Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Painting Miniatures Declassified --- Model Selection

Just wanted to put together a quick note on figure selection. Do you have to have the exact representation of a certain figure to portray a specific unit?

Short answer is...it's up to you. Remember the post on "Expectations?" The key here is what "distance Army" are you trying to build and how best can you "disguise" that "off" figure. If you are building a 6 inch or less Army you will have to do more disguising than if you are shooting for a 2-3 foot Army.

Let's say I am build an SS Panzer Grenadier platoon. What makes an SS Panzer Grenadier different from a Heer Panzer Grenadier? The biggest visual difference is the black left arm cuff with white writing, the right collar tag with SS runes and lots of camo uniforms. There are more subtle uniform
differences... epaulets and camouflaged helmet cover design...and some I am most likely not aware. 

If I use Battlefront's GBX09 Panzer Grenadier Platoon with Halftrack can I use them to represent an SS Platoon? Well...look for yourself. The SS Panzer Grenadiers I painted earlier are from this very boxed set.

These figures can double for SS in a pinch for a 2-3 foot Army with no mods and with a little disguising pass for SS in a closer distance Army. Add an SS arm cuff here and there...paint the SS runes on the collars and paint some camo... the vast majority of people will never know. There will ALWAYS be "that guy" who will point out that the SS "ACTUALLY" had...... 

Now...how do you disguise a unit to make them fit in? 

The first thing you have to do is identify what makes the unit you are trying to portray unique. Polish dismounted Kawalerii for instance....the uniforms are most visibly characterized by the Adrian French helmet, baggy pants and knee high boots.

Dismounted Polish Kawalerii

So step two is figure how to make that disguise and make it believable. Hmmmm... what to do for a unit like the Polish Horse Artillery where Battlefront does not have a unique Polish gun for this unit.  If you stay with Battlefront figs, you have to buy a Finnish 75mm gun and for the gun crews use either the Finnish with German Helmets or regular Polish Gun crew with backpacks and the "Normal" Polish helmet. In this case, I am doing some head swaps with some extra Dismounted Kawalerii troops and stole their heads with Adrian Helmets and a couple extra Heads with Soft caps (Czapska) from the mounted troops then put those on the Finnish gun crew and at first glance no one bats an eye...they look the part.  A future post will talk more on headswaps.  The other option is to see if there is another manufacturer that makes the unit ...but then you have to pay attention to sizing issues between manufacturers.

If you file down the legs a little and make the boot look like it goes up higher or even just paint the boot so it goes higher it completes the illusion. Another option is to use Greenstuff and get your sculpting big boy pants on. Sculpting is another topic all together and one that I am pretty weak at (but always looking to improve). 

Step three is to work the disguise throughout the stand and then throughout the unit. Here is where a theme for the Army comes into play. If I have other figures that are the "correct" type and my "off" figure blends in with them, chances are he will go unnoticed...especially if he is not a central figure on the stand. Or...if all the figures are "off" figures, but have disguises that match and tell the story that works too. You can also add a few "thematic" items to the base...like for my Polish Horse Artillery Battery if I add a horse on a base that really helps sell the unit. If you have multiple stands like that in the unit it helps cement the illusion for the overall unit. Decals and unit markings play a similar role for vehicles. 

The German Nebelwerfer crew that comes with the set from Battlefront is basically a early/mid war uniform with the knee high boots.  For my Late War 5th SS Panzer I had to do a little disguising.  The biggest thing was the boots.  I took the easy road here and painted the pants a little longer, painted anklets and then the boot...on a few others I left the figure in the longer boots.  I read somewhere that some Germans that had been in a while cherished their older boots....these guys are the veterans of the early campaigns  ;-)

Longer Pants with Anklet and short boot

Mix of figs to complete the illusion (lower right has old style boots)

I hope that this helps you out....and modding units to fit into other units helps make your force unique and stand out from other Armies. 

Have fun!

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