Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Spartacus and the Romans

This week seems to be the time when all these summer projects have all been finished seemingly all at once. One of these has been my 28mm DBA based Spartacus Servile War armies.

A little background first.  I have played DBA for sometime now but only once a year at the Enfilade convention held in Washington State.  No one up here plays it but I fell in love with the concept of the game. This being having all but 12 elements in a army, a maximum of 48 figures, but much often less, to paint yet with all the research and history to study which I enjoy.  The game rules themselves?  Well, it is quite arguably quite "dicey" and well, the dice often fail me.  I roll ones a lot.  Club champion at one time.  And while I did place 3rd in the Open Tourney one year - still befuddles me how THAT happened - I don't fare all that well in the tournaments.   Probably because I only play it once a year and never look at the rules?  Maybe.

Anyway, I have some armies in the preferred 15mm, with some more to paint, but my eyes are needing reading glasses to paint with, and all that detail I do paint on the 15's are lost when they are all far down on the tabletop.  So I have been concentrating on 28mm.  One of the boxes of lead sitting patiently in storage has been my 'Spartacus' armies.  These are the Romans and the slaves in revolt led by Spartacus.  I have always had an interest in the Romans and had fitfully collected some in a rather haphazard way through inexpensive purchases at bring and buys (ooh, a big bag for only....!) or by trades.  [as an aside, I consider traded figures to be free.  If that I have, I am willing to part with, then it has no value to me even if I had paid well for it years before when I thought it WAS important! ]  I usually asked of the trader, "So what do you have to trade."  If the answer was, "I got some Republican Romans" I said to add them to the mix.  The local store had one lone bag of Gauls on a good deal, so they were added. As were some old Gladiators.   So basically this force of almost 100 figures was gathered with no particular purpose in mind.  But the Gladiators were the spark as was flipping through an old wargame magazine on an article about the revolt. 

So I went into the box to sort out what I had.  Hmm, lots of Romans but some could be slaves with captured armor, yes?  But only these number of this type of scutum (shield) so those have to be for these guys.  OK, lets make the few gladiators as Spartacus's command.  Impetus rules are good.  Yes Doug, but you only have these numbers.  Well, if I add these Gauls to the warbands, I could get 12 elements a side. OK then DBA it is.  Good. Now organized.
...Then I put the box away for a long time.

With the thought of all that plain clothes and flesh on the ancients which frankly do not really fit my painting style, I did not have the interest to complete these. However the interest in the Dip method of painting and the use of Minwax and other inks and stains in painting of miniatures had me thinking this was the way to go.  A big departure in my usual method.  Dean's painting displays (see his blog at: WAB Corner ) was great encouragement. 

So I decided on several things for this collection.  I will get it prepped (knifing flash, gluing spears, primering) in the summer all of this outside in the sun. I think I may have a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder and so just love the sun and high temperatures (and I live not in the climatic zone for it!) The primering in white to facilitate the type of painting; in contrast to my usual black primer.  I will conduct all the painting outside in the summer sun and so not on my nice high painting table with all the good light in the dark basement but on folding tables and chairs in the bright glaring sunshine.  This will mean inaccuracy in the painting, which I hope will be corrected in the staining stage but for which I was not overly concerned.  All this and I will want to be quick.  Really quick. Really really fast.  Heck I have a lot of other stuff to do!

Jumping ahead somewhat I tallied the number of hours I spent divided by the number of total figures and came to slightly over 5 minutes per. Wow, that's fast, even for me. At first that did seem to be a very short time, but big brushes, very few colors to be honest and ignoring all blotches did allow for speed.  I like the stain technique for this reason. It does seem to cover many faults!  Although I am of two minds about the overall effect.  The 5 minutes does not account for the terraining which frankly seems to take longer than the painting!!

Initially I tried Minwax but immediately did not like the effect or color even if it was the well used 'Tutor Stain'  Therefore I used the "magic wash" style using Future Floor wax and some inks thrown in.  I do not have the formula as I just kept adding amounts from a very old bottle of Winsor and Newton brown ink I had together another old bottle of GW to create the kinda red-brown mix.  Being a rookie at this technique I was not subtle about the application (remember, speed was the motivation) nor of the amounts and so lots of pooling can be found on many of the figures especially in folds and bottom of the shields.  I hit them with a spray of Dullcote but the shininess is still strong; a sort of semi-gloss but not a bad look; and I decided to leave it as is.

This whole exercise has been  interesting for me.  Is the cost of the armies important?  No, not really but it is fun to think of them as really cheap. Is the painting and its accuracy important?  Yes, I still found myself going "oh man THAT splotch is really bad...." but oh well, carry on.  Do I like the painting?  Well, yeah I think so.  But, let's revisit that one after I get it back out of the box in a year or so!

So with that long introduction here are some of the pictures of the armies
Starting with the Romans. 
Yes, yes there are no shield patterns. My rational is two fold. 1) all of the designs during this period are pure speculation.   2) Historically the Romans had to muster recruit armies quickly. Would they waste time on such details. 3) Do I want to? PS: I don't do decals.
Roman command.  As with this collection I really don't know or remember the manufacturers of the miniatures.  28mm however.
Some of the shields had imperfections, I just exaggerated them to give a 'battle damage' effect
 The wash technique seems to cover-up many of the wanderings of my paint brush. Not all, but many on first glance. So don't stare too closely.
My philosophy for painting horses? If it's brown, it's a horse!
This shot is interesting for the effect the wash on the boots.  My painting was a very quick splash of light brown to the foot area.  The wash then allows all the details to pop-out.  Let's see: number of colors used? Dark Red tunic[1], flesh[2],dark brown back of shield[3], brown pila& boots[4], gunmental shield rim and pila point [5], light brown hilt[6] bronze helmet, belt and scabbard [7].  Seven total colors and not worrying about edging or even coverage. Yup, 5 minutes is not unreasonable I guess.

And the Slave army. Do note that this version must be mid to late revolt as many of the ex-slaves have full Roman armor taken from the many dead legionaries by their previous victories over other Roman armies. Even the shields. Thus red for both sides.  To make a quick distinction, Romans in red tunics, slaves in pale.

in DBA 5 elements are warband, 5 blade (4 in captured Roman armor and for me Spartacus' blade General in, probably, unhistorical Gladiator armor.
the small group of gladiator miniatures which seem to start this whole collection!
showing the wide variety of miniatures I used to create the slave warbands
This is a good picture of the wash effect.  The middle warrior is a rather simple (but well sculpted) figure which I gave minimal colors.  The wash, albeit way too heavy, nicely enhances the sculpting. The shield to the left shows the wash pooling on the bottom. I must pay attention to that next time I use this technique. The shield in the middle shows a rather nice mud-spattered effect. Didn't do that on purpose; probably when painting the bases.  Oh well.


  1. Nice figures Doug, I painted all my Rep Romans with plain shields as well!

  2. Very cool stuff Doug. I find it fascinating that a painter as accomplished as you are trying a technique so obviously different. You're braver than I am.

    1. It wasn't quite the out-of-the-blue trial it would appear, Kevin, but yes, it is a 180 degrees departure from my usual style. However, that in itself, has changed several times throughout the 40 years I have been painting miniatures. [40 years??!! Ahh, heck. I hate when I start counting years...) Anyway, I have been forced to paint in other styles to match other's styles at times and that has allowed me to experiment with different techniques. They say keeping it different keeps you young. Yeah, well, whatever.

      I have some Perry AWI which I don't really know what to do with, they seem to be likely candidates for this wash approach. Next summer, painting outside in the sun, of course!