Hoplites – Basing…the good, the easy, the ugly…

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In the last two posts I talked about my plans for building a small skirmish force and a large unit ‘based’ force for the hoplite period and how to get the numbers of figures required ‘on table’.

In this post we’ll talk about some of the issues regarding basing figures and organisation for the expected games I wish to play and forces which I’ll  build.

We’ll talk about rules in a later post but the guiding principal must be flexibility and utility for the size of games and battle recreations envisaged.

 

Basing

With the planned figure count for each unit the idea of having multiple small bases or indeed single basing is unrealistic. Given that units will be between 32 and 40 figures for infantry and about a third of that for cavalry practical basing will be required. A typical 40mm x 40mm base would mean up to 10 bases for a single unit. Multiply by 10 and you are moving 100+ bases per turn…that’s not going to work. After reviewing the expected game systems I plan on using the figures for, and keeping the ‘unit piece’ count down, we’ve settled on a square basing system of 90mm X 90mm…this has a number of advantages.

Using a square base will enable units to be combined and utilised in a geometric fashion, with front/side/rear all having the same frontage. The types of rules that I’ll be using and that I prefer will work for this basing symmetry, though not exclusively required by it.

As mentioned, we’ll get to rules in the next post or so but very briefly I’m looking for any game system that enables multibasing figures or some method of recording without being too onerous on a game for players to use. To that end the 90mm squares, combined in groups of two and three or four, will provide me with small, standard, and large unit sizes to use ‘Hail Caesar’ speak. This conventional basing system will enable maximum utility with most base concept systems.

So the plan will be to put 16 to 20 figures on each base. When basing this many figures on a single big base some issues do present as to how to actually physically put the figures on and still be able to flock the base and minimise any base warpage…we are getting into the weeds now…

The bases I use come from Aetherworks*. They are 3mm ply with holes cut out to take a 6mmx2mm earth magnet. This will be used to secure the base on a metal move tray. The owner makes a quality product with prompt service. For both ‘all plastic’, ‘all metal’ or a combination, the single earth magnet will do the trick.

*Note - most MDF order are now made to order and not on the website - so direct contact will be the way to go.

 

90mm x 90mm (3mm) MDF

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The two bases above show the density of troops that will be required for basing. The base on the left has a 5 figure front and the one on the right 4 figures – both are 4-ranks deep. I recommend scribing out lines to allow reasonably accurate placement of the figures as once you start gluing, if you make a miss alignment it’ll be hard to correct by the time you get to the last 4-5 figures to place down. A bit of planning here will be worth it. If you use my super glue method, which I think you need to, then marking out the lines becomes even more important.

 

Mounting figures and Flocking

This is the most critical part of getting those painted figures onto a base and in a reasonable time. That’s no small thing when you are talking about 1,000+ figures to base. The following system for basing is my method that provides a methodical and consistent approach. This is the system I use.

 

1. Area preparation.

  • Get it together – first get all the basing material you’ll need before starting anything!
  • Flock – I have a ready made mix of flock for my ancients. It is a combination of sand, some talas rocks and static mid-green grass.
  • Surface texture paste – the paste I use is from a local art shop – I’m sure there are equivalents of this texture paste. Cost about 12 pounds for a half a litre. I suggest you buy a litre! It starts out white but the bottle of to the side is my ground base color I use on the edge of the bases. I mix this into the white paste to create a slurry. Actually, what I now do is put the paint in the paste and pre mix it. This paste doesn’t dry (go-off) in a hurry so you have plenty of time to mix and then apply. However get everything ready, before you mix up your slurry…doing this just before you are ready to base your figures.
  • A flocking tray – the slim white tray I have that you can see is perfect for flocking. It catches all the excess flock and doesn’t restrict the work space – (it’s an iPad cover package box if your wondering).

 

 

Slurry of paint and texture paste being mixed. Note, I’ve applied it directly to the base it going to be used on.

 

 

 

2. Organising your figures.

This is an important step. You will be mounting 16-20 figures in one go…you need to have them organised before hand so you know who is going where. I suggest ‘free standing’ them as well to ensure the figure base is smooth underneath and it stands upright by itself.

You should be able to organise a base by placing figures all ranked up before gluing.

Once you have organised your figures, remove them, in ranks and lay them out so you can easily pick up one after the other in order without any thought required or fear of knocking them over if left as free standing minis.

Here you see the slurry pre made on a side base as I’ll be applying it to metal figures super glued into place first.

 

Free standing figures ready to be based.

 

3. Basing Plastic vs Metal figures?

How to glue to the base? –  I tried several methods and the following is the one that worked best. When working the base with flock on it ie shaking excess flock and moving it around to ensure maximum coverage, if you don’t secure your figures on the base you will have an awful mess when they start falling over – so they must be adequately secured  when they are all mounted on the base and the paste has been applied.

The simple rule is…

For metal figures use a super glue slow curing type, such as the ‘yellow band’ Zap-a-Gap glue to mount metal figures. You must do this because the paste will not be strong enough to secure the figures for you to start shaking the base when applying flock. You certainly can’t tilt the base at all to spread the flock – figures will fall over. You do not want loose figures on your base once the base is dry either Just in case they don’t secure properly. In my experiments, only super glue gave me absolute quick and certain cohesion and it can be made to ‘go off‘ immediately with an accelerating agent which is very useful and highly recommended.

So apply the glue to the figure, put a row of four on the base and then use accelerator to secure them quickly and  dry the super glue – fast and efficient and most importantly, secure. You can apply two rows if you choose _ both methods work.

After this step apply paste with a brush to cover the miniature base and spread out the paste to give good coverage all over the base ply …it’s not so easy to do it after all the figures are on as ‘access’ to the figure base is difficult…and you may end up with paste on the figure…not ideal. If you do, get a lightly wet brush and scrub of the paste – it will come off and prevent flock from sticking to your figures.

Plastic figures can be applied differently. The paste has a degree of stickiness to it that the very light weight of the plastic miniature is secured by which means you can apply the paste all over the base and then simply put a dab of PVA (White) glue on the bottom of the plastic figure and ‘press’ the miniature into place. This can be done very quickly and then the flock can be applied over the top. You will find basing ‘all plastic’ about 50-100% faster than ‘all metal’ figures. As above it helps to do it by rows, one though four, and use a paste applying brush to blend the figure base in with the square ply base they are mounted on.

 

4. Base Preparation and application of paste

A quick word about base preparation and applying the paste. Do not apply a thick layer of paste onto the base as the base, even 3mm ply, will possibly warp. This happened on a few of may bases, most notably, the ‘all plastic figure’ bases. I’m sure I applied more than was necessary – a thinner application of paste will prevent this from happening. You will find that the metal based figures do not suffer as much as the lighter plastic figures in this regard – almost, not at all. However, if you go light with the paste application then all should be OK.

 

Once applied, pick up the base and tilt left, right, forward, back and give a gentle tap on the side and underneath to ensure flock settles everywhere. Then shake off excess flock.

Once the flock is liberally applied pick up the base and shake about to ensure complete coverage. Tip of the excess flock into your tray, set the base aside…recover the surplus flock returning it to your flock box and move on to your next base.

Warp Recovery – If by chance you do end up with some warping all is not lost. Put them the base under steam..a kettle with the lid off works well, until the base gets some steam into it and then the base can be gently bent back to shape. Don’t over do the steaming as this can cause the ply to expand a bit…The wood is actually pretty solid stuff. I was able to bend  a base back no probs and it fixed an otherwise not very nice bend that is now fine…so all is not lost. If the base does ‘bubble’…let it dry and use a sanding block to flatten…all fixed.
You will find that you can correct any base warpage with this method and the base can be made flat again, no problem.

 

A bit of steam into the base,…some gentle to firm pressure and the base will bend back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…the result…

First units complete.

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Four figures wide x four figures deep – the standard basing

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Five figures wide x four figures deep – basing used for ‘elite’ units such as city-state Epiliktoi  or Spartiate units.

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4 thoughts on “Hoplites – Basing…the good, the easy, the ugly…

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