Painting the Perry TravelBattle and some game observations.
TravelBattle is a new game package from Perry Miniatures that is set in the napoleonic period, using 8mm plastic figures playing over a small battlefield that is embossed with a one inch square grid and simple rules are provided.
All the plastic parts are self coloured, so there is no need paint them, but for those that want to, this post is just intended to highlight my experiences with painting this product, plus a few comments on the rules.
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This is not a 'how to' article I am at best an average painter, wanting the result (to game) rather than the process (to paint), but I like the uniqueness of this set, so felt that the investment in time (and distraction from other projects) was worthwhile. I am deliberately not doing close up photography, as digital photography is seldom kind to small figures (except for those painters that have a wonderful touch), rather most shots here are from a normal viewing distance, which is well ......... more normal!
The game comes with two 10 x 10 injection plastic game boards and then all the remaining game parts are on plastic sprues. I found it easier to keep the items on the sprue to paint them and for the most part, the items can later be disconnected from the sprue without the anchor points affecting the paint job, it was just the buildings that needed a touch up dab of paint.
If anyone has already cut their figures from the sprue, then an effective way to mount them for painting is to use a blob of Copydex glue on a lolly stick. Because the plastic figures are so light, the very thin base of the figure group will stand up in the thick glue until it sets. The bond is good enough to allow painting, but the gaming piece can be later detached with minimum force due to the latex nature of the glue (below Photo).
What do the instructions say ... basically they have it that all the plastic parts can be painted on directly with acrylic paints, without the need for a primer. They suggest block painting of the figures followed by a wash and it looks like they use the sprue colour as part of the uniform. So the French sprues are blue, which will save painting their jackets and likewise the other side are red and so supposedly are British, and if so they can have red jackets.
For the battle boards, which are built out of green plastic, they suggest painting the roads and fields in brown and then dry brushing the entire board in a sort of buff colour. This adds highlights to the painted brown areas and 'dusts down' the rest of the board.
(Above - the tree feature with the canopy added)
They also point out that flock could be applied to the boards, providing care is taken to preserve the grid lines.
These instructions should give a good result and are an easy access point to gamers of all levels of painting experience to pretty up their game. However, those that paint will already have their own painting style that they trust and may want to stick with and so what follows is just the way I did mine.
Note - some thoughts need to be given if painting the boards, because you may at some future point buy extra sets or expansions may be released and you will want the boards to match - so at least write down your process and colours used for future reference.
There is an example of a painted Brigadier on the back of the box, this has been professionally painted and it is simply superb. I understand that the demo game on the Perry stand at Salute had all the figures painted by the same bloke, it must have looked wonderful. Anyway, as inspirational as it is, I can only admire it and I am painting here to my own wargame standard and think that is in keeping with the nature of this package.
Regardless of how all of this is painted, I think everything is best finished with a blast of mat varnish. The figures are very light, so secure them with poster putty (Blu-Tak) or some-such if you varnish after basing, so that spray varnish does not scatter them to the four winds and turn them into dust magnets wherever they end up (upside down on carpet no doubt or the dustiest recess of a garage!). Varnishing will protect the figures from handling and also it will dull the slightly satin sheen that the plastic boards have and you may prefer the result.
(Above - the other board) My wash is a mix of roughly 2 parts commercial wash, either black or brown or both (I use Army Painter and Games Workshop washes), 2 parts water and 1 part Lahmian (this is a Game Workshop product that helps the flow - but use more water instead if this is not available - better still water with a tad of flow improver added). Everyone has their own recipe for this sort of thing, but I find with this mix, it unifies the figure by dampening things down, leaves some subtle shading and is not too destructive on bright colours, especially the ivory. After washing, you may want to add the odd stroke here and there of highlight by putting a stroke of the original colour back onto the part, such as the rump of horses. I didn't, simply because I had got fed up with painting by that stage, but the results would have looked better if I had.
The plastic pieces are fairly generic to the napoleonic period. So all infantry, including guards, get the shako, as do the light cavalry and artillery chaps. Heavy cavalry get the crested helmet. These sprues readily paint up as British and French forces, though if you are picky (and this game is not aimed at the picky) they are slightly less versatile for accurate replication of some units of other nations, such as Russian and Austrian grenadiers, due to headgear (if that matters!). So my first decision was to choose nationalities.
The French are blue, so at this scale, I wanted to avoid the Prussians as an opponent, who might look too similar. The white of the Austrians would have been a good contrast and the Russian greens would have been okay, providing I kept the colours bright, which might need some highlights after going back in after the wash.
Anyway, after some thought, I decided to stay with the blue and red of the French / British forces and in my mind, I will be fighting on the battlefields of Quatre Bras and Waterloo with these fine chaps.
First up - the Figures. I painted the full figure, so did not leave any of the red / blue plastic bare. For white, I used Vallejo Ivory, which is less stark and for black (boots and shako) I used Vallejo German Grey, which gives a gentler version of black.
The back packs and pouch just got a dab of grey on them and legs are easily painted by just dragging a brush across the entire line of infantry. If the cross belts are being done (ivory again) then this is the one thing that demands some care, as the eye generally always gets drawn to them. A steady hand and a VERY thin tipped brush is required. Slightly dampen down the paint, so that it glides better. I found with the French that just painting the front torso Ivory and then inking did as much as I wanted for the cross-belts. Despite care, plenty of mine are hit and miss, especially the British, but the poorer ones were put on the back row of each unit. I should have taken more time at this point - but didn't.
Of note are the muskets, they are so small it doesn't feel worthwhile painting them, however, the butt end does show up against the right leg of the troops, so I just put a stroke of brown on the lower half of each rifle ..... just so the troops don't look like they have 3 legs :-).
The woodwork on the French artillery can be done in a yellowish green (such as GW's Forrest Green), while for the British a mid-grey is ideal. The cannons are brass and this contrast looks good at this scale.
For the cavalry, getting a thin colour around the saddle blanket can be quite striking and painting the horse flesh last can help accurately define the saddle blanket edges etc.
Note, each side gets one more Brigadier than needed, so you may feel inclined to only paint three of them and feel a minor victory over the painting queue. However if you paint four, you can use the spare to test basing materials or techniques if you want to go down that road (I didn't).
All the figures got a wash at the end of painting while still on the sprue and once dry a quick strike of the varnish brushed across them (see below). The wash makes a huge difference, so if you are bothered by your efforts, don't give up before putting a wash on - you may be surprised.
Basing - If you are going to use a basing material, you may want to apply it to the parts between the slots before mounting the figures, to save trying to apply basing material between the ranks of attached figures. The bases are very small (the two infantry lines fit tightly together and I thought adding basing texture would be distracting, so I simply painted them (before mounting figures) the same colour as I sprayed onto the game board (see below). But really, they could be left in their raw state and this is probably desirable if you are not doing much to the gaming board.
Buildings - These were painted on the sprue. Using a stone colour for the building, and German grey (mixed with a tad of blue for windows) in windows, doors and the roof. The roof was then dry-brushed in light grey for tile and a sand for thatch and then everything was given a dirty wash. When detached from the sprue, that did leave a scar that needed a dab of pain to rescue them.
Treetops - These were worked while still on the sprue. They were painted the same green as the board, then given a heavy dirty wash and then dry brushed in light olive green twice. (Below - the wooded feature without the canopy, so that units can fit inside).
The board - The board has a natural sheen from the plastic, that mat varnish dealt with, but anyway, I sprayed the board a darker green (and hope not to regret this in the future), put dark brown on the roads and fields and grey on the walls. For the woods base, I painted between the gaps between the trees dark grey and the tree stumps were highlighted by put a contrasting light brown (tan) stroke down each one. The hills were painted with a light green and then heavily dry brushed with a brown, just to make them stand out. Everything was then gently dry brushed with a sort of beige colour, however, I was probably too heavy handed at this stage and went back in with some Olive Green in a sort of stipple fashion. In the end, I think it will now be quite hard for me to match these up exactly to other boards if I get them, because they were overworked - Doh!
Varnish - I usually initially hand brush figures with Winsor and Newton artists Matt varnish. Give the figure 12 hours for the ink wash to dry and then quickly drag a brush of varnish ONCE over the figure, if you repeat, you will likely re-activate the ink wash and lift it, so that it contaminates your brush. I leave varnish to dry for 24 hours before handling. Once I have completed a project, including basing, I spray a light coat of Matt varnish over everything (including the boards this time). Varnishing twice is probably too much for most people, and in this instance it is not really necessary and it may be better just to spray varnish everything at the end, so only the exposed parts that get handled will catch the varnish.
Time - In terms of actual painting time, I painted the figures over 6 days, plus 1 day to ink and another to varnish, plus 1 day to tidy up and base, but in reality this took more than a couple of weeks of real time. For little guys, it took me longer than first imagined and at first I regretted starting the paint thing, however, even part way through I could see the improvement that paint makes, so pressed on and I am pleased that I did it and stuck with it. Even if the paint job looks a bit rough, the wash makes a big difference in pulling everything together.
The boards were painted over the course of a day, needing some time for the initial green spray to dry. Finally, I set a separate day aside to give everything a blast of mat varnish. I suspect I took longer to do this than necessary (my men have got a hairline for goodness sake!), but I'm glad I painted the game parts, it feels somewhat personalised.
I think if I were to do this again, I would first undercoat / prime in brown, this would give some natural shading, automatically provide a hair-line and sort out a base colour for the horse flesh.
Anyway, there isn't a right way to do all of this and like I say, most people will just fall back into their usual painting style. The post hopefully will help those that don't really do the painting thing and highlight what may be ahead. In fact, the staged description by the Perry's in their rulebook, may be the preferred path for non-painters. If you start and don't like the results .... or get fed up with painting, you could always spray paint the armies back to single colours of your choosing.
(Above - each side has three brigade sized formations, the British in the lower part of the board are occupying the left most farm with their Guards Brigade, the French have a cavalry brigade in their centre to swing out to whichever side of the battlefield they can best influence).
Off to war - with the armies painted and a battlefield all 'poshed up', the presentation does look good to my eyes. I ran a quick practice game, which gave a mix of interesting nuances, but also some moments that felt odd or at least counter-intuitive. This is because this is very much a game rather than a simulation and there are some chess like elements to play.
There are some gaps in the rules where fuller explanation would have been better. I get the impression that the rules author has played with this system for many years and in writing the rules has made some assumptions of other players knowledge and so at times you are left guessing intention. It is all pretty straight-forward to work out, but at this level and potential audience, the rules should really be spelling things out and perhaps be twice the size that they are to get that effect.
Players might want to make themselves a quick cheat sheet, so that all modifications and terrain effects etc that are embedded in the rules are to hand and easily remembered. I will almost certainly want to add some rules to bring this to something that engages me enough and to that extent it is rather similar to Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargame Rules, which gets people playing either at the base level of with varying degrees of tweaking, but either way, it does get onto the table. It is not for everyone, but I think there is enough about now on the web for gamers to decide whether it holds potential for them.
Much is made of this being a travel game, especially from those critical of that purpose. I see the travel aspect as being a lesser feature and more that this is a compact, easily stored game that can come out in a small space and may be of particular interest to anyone with a disability who needs a playing surface right in front of them - I am treating the game as a starting point that can be worked into doing whatever I want with it.
Next time this blog looks at TravelBattle, the French will be trying to wrest a farmhouse from The Guards! as we look at the game in action, together with some suggested house rules.
There are some good uniform guides here for starters. LINK
My sister web space COMMANDERS takes a more 'magaziney' look at this and other subjects. LINK
The Perry Miniatures website. LINK