For years I collected and wargamed 25mm exclusively. I have since been steadily reducing in scale. I first took up 1/72 scale plastics for the American Civil War and American War of Independence. Then, desiring to have a more fluid cavalry battle, I delved into 15mm for the first time to build a 6th C Persian and Roman army.
Further 15mm armies and time periods followed but what I still hankered after was the ability to fight a really big battle where players manoeuvred whole legions rather than individual cohorts. Legio VI rules and both Caesar and Pompey's armies at Pharsallus were the result.
I chose Heroics and Ross figures for my first foray as the castings are very crisp and clean compared to Baccus and look really impressive en-masse. Baccus are, however, redesigning their earlier ranges with new Punic wars figures out soon. Rapier are now also on the scene and their figures are excellent - almost like mini-15's.
To fight Pharsallus I built up 10 Legions, each with 10 bases representing a cohort. Each 20mm square base has 4 strips of Legionaries, each of 5 figures, giving 20 figures per cohort, 200 per Legion and 2000 for the two armies. Some of Caesar's Legions I based with fewer figures representing understrength cohorts and I added a few extra cohorts to Pompey's Legions. In all over 2000 individual figures. Try doing that with larger scale figures! You can see the results here.
It can be quite daunting when you first look at the tiny figures and wonder how you are going to manage to paint them - especially if, like me, your eyes are not as good as they used to be. Fortunately it is nothing like as hard as it seems. In fact, I can paint up around 40, 6mm figures, in much less time than it takes me to do half that many 15's or larger. There are a number of basic things that will make it easier:
- Good lighting and good eyes or good glasses. I used a fluorescent daylight lamp which I bought from an artists' supply shop. It give nice clear even lighting that allows my to pick up fine detail. As I do not have good eyes I have to use good close-up reading glasses. When I got the prescription I asked for the focus to be about a foot away (my usual painting distance). I only use them for painting as anything which is not close up is pretty well a hazy blur!
- Good brushes. You do not necessarily need extra thin brushes but what you really do need is are very good pointed tips that have not curled or frayed. I find the very best brushes are Pro-Arte Acrylix series 202. They hold their point much longer than any others I have used and just using the tip I find myself using mostly a #1 and #2.
- Assembly line technique. I always have painted in an assembly line but with 6 mm it is really essential. I lightly glue the strips (or individual figures) on a scrap 36 cm length of 1cm square wood. This can fit to 16 20mm strips although I usually paint less than that in one go.
- Undercoat that picks out detail. Many people swear by a black undercoat for 6mm then simply dabbing on bits of paint on the highlights, allowing the black to naturally outline the other colours. This does work but my preferred way is to undercoat with white, followed by a thin wash of Liquitex Raw Umber. The raw umber provides a much more natural outline and this method really brings out all the details making it much easier to see where to paint.
Eight strips of Heroics and Ross, Macedonian Pikemen ready for painting. They are mounted on a length of wood and undercoated first with a flat white spray and then a thin wash of Raw Umber. The daylight fluorescent bulb gives perfect painting light.
Here I am painting some Rapier Roman Hastati which will serve as Italian Allies. They take longer to prepare than the Heroics and Ross figures as, although they are mounted on strips, they have to be cut off in order to fit properly on bases.
In the photo on the left I have mounted them individually on the painting block, undercoated with Games Workshop’s spray Skull White and applied a thin raw umber wash. You can see how the raw umber picks out the details and makes painting much easier. I have also washed the body armour of the officer and standard bearer with Coat d’Arms Black Ink.
I usually follow the same principles as I do for larger figures, painting from the skin outwards, although if there is body armour I give that a dry brush of Games Workshop’s Bolt Gun Metal first.
For flesh I apply a tiny dab of Coat d’Arms Flesh applied with the tip of a well pointed brush. This is followed with a wash of Games Workshop’s Ogryn Flesh Wash which brings out the details and gives deeper colour. The photo on the left shows the figures after this has been done.
The next step is to paint the main colours. As a general rule the smaller the figure the lighter and brighter the colours should be.
I have chosen to paint this unit without uniform but to keep to the ‘assembly line’ process I paint similar colours all together, painting first the front of all the figures, then turning the block around I paint all the backs.
This is actually a very quick process requireing a single brush stroke to do the bottom of the tunics and another one for each of the shoulders, probably taking no more than a second or two per figure. Again I use the only the tip of a good quality brush with a very fine tip. For the tunics I used a Pro Arte Acrylix no. 2 brush.
You do have to be a bit careful doing this with non-uniform colours using this assembly line method. Once or twice I have found myself giving a figure one colour on the front and another on the back when I mixed up the order!
Now on to the fine details. This first involves a wash of Coat d’Arms Mid Brown Super Wash for the pilum shafts and backs of shields which gives an excellent natural wood finish with very little effort. Belts are done using a very fine brush (00 or 000) with Games Workshop’s Snakebite Leather. Shoes are the same colour but I use a larger brush, not worrying about spilling the colour over the bases. To do the bronze front and back plates I apply a dab of Games Workshop’s Shining Gold and the same for the helmets.
Again I paint all the figures on one side first then turn the block around to do the other. The helmets take a bit longer than most other parts of the figure as you have to be careful not to spill over onto the faces and after painting the front and back it is often necessary to touch up the sides, especially cheek pieces, afterwards. Then I give the metal pilum points a black ink wash before painting the plumes.
I want this unit to look right as a single line of Hastati but with slight differences in case I wish to use them as two separate cohorts. Therefore I give half of the figures different plume and shield colours. As I have painted the tunics in blocks of similar colour I need to mix them up a bit so as not to have all the same colours in each cohort. The black marks on the wood block on the right are there to remind me which figure to paint with which plume colour so I have a good mix of tunics in each cohort.
Before painting the final shield designs and metal work I give the figures a very thin wash of Raw Umber just as I do for larger figures. This brings out the detail and blends the colours. As the raw umber stains white more than most colours I have touched up the shield faces with daps of white in the 4 quadrants before painting the single stripe of red or blue down the spine. In order to make the metal boss stand out more I have outlined it with black ink before painting it with Shining Gold. You can see this in the photo above where some of the bosses are not yet painted
Finally I paint the plum shafts silver, dry brush the officer’s mail with silver, paint the bases with Coat d’Arms Goblin Green and varnish the figures using Liquitex Acrylic Matte Varnish.
The unit of 32 figures on the right is now painted and ready for basing. It was all done in one afternoon; probably half the time it would take me to paint far fewer figures in 15 or 25 mm scale.