


I really struggle to find a place for these figures. They’re true 25mm and are just, um, dwarfed by their modern counterparts. The detail is good, but nothing close to what modern companies can achieve. And then there’s pose variety. How many dwarfs walking with a crossbow turned to the left will you want in an army or skirmish band?

But who knows, maybe there’s a perfect use out there for them?


Sculpted and cast some triremes that I finished painting the other day. There’s some really nice ancient ship models out there, but they tend to be larger than I’d like and can add up in price. I wanted something about an inch long for a game I can play on a 2 by 2 foot board.

A dozen boats are done. The rules are still in progress.

Why are naval rules some of the crunchiest in all the hobby? Maybe the technical aspect of naval warfare draws those most interested in reproducing the intricacies of sailing. It’s not for me. I’m looking for a game that has the feel and outcome of an ancient trireme battle – the mechanics of reaching that goal need to be unobtrusive.

While his suggested rules aren’t to my taste, Paul Hague makes some great points about naval wargaming in his book Sea Battles in Miniature. Games are best fought around an objective and ideally as part of a campaign. Navies have a goal, maintain a blockade or supply an army, which gives context to individual battles. I’m hoping to make rules that reflect the important factors in Peloponnesian War naval battles – morale, rested crews – without bogging down in dozens of tables and charts.

So that means keeping combat simple to fit within a campaign. What I’ve come up with so far is an easy movement system involving a matchstick and fast combat results. Once fighting has begun, crews become more likely to flee each turn if they see friends sunk. Ramming is effective but only if you’ve got the room to maneuver, otherwise ships fight in boarding actions.

Here’s the end of my test battle. The turned over ships have been knocked out of action – triremes didn’t sink exactly but would swamp – and two ships of the winning side are attacking fleeing enemies.

There’s a long way to go to make a game that functions and is, you know, fun to play. I’ll post the rules here once I’ve got a first draft.

40mm Britains-style figure

While Little Wars should be properly played with 54mm figures, the solid figures I can cast are impervious to toy cannon-fired projectiles. So here’s my attempt at making a metal figure large enough for the H.G. Wells aesthetic but light enough to actually fall down under cannon fire.

I think the generic British uniform circa 1900 should be serviceable for a wide variety of units. I’ll paint on some of the uniform details as is the case with vintage Britains figures.

The peg in place of the head will hold a rubber plug, both leaving much of the chest hollow and allowing for a variety of separately-cast plug heads. We’ll see how this casts, paints up and, hopefully, falls over.

Casting history and a new project

Every so often I’ll read through the Little Wars book by H.G. Wells. An area library had a copy of it that I checked out frequently as a kid, along with The Art of the Toy Soldier which had beautiful photos of Britains and other antique figures.

That fostered an urge to do a proper Little Wars game – lots of metal figures and the Britains 4.7 naval guns that fire wood or metal projectiles. While the old Britains figures can be had online, it seems irresponsible to bash around pieces of history. And new Britains-style figures are outrageously expensive.

So I’ll be giving more thought how to make this happen. In the meantime, I found an interesting video of production at the Britains factory.

There’s a few shots of workers actually casting figures. You can see them pour metal from the mold – that was William Britain’s hollow casting method. Rather than a heavy and expensive solid figure, you got a skin of metal that captures all the exterior detail. Workers would pour in the metal and pour out the liquid core before it could harden solid.

That left holes in the final casting which you can find on Britains figures – there are two in the back legs of a mounted officer that I have.

From my limited research on the topic, you need metal molds for the hollow casting method.

What I want to find are some antique Britains molds. There must be some floating around, right?

Painted Romans

Two units of Romans, based for Warmaster Ancients. Plus some casualties – I clipped the end figure off the stand of three and he makes a great sprawled-out dead guy.

I’ve tried to keep painting really simple. Undercoated white, then flesh, tan for wood and leather. That’s the bulk of the figure. Sometimes I’ll do tunic decorations. I’ll wash it with GW’s Agrax Earthshade and then do a quick highlight.

Metal helmets and spearpoints get a black wash and highlight as well.

The shields are taken from the notitia dignitatum, a list of units and shield designs from the late Roman Empire. Some would be incredibly time consuming so I’ll probably simplify some for future units to speed painting.

A new scale

I’ve been appreciating Warmaster and Warmaster Ancients recently. It’s a fantastic ruleset that captures the feel of leading a premodern army without bogging down in complicated maneuver or command rules. It’s in 10mm scale and while I’ve been using 15mm for playing fantasy, I wanted to stick with the intended scale for historicals.

Years ago I bought 10mm Imperial Romans and Germans from Steve Barber Miniatures. Now I’m working on building a late Roman force that’ll match the size of the Steve Barber sculpts, albeit a bit bulkier and easier to paint. Here are the results so far:

The figures progress from left to right, with the enthusiastic fellow on the far right the latest sculpt. You can see the improvement, I hope! I have to add shield bosses to this stand. We’ll see how it casts.