Thursday, 29 August 2019

10mm Pendraken U.S. 1944 forces - a starter army.

My recent foray into the new Blitzkrieg Commander IV rules from Pendraken, got me thinking about new 10mm armies. The two gaps that I want to start filling next are British and U.S. Western Europe 1943 - 45.

At the Phalanx wargame show in June this year, Pendraken had just put together a number of starter army packs for BKC based around 1500 point armies, so I picked the U.S. 1944 - 45 set.

These are nice sized army bundles as the contents are enough to give you a game with BKC (or other rule set), but being starter armies, they are not overwhelming to tackle as a painting project.

The rest of this post just looks at moving this starter pack from raw lead to completed game pieces.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of the post.

Firstly, what do you get? This list, as given on the rear of the pack, is of course intended for the Blitzkrieg Commander rules, so described in those terms.

1 x CO
6 x infantry units (6 bases)
1 x mortar unit (3 bases)
1 x MG unit (3 bases)
1 x 57mm Anti-Tank unit (2 bases)
1 x M8 armoured car
5 x Sherman 75mm tanks
1 x Truck

The mix
This is a fair and useful representative force for a starter army. The only weakness for me was that the infantry did not have enough poses to make the bases as interesting as they could have been. They could have included the pose from their catalogue that has a soldier with his rifle to his face, firing. The catalogue says that the kneeling figure carries the BAR, if so you get proportionately too many of them in this mix (close to 50 / 50 with rifles), though at this scale, that is not really an issue. 

Anyway, I ordered a pack of 10 bazooka armed men and painted 4 of them up, just to add a bit of diversity within the infantry stands. At the same time, I bought the U.S. 6mm / 10mm decal set also from Pendraken.

Prepping the figures.
The figures are pretty clean and other than gently passing a small file over the infantry helmets to clear light mould lines. The only real cleaning that is needed are where the pieces have been attached to the tree in the casting process, which is the bottom of bases for infantry and the rear corners of the vehicles or their tracks. Everything then got washed in hot soapy water. 

The Shermans are the new sculpts with separate track / running gear, allowing deeper and richer detail. So the tanks come in 4 parts, a hull, two track pieces and a turret. 

The truck can be made up as an open top or have a canvas canopy added. The only bit of surgery I had to perform was on the M8 armoured car, where the HMG ‘stem’ drops into turret. There is a small receiving hole in the rear of the open topped turret. To give this union some durability, I reduced the length of the HMG stem and drilled out the receiving hole to be a bit wider and deeper, so the HMG drops further down into it, it probably sits too low now for the purist, but in my mind, for a wargame piece, it is more secure this way. I should add that the fiddly bits like the M8’s HMG and the .30 cal HMG’s for the HMG teams are nicely cast and clean and not needing any prep!

The anti-tank guns come in two parts and make an easy union. I always base anti-tank guns (not crew) at the prepping point, so I can build something up at the front end for the gun barrel to rest on, keeping it secure, stable and safe from dropping accidents. In this case, I built up a small wall to the front of each piece. I could have done a hedge, mound of earth or fence instead.

For my own rules, I need a pair of artillery observers, so I stole one of the crew members from each A/T gun (dropping them from 3 to 2, which fits the base better anyway) and just made a radio up from balsa wood and wire. They look like the observers in my other armies, so that’s fine.

I have come to conclusion that for lead, it is better that a special primer is used, so I prep firstly with Hammerite Special Metals Primer. It is a reddy brown colour in a tin for brushing on. There are suitable sprays, but I am trying to reduce my reliance on solvent based products. The Hammerite helps deal with smooth slippy surfaces, which of course is the nature of lead. 

When dry, I coat with Vallejo’s Polyurethane black primer. This is very thin, suitable for airbrushes and so is easy to push into all the crevices, such as into the detailed track assembly. It becomes very effective when going over the Hammerite primer, but I feel it is less useful as a primer when applied directly to raw lead as it can even rub away during the painting process. The black is added to shade the recesses, though the brown of the Hammerite brown makes a good base for horses when doing cavalry armies.

Next up is a light dry brush with Vallejo’s Polyurethane grey primer, this just brightens up the higher areas of the figure so that the paint will retain some vibrancy. This paint is so thin that I doubt it has any impact on detail.

After that it is just block painting. I think the infantry jackets are the short type, so I painted them a light brown (GW Zandri Dust). The U.S. uniforms use a mix of browns and green/browns, which I think can look much more distinctive on a bigger figure and with the smaller scale, you either have to exaggerate the difference between the various colours / shades (which can look a bit cartoony if made too obvious) or just go with it and use some highlighting after inking to help a bit.

Everything then got a thinned wash. I tried something new (to me), Vallejo Umber Wash (73.203) mixed with GW Lahmian Medium at a ratio of 1:2 as the Vallejo washes are very strong. Everything then got a very fast, almost careless highlight, with dabs here and there just to bring extra contrast. Finally, after applying the transfers to the vehicles, I dabbed all of the vehicles with a slightly yellow green, using the foam sponge that comes with the blister pack, just to get a mottled look that breaks up the ‘one shade green’ that I had used. I would normally just dry brush at this stage, so I am trying this as a new technique to the scale.

Here the sharpness of digital photography is not so kind as the technique looks more obvious than it does to the actual eye and they have some campaign credibility!

These went onto the turret sides, but one of the Shermans also had one applied to the hull front, purely in case at any point, I needed to use and identify a command vehicle. I’m sure the transfer positions on the M8 are absolutely wrong, but done is done!

First varnish.
While the figures are still on their painting sticks, they get a quick brush swipe up each side of the figure / vehicle with Vallejo Matt Varnish. This has two considerations. Firstly, the swipe is important. Scrubbing and repeated brush stroking will re-activate the ink wash and just make the varnish dirty. A quick swipe prevents that. Secondly, this varnish application is only intended to catch the high points of the figure, the parts that will typically get handled and rubbed during play. This coat is just to toughen up those parts.

My WWII armies are based using artists poster board, but this time around, I used Kallistra plastic 40 x 20mm bases for the infantry sections and the card for everything else. The infantry support weapons are individually based on 20 x 20mm and the vehicles individually done to give roughly 3 - 5mm showing each side and very little to the front and rear, unless a long gun needs protecting. Each force gets an artillery observer and this is based on card cut to a rough triangle just so the piece is distinct when on the table

For basing paste, Ronseal wood filler is good for the deeper fills and Vallejo basing texture for shallow fills and feathering out. A muddy texture was applied to the vehicle track facing and sides. The flocking / grassing / stoning of the bases are very mixed, so that they can look okay on a wide range of surface backgrounds.

Final Varnish. 
I use one of two products depending on immediate circumstances. Either thinned Vallejo Matt Varnish applied via an airbrush or a fairly light spraying of Matt Varnish from Winsor and Newton. It is an artists material, so I use it in the blind faith that it is at least as good as other rattle cans and perhaps the least likely to yellow. Air delivered varnish at this point also helps lock down the basing materials. The varnish is only lightly applied because I have already used a varnish in a previous step.

Anyway, Job done! and the Americans are ready to take their place in the fields around St. Lo. With the help of the extra bazooka figures, I made a total of 8 infantry bases, one of which only has four figures on it (rather than 5) and can be used to signify either a rifle section or command base as needed, depending on rules being used.

Next up, I will expand the infantry force with another 3 or so bases and get a couple of jeeps and M10 tank destroyers, but there is no rush for that.

Resource Section.
Pendraken Web site LINK

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. Link.


  1. Brilliant work, Norm! Your photography is top notch as well. Looking forward to seeing this formation in action soon.

  2. Thanks Jonathan, I was using LED additional lighting at 5600k which lit the vehicles enough to show the mottle a little stronger than the eye would see, but other than that, a successful outcome I think.

  3. They look great to me.

    I find now with a freind's Pendraken figures that if I look close in good light they look good but as my eyes fade, on a table with normal lighting, I sometimes have to lean over an peer a bit to recogize what I'm looking at. Hard to believe now that my 20 yrs old self used to paint details on 1:300 and 1:200

    1. Thanks Ross, I think older eyes can be helped by basing style, so for my medieval forces, I am experimenting with ranking heavy infantry in 3 ranks etc.

      With my observers on triangles and support weapons on squares, I can read the table without difficulty, but I am sure that while older eyes make it harder to find and paint small detail ... it is more forgiving on the results, in fact my entire collection is looking better than it ever did :-)

  4. They look great! You are pushing me over the edge for 10mm Pendraken Korean War. Looking at grabbing some for platoon level skirmshing and use my 1/600 scale for 5Core Company Command.

    You basing works really well, too, and nicely compliment the figures.

  5. Thanks Jozi, I think you would enjoy the 10mm for that project, especially as I think the period is enjoying some of Pendraken's newer sculpts.

  6. They look really good Norm and fascinating to read how you went about the whole process.

  7. Thanks Steve, it feels good to have moved something on from the lead / plastic mountain!

  8. Thanks Will, Nothing like a new army to get some scenario planning going :-)

  9. Well done Norm, that’s some really great work! I love the smaller scales and think they’re ideal for WW2 gaming.

    1. Thanks Mike, the 10mm for vehicles seems the sweet spot for looking and feeling right in terms of aesthetic / function / gun range.

  10. The units look very nice. You must be keen to get them on to the tabletop.

    1. Thanks Peter, I am looking at some St. Lo' related scenarios.

  11. Good looking figures! And your description of your painting and varnishing processes was highly interesting as well.

    Best Regards,


  12. Thanks Stokes, I just have to remember to do the next batch the same :-)

  13. Excellent work, Norm, and some very useful tips. I've had the problem with varnish reactivating washes so will try your "swipe". Agree that Vallejo washes are strong; their skin tone gave all my figures' flesh the look of deep chestnut so I now dilute it a lot. For varnish I have used Microscale Micro Flat but it gives a slight satin finish so now tend to stick with W&N Galeria matt varnish which gives imo a true matt finish.

    1. Thanks Kevin, I generally use the W&N matt varnish for my 'swipe', I like its heavy body and it is a very effective matt.

  14. Lovely units and great collection of tanks!

  15. Thanks Phil, more to come I hope.

  16. Looks great Norm and almost tempted to go 10mm but simply have to resist the urge lol. I like the muddy look you achieved around the tank tracks and vehicle wheels. Something I am still working on.

    1. Thanks Jon, you look like you are doing a good job of clearing the decks of 15mm. My mud is based around one of the fine sand textures that GW do, mixed with paint / inks as appropriate. I usually do it darker than is shown here.

    2. Thanks Norm. Will take a look at the GW stuff.

  17. Wonderful looking figures and vehicles Norm.

  18. Thank you, it has got my painting regime kick started again, so hopefully that will continue.

  19. All looking great Norm......a good scale 10 mm if I didn’t already have a LOT of 6mm and all the terrain etc I suspect this would be where I would start.

  20. Thanks Matt, I think bit by bit, the scale is drawing people in and it is probably the armour more than anything else that is doing that.

  21. Hi Norm, they do look great, almost the prefect scale for WW2 action and very affordable. Your paint job is very effective. I'm struggling a bit with my 1/72nd WW2, the German plastics kind of OK but I just can't get into the Americans, soft detail and weird poses, I'm thinking 10mm could possibly have been a better choice now seeing these. Excellent.

  22. Hi Lee, I think the 1/72 American Infantry thing may be a PSC issue. The Plasticsoldierreview dot com like the PSC infantry (though I agree with your observations), but slate the heavy weapons set for the weapons being noticeably out of scale. I have seen some AB 20mm infantry that look simply superb.

    The 10mm vehicles are very good at being a good balance between look / presence and the combat ranges feeling okay, while of course keeping within a smaller game space. Pendraken are updating their scuplts, with the newer ones having sharper detail and separate, better defined running gear. It will be awhile before the whole range will be revamped and I impatiently await Churchills :-)

  23. Very nice indeed

    Take care


  24. Great job bringing these little figures to life. The bases really help set the scene. Looks like it’s going to be some great WWII action. Pics look great. 10mm is a great scale though I don’t own any. 😀

  25. Thanks Stew, I hope to keep the momentum going and get a few more bases painted up.

  26. What a lovely finish you have got on your US troops,I couldn't believe they were 10mm , the vehicles are excellent and I really enjoyed your step by step on your painting and reasoning behind it!
    Best Iain

  27. Thanks Iain, the process gives a pleasing effect at normal viewing distances.



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