Thursday, October 15, 2009

Basing Units for Impetus

Some people (i.e. two) have asked me how I base my units for Impetus. Following the advice of Keir, I took photos as I did the basework on the Carthaginians. These photos follow my progression as I worked on 10mm Numidians, but the principles can be applied to miniatures of any scale.

Four units of 10mm Numidians on 6cm x 4cm bases


I'm sure most readers know what goes into basing, but for the sake of completion, and for those who have never done it before, here's a list of what I use:

  1. white glue - Tacky craft glue. Mine comes in a gold bottle, but any white craft glue will do.
  2. sand - I use Hartz Grit'n Gravel. Get it at Wal-mart for a buck and change in the pet bird aisle.
  3. super-glue - Used to adhere the models to the bases.
  4. tree bark - Find someone cutting down a massive old tree. Pull all of the thick, gnarled bark off. With any luck, the tree has been dead for a while (hence the being cut down) and it will be dry and brittle. Otherwise, go buy the bags of stuff used for decorating flower beds.
  5. flock and or static grass - If you don't know what I'm talking about, search "modelling flock" in google and you'll find tons of info. In short, the green "grassy-looking" stuff on a base.


Before you start decorating the bases, there are a couple of obvious things to do. The most obvious is to attach the models to the bases. For this, I use any super glue of a medium consistency. Really thin stuff will soak into the wooden base before it has a chance to adhere to the model, and the really thick stuff just makes a gloppy mess.

In order to make less populated bases look more interesting, I use chunks of dried bark to represent rocky outcrops. When basing multiple models as elements, the base really becomes part of the model. Little details (rocky outcrops, bushes, fallen tree trunks, etc...) really help show off your models. In fact, a well-done base will bring mediocre paintjobs to life, while a superbly-painted model on a poorly-decorated base suffers greatly.

Finally, paint the integral bases of the models your intended base colour before gluing them down. So, I painted the horsemen bases GW Scorched Brown before I glued them to the wooden base. It will become apparant why I did that a little later.

The Numidians glued down and ready for base work.

Applying Sand:

Working with glue can be very stressful when you are a new painter/wargamer. If there's a wrong way to do it, I've done it, so I hope to share what I've learned with you and to help make this step go as stress-free as possible.

Most new modellers either water glue down too much or not enough. If the glue is too thick it's difficult to apply quickly to the base. If it's watered-down too much, it loses strength and you'll notice sand coming off everytime you move the base.

Here's how I mix white glue:

  1. Pour a bunch of glue into a small container.
  2. Pour a little water in. Now, before mixing, pour some water back out. Chances are you've added too much water.
  3. Start mixing. I use a popsicle stick because I can throw it away after I'm done. Keep adding a little water until you reach the "perfect consistency."
What's the "perfect consistency?"

When you lift your popsicle stick up, the glue will start dripping off after a second or so in slow drops. If it runs in a steady stream, it's too thin; add more glue. If it doesn't drip without violent shaking, it's too thick, add more water.

Just the right consistency, dripping off slowly and evenly.

Now, using an old brush, spread the glue out in a nice even blanket. Start from the inside and work quickly. If you go too slow, the glue will start to recede from the edge of the base before you apply the sand.

Hold the element over a shoebox (or something to catch the sand) and pour it on. Don't stop until you're sure that the entire base is well covered with sand.

Dump the excess sand into the box and quickly inspect the base to make sure it looks good. Specifically, make sure that there's no sand on the miniatures themselves and check to see that the sand goes neatly to the base edge.

If there's any sand where you don't want it (on a model's legs for instance), wipe it away with a toothpick. Just don't use a metal tool, as you'll likely scrape the paint off of the model. I also use my fingers to clean up the rim of the base as well. I don't like stray sand hanging down over the sides of the base.

Sanded and ready for paint.

Painting the Base Colours:

After a few hours have passed the sand should be dry and ready for paint. I use high quality model paints to basecoat my bases. I know that many readers are thinking, "Why not just use cheap-o Brand X craft paint? It's only a base, right?"

Here's my reasoning. One of the biggest differences between craft paint and actual model paint is the level of opacity. Cheap paint can be borderline translucent and require multiple coats for complete coverage, even in dark colours like brown. For me, basecoating a sanded base is meticulous, and I refuse to paint over it more than once, all in the name of saving $2.00 over the course of a year or so.

I use GW Scorched Brown because it's very opaque, not too expensive, and readily available at my LGS. I use P3 Greatcoat Grey for the large rocks. Again, I have it in front of me and I don't use very much. I'm sure whatever model paints you have would work just fine.

This is the most meticulous stage in basing, especially when working on bases with lots of close order foot. The only trick here is patience. Keep your paint well-watered down so it seeps down into the sand. Use appropriate-sized brushes and careful strokes so that you don't accidentally paint a model brown. This is where painting the integral model bases brown comes in. Now that they're on the base, you don't have to worry about trying to get paint in under every little guy, as this should have already been accomplished.

Adding Grass:

We're almost done. Mix some glue as per the instructions above and paint it on in whatever irregular pattern you desire. Glue for this purpose shouldn't be quite as watery as for applying sand. If the glue is too watery the flock will soak up the water and when it's dry, it will look like a green algae instead of grass. Dump they flock on, wait for a minute or so, and tap the excess off.

So close now. They'll be throwing javelins in no time.

Final Touches:

As soon as the flock is in place you can proceed to this step; just be careful not to handle the flock or touch it with your brush. Using a light grey paint ( I use GW Codex Grey because I'm trying to get rid of it) I lightly drybrush the large rocks and do a medium overbrush on the sanded areas. By flocking before we did this, a nice contrast is created between the green and the grey areas. I apply a very light drybrush of a cream or bone colour, and finish the base by painting the rim of the base with black paint.

Ready to be let loose against the enemy.

Other Armies:

Ever since I started playing Impetus, I've been using similar techniques to base my armies. Here are some samples.

15mm Longbowmen. The static grass was applied with super glue.

My 6mm Romans. I used ink to tint the bases but I won't do it again.
It's too difficult to achieve consistency with inks.

Stu's Parthians were the first army I based using the method outlined above.

Just remember, basing is always worth the effort, especially in an element-based game like Impetus. Don't wimp out and you won't regret it.

Thanks for reading,


Andy McMaster said...

As one of the two who asked! Thanks for that Jason. The bark for rock is one of the things I wanted to know.

I use a mix of fine(60%), medium(30%), coarse(10%) railway modeling ballast for my 15s and have been happy with the result.

I shall be descending on the nearby woods in search of bark very soon!

Anonymous said...

be very careful using superglue for basing. the fumes can whighten the figures if they are able to 'hang around' long enough.