Rebase-o-Rama

I’m doing a re-basing thing. I used to think re-basing was akin to gaming the Holocaust. You could do it, but why?

Re-basing was always a challenge. However a lot of that early work was with 15mm figures mounted on balsa, slathered in white glue and ugh. Prying them off with sharp X-acto was a danger to the figures and my fingers. I eventually tried different mounting materials, but large scale changes was always more of a change than I was willing to endure.

I’ve changed my mounting materials to Litko bases, so 3mm plywood, and I use modeling paste as the build-up material. Doug Hamm changed my outlook on remounting when he suggested simply soaking bases overnight and then gently prying the figures off their bases. I tried it and, voila it works. Well, most of the time it works. But I’ve used far fewer bandages than I did in the old days.

I have had a few re-basing projects. Last year I remounted my Maximilian in Mexico figures. That was about 250 figures, individually mounted that I remounted for Rebels and Patriots, a Daniel Mersey game. I had played with them using Warpaint, and I put them in the 3-2-1 system I have come to rely on for several periods for R and P.

This year I’m remounting my 400ish Spanish and Aztecs. David Sullivan and I cobbled together a game system called Quetzacoatl Rmapant for the period, based on another Daniel Mersey system, Lion Rampant. Next year, I hope to remount my 600 or so Lion Rampant figures. They’ll all be 3-2-1’s.

I ‘m sure you are asking why, and that’s fair. Two reasons really. First, the single figures, even though the bases are magnetized, just rattle around a lot on their 25mm X 20mm rectangles. This will protect them better. Second, moving 400 singly mounted figures in a game just takes a long time. Turns will move faster if there are fewer bases to grab.

So here’s kind of a step by step how to of my remounting method. It, will kind of morph into a “hey, here’s how I base stuff” blather, but just think of it as a one guy’s view of how to do things.

Step One: the soak

I usually do this a unit at a time, but the Spanish units are only six figures so I”m doing two units of Spanish swordsmen, by Eureka. I use a disposable food storage bin, plunk my figures down and make sure the water comes over the top of the base. No, the water shouldn’t hurt your paint. I often do this in the evening and the soak does its work by morning, but if you aren’t in a huge hurry you can let it go longer.

I usually use an X-Acto knife to pry the figures off, but the previous basing material is much softer than it was before the soak and the pry right off. Once in a while I get a sticky one and a Band-Aid and a break are called for, but that is rare. It also depends on the basing material used. If you used piles of white glue that has dried, your results may vary.

Step Two: Texturing the bases

I use Litko bases. I would guess my Litko base budget is my second biggest expense in this hobby. I know, I know, I could cut my own, but just to be clear, I have done that. Art board, balsa, basswood, plastic, I did all of ’em and mostly I got bases with ragged edges that looked bad after a while Litko it is. I use 50mm bases for three figures, 40mm for two and 25mm for one. You could probably go smaller, but figures are big and I don’t like them to be crowded.

I use CA glue to stick figures on their bases. Yeah, yeah, that’s what I use, you can use something else. Once they are firmly affixed I use modeling paste to texture the bases. I’ve used other stuff. I’ve used different Liquitex artist media. I used Cellu-clay which is a form of papier mache. I’ve come down to using modeling paste, which is also an acrylic medium. My favorite brand is what I can get cheap. A 16 oz tub will last me an entire year, but it’s also available in 8 ozs. You can find it at Hobby Lobby, Michaels or Amazon.

I use a metal artist knife. I prefer metal over plastic because it’s thinner and I feel like I have more control over where the glop is going. One real advantage to modeling paste is drying time. I usually try to apply it in the morning so it’s ready in the evening, but certainly it’s dry and hard within four hours if you’re in a hurry. Use a fairly thick coat to get the build-up you want because it will recede with drying.

Step Three: Paint

Pretty simple step. I paint the bases Burnt Umber. I don’t use a lot of craft paints, but when I do I try to use Delta Ceramcoat. For the most part I only buy basic colors, like Black, White, Charcoal and for basing I use Burnt Umber and Trail Tan. I’ve used other brands of Burnt Umber, but I just don’t get the coverage I do with Ceramcoat.

After painting the bases, and allowing for a little drying, I drybrush with Trail Tan.

Final steps

Wow, at this point we get to the matter of personal preference. Many folks like a fairly spare next step, add a rock or two and a tuft and call it good. If that’s where you are go for it. You’re gonna have your sticks and stones and a tuft or two while your dry-brushed dark stand shows through.

I tend to cover everything up, which raises the obvious question–why drybrush at all? It’s just force of habit I guess. I start with tufts. There are a zillion great makers of tufts. I’ve used Army Painter tufts, and I have no beef with them. There are lots of varieties but they are pretty basic. I really like Gamer’s Grass from the UK. They come in lots of different styles from short to very tall, from sparse to clumpy. Leadbear’s tufts from Australia are also very, very good, but right now the shipping is pretty spendy. AK also have some sparse, but really interesting tufts. So lots of choices out there, including plenty I haven’t mentioned.

I usually put 2-3 tufts on a large base, 1-2 on a 2 person base and one on a single base. Sometimes I vary it.

For my Spaniards I’m doing something a little different. I’m using agave plants in Mexico. These are from Gamer’s Grass. I’ve avoided using them for a year because they sure looked difficult. But really they aren’t. Just pull them off the little sprue, fold them up with your fingers. Hold them in place for 15 seconds or so to form the fronds into more of a bush then glue ’em down with CA glue. The first one was a challenge and then I figured out something that worked for me.

A two-frond Agave plant. Just squeeze the two leaves between your fingers and they’ll take the form you want. Then a drop of CA glue and you’re done.

I’m typically adding a tuft or two to the larger bases, and maybe one to the smaller. The last step is to apply Woodland Scenics turf. Again, you may say no! Please! Enough already. But heck, these are my figures and I say yes. I apply slightly watered down white glue to the base around the tufts and sprinkle blended brown and then blended green over the bases. I apply the glue with a paint brush and, one I don’t use for anything but basing.

Spanish Swordsmen by Eureka
Blurry Spanish Arquebusiers by Eureka

When it’s all over I let it dry for a bit and take it out to garage for a spritz of clear lacquer. It just keeps it in place. When it’s all done I stick Litko magnets on the bases. I generally use plastic scrapbooking cases as storage and line them with galvanized roof flashing. The magnets stick well to these and we’re done.

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