Long time ago (well, not that long actually!) there were no war elephants at all available for 20mm armies. Back then the hunt for a suitable elephant figure was an ongoing concern, and wargamers of all ages could be seen checking out every toy shop for the right figure, an hard task indeed... :) I even bought a lead one from Newline Design, it's quite nice, but it come in only one pose and I wanted more variety... Eventually someone found this baby elephant figure in a zoo set, it was exactly the right size, a rare prize! He bought a dozen of them and was kind enough to gave me one. I put it aside for the time being as I had not enough figures for the rest of the army yet, and he rested in a drawer for some years. Then Hat appeared on the market and the old dream of making a Carthaginian and a Seleucid army become a real possibility, I went immediately to look for my prized baby elephant and begun planning a conversion. As you can see below the elephant figure is quite nice, the pose is dramatic and the detail fairly good. The main problem was that being meant as a baby elephant he had no tusk to speak of. So I've started by sticking two steel pins in the right place, and built him a couple of suitably impressive tusks as every war elephant worth his name should have. I just had the time to complete them when I found out Hat announced a war elephant set! My baby elephant went straight back in the drawer...
Some month later I eventually managed to get a copy of Hat 8023 "War Elephants" and with disappointment I realized how far the actual models were from the box art... Sure, there are six in a pack, which makes the set great value, but the elephants themselves are not nearly as exiting as I had hoped for: to begin with they are small. I don't care if it's meant to be a North African forest specimen, and if it's scientifically accurate, I like my elephants bigger than that! ;) But the most disappointing feature is the lack of detail in the sculpting, they are casted in one single piece for some reason and technical limitations means the model can have no undercuts, so as a result ears and tusk had to be modeled flat against the body. This destroy completely the drama of the poses and in addition all other details like the blankets and the chains are so plain and small as to be nearly invisible. The very same day I bought this set I got my baby elephant out of the drawer again: at least now I had a crew for him!
It has been on the bench since then, and I slowly build up the rest of the details in Milliput, the tower, chains and blankets. Now All I needed was a couple of hoplite style shields. I consider recover them from some of the various sets that have them, but I hate to destroy figures if I can avoid it and anyway I couldn't find just the right size and shape I wanted. In the end I've decided to try and cast them in a pressure mold as I had done a while ago.
There has been interest recently about the figures available for Ancient camps and baggage, so I thought I dust out a few of my old ones for your entertainment... :)
This is a camp base I made for my Republican Roman army, is made mostly out of Nexus re-issue of Atlantic's "life in the Acropolis". The general taking the omens is of course the ESCI one, with the sword removed. This is a very old piece and it shows in the quality of the paint job I'm afraid, but the figures are really nice... The standards are a recent addition after they have been released by HAT.
These are figures from Hat "Alexander's light infantry" set (8044), I just finished painting them. They are going to be based for DBA/DBM as reg Ax, here they have just been fixed with PVA to the actual element base, which was previously fitted with a piece of adhesive magnetic sheet underneath. All that's left to do now is disguise the base with some appropriate-looking terrain.
DBA II/11 Gallic (400BC - 50BC)
Only one of the possible configurations of this army, really.
Of all the techniques available to build your own models the simplest of all must be using pressure molds, yet for many little things this works fine and being unexpensive and very easy is a method really available to everyone... The basic idea is to press a master into a suitable material to create a mold. It is a method that has major limitations, most obviously that is only suitable for one-sided elements, but doesn't require any particolar equipment or material, which is why it is such a popular choice!
In this case I needed a greek hoplon shield for a few figures, and a pressure mold was perfect for the job. I've begun making a master using a viking shield from an old lead figure I had laying around. I've sanded down the central boss and the wood detail and given it the right dome shape, then filed down the outside rim. You can use Green Stuff to make your master but make sure you use a reliable mold release agent or you may have troubles to get it off the mold...
The mold is just a blob of Milliput in which I've pushed in the master. Yu can use any epoxy putty or even FIMO to make the mold, they are actually better because being slightly flexible it's easier to release the casts, but make sure you test they can stand the temperature of the casting if you plan to use white metal tin alloys for it. If you get your casting metal from scrap tin figures you should have no problem as they are generally made of a bismuth rich alloy with a very low melting point. Old figures made of lead may have a much higher melting point and could burn the mold though.
With all the new sets released the need for conversions has been greatly reduced, but there are still many reasons for converting standard figures, not least because is fun!
So here is a little project I'm working on at the moment which I hope may be of interest: a Celt-iberian warrior.
HAT "Carthaginian Allies" set (8058) has two very nice Celt-iberian figures, problem is that I play DBA/DBM, and these troops are classed either Irr Ax(S) or Irr Wb(F), which means they are supposed to have three figures per base.