| ||AN ONGOING NEWSLETTER||September 2006|
The plastic troopers supplied with the Combat Zone boxed set are a great way to get into modern skirmish gaming quickly and cheaply.
They do have one flaw - the weapon and arm options supplied with the minis aren't the best, and are rather limited in choice and pose.
There are other multi-part plastic minis on the market, and while they are not inexpensive, they come with a wide variety of weapons options. Typically, there are far more weapons, arms and heads in a box than there are bodies to put them on.
As a way to easily increase the variety of troops in your forces cheaply, it sounds like a match made in heaven, but how does it work out in practice? Read on.
Assembling the minis
The first two photos show the result of combining the trooper bodies with the spare arms, weapons and some of the heads left over from a box of Infantry and one Heavy Weapons Team (plus a few extra pieces). I had two concerns about whether this project would be viable:
Would the parts look OK together, or would they be completely out of scale?
Some companies' weapons tend to be rather 'heroically-scaled' and their arms often rather ill-proportioned as a result. As the first two photos show, the arms and weapons are very slightly too large for the troopers, but no worse than for their intended figures.
Once assembled what most people tend to notice about a model is the head, the weapon, the shoulder pads, and the feet underneath them. They look just fine once assembled.
Would there be enough spare parts in the two boxes to supply 10 Combat Zone troopers? Well… the answer is yes, but the extra weapons and arms from the Heavy Weapons team really came to the rescue. I didn't want to have too many grenade launchers or flamethrowers in one squad, and I didn't want to do too much conversion work on individual pieces (like rebending arms), both of which cut down the options.
In the end, as a result of my decisions, only one of the minis shown here ended up without weapons in their hands, and I was unhappy with the results on only one. The trooper holding the scanner at the front of the first picture uses the heavy weapons team machine gunner's pair of hands. The arms were glued in place on the trooper's torso, then the trigger was cut from the hands and replaced with the scanner.
The only trooper with a slightly 'odd' pose is the one at the back left of the first picture, holding a knife low and with his weapon across his chest. The left was actually a flamethrower's left arm with a knife added. In hindsight, I should have been prepared to re-model the trooper's left arm to bend and grip the rifle in a more natural pose, or to cut the flamethrower from the arm it was on and replace it with one of the free rifles.
I also decided to replace the officer's head and the helmet on the communications pack trooper.
I also planned this project AFTER I had assembled the boxed sets. I suspect that if I had planned to do the troops, heavy weapons team AND the Combat Zone troopers all together at the same time, assembling the last couple of troopers would have gone much more smoothly
All in all, the figures end up with a rather 'specific' look to them, which is not to everyone's taste. I rather like the effect, and the Combat Zone troopers look as good with these modifications as the miniatures they were intended for.
I wanted to do these very quickly, so I applied a wash technique to the figures. The minis were primed white, and two washes of dark green were applied, allowing time for them to dry before applying the next. The wash was 1 part paint to 2 parts water.
This leaves raised areas with less paint on them than most, creating a highlight effect. The final wash provided the shading effect, and this was 1 part brown ink to 4 parts water.
Once the minis were dry, the final details - face, hair, hands, weapons, faceplates, other details - were painted. Putting more solid colour on a mini painted using a wash technique really makes the figure look more "complete" - the wash technique alone is not enough to make the mini look properly painted.
To draw attention away from the slight size mismatch between the troopers' bodies and the weapons, I could also have painted the shoulder pads and weapons more strongly or brightly, to focus the eye on the minis' faces and weapons and away from the legs. I quite liked the effect of the wash, however, so I left them as they were and only painted a few details (insignia, bayonets).
The third photo shows the same technique applied to the Combat Zone robots. Three washes were applied to these minis:
- 1 part sandy brown to 2 parts water;
Again, note how the blocks of black and red, as well as the "shiny glass" effect on the robot's cockpit window/eye (my first attempt at this effect, so it's far from perfect!) give the figures a "solidity" that the wash alone lacks.
The vehicle is a 1/48 scale German Army Marder, made by Kitech. These motorised kits, made in Hong Kong, were very cheap - £5 or less - and were common a couple of years ago. They were very inaccurately detailed and tricky to put together, so fell from popularity very quickly. The kit was painted very quickly - a heavy drybrush with olive green then a lighter drybrush with a lighter green. Both were applied to the bare plastic. Next, a wash of ink - 3 parts brown/ 1 part black - diluted to 1 part ink to 3 parts water. Finally, a "camouflage-like" pattern using earth tones and edged with dark green and a few small details were applied.
The decals were applied by painting some gloss varnish areas on the vehicle, then applying the decal once the varnish was dry. The gloss varnish stops tiny air bubbles being trapped under the decal, so hides the edge of the decal well - can you spot the one I missed? The whole kit can then be matt varnished to cut down the gloss from the ink wash
Terrain and scenery
The scenery is all handmade. The modular base is made from 30cm x 30cm polystyrene ceiling tiles mounted on hardboard (Masonite) for rigidity, then painted with black textured outdoor masonry paint to give a strong shell. The surface was then drybrushed in lighter shades of grey and brown to give a nice finish - the sand in the textured paint added to this enormously. A layer of static grass was then glued in place (again, the textured paint gave more grip for the glue), and once it was dry, sprayed with a mist of watered-down PVA glue, using a houseplant sprayer, to stop the grass shedding.
The plant clusters were made from cheap aquarium plants glued into a block of polystyrene foam.
The walls were created from 25mm thick dense polystyrene foam. Once the basic shape was cut out of the styrene foam, the stonework was etched into the surface using a blunt pen and ruler, and the damaged look was achieved by gouging chunks out with my fingernails… Once again, flock and static grass were glued on, and "misted" to seal them in.
Using spares from another game's plastic miniatures, these simple modifications turn the Combat Zone troopers into a fighting force to be reckoned with!
If anyone ever complains to you that miniatures gaming is an expensive hobby, show them these pictures - these ten soldiers with a plethora of weapon options plus their transport cost £10