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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bolt Action - French army project: the vehicles

After painting 2 platoons of infantry for my French colonial reinforced platoon, it is time to work on some armoured support. Surprisingly, the colonial French forces have access to a few unique and useful AFV's and transports. You won't find any great tanks in the list but there are some hidden gems in there that really add a different flavour and play style. Let's have a look at each, en avant!

Laffly 80 AMD

The French colonial forces have access to this really distinctive looking armoured car. From what I can work out the Laffly 80 AMD was first put into service in the late 1920's, when 28 of them were shipped to North Africa. They were deployed in reconnaissance roles and help 'police' the remote and desolate desert colonies there. During World War 2 they were used by both Axis Vichy French and German forces as well as Free French after the 1942 American landings in 'Operation Torch'. The formally pro axis Vichy governments in Morocco and Algeria joined the allied side and sent their forces in to Tunisia to attack the Italian and German forces making their last stand there.

The miniature for this very obscure vehicle was sculpted and cast in Resin by Mad Bob Miniatures. It's a very well designed kit and all the parts assemble almost perfectly - my guess is due to the accuracy of the 3D sculpting and printing process this was designed in. Bob's a French fan himself and has produced a lot of their up until now unavailable vehicles and guns. You can find Bob on the forums or his Facebook page here if you would like to get your hands on some obscure French steel.

I wanted to give my pair of Laffly's a feeling of being out in the desert for long patrols, and so added plenty of stowage. This is a mixture of Warlord games metal tank stowage and plastic Tamiya 1:48. The crew are the French tank crew set from Warlord games, and they fit just fine.

In game terms I think the Laffly is a great little vehicle. It's armour 7, wheeled and armed with both a turret HMG and a rear facing turret MMG. But most important is that it is a Recce vehicle. I have only had a couple of games with mine but I find you can be moving them up in a rather aggressive manner and turn your turret to get both weapons firing into the enemy infantry, then Recce move out of danger if you keep some terrain nearby. Its rather annoying for the enemy so make sure you get your mate a beer after the game!

Renault FT-17 tank

Ok, I'll admit it feels funny calling the FT-17 a tank, but technically it is, and it does take up your 'tank slot', so I will! These less-than-fearsome looking tanks were actually a great leap forward in the design of tanks as we know them today. Designed during the First World War, the FT-17 was the first tank designed with a turret. It's success on the battlefield meant it influenced all future tank designs and was exported by France in large numbers to many of the worlds armies in the 1920's.

By the time France was once again at war for it's very survival, squadrons of these venerable little tanks were still to be found in service in the colonies of the Empire. The miniatures for these are actually sculpted using CAD and 3D printed by our forum's own Rabid Monkey. You can pick them up from his site Trenchworx, with a more cost effective resin version available soon. They are flawless miniatures and feature an amazing amount of detail due to the lack of a traditional mold to be cast in. They are hollow and made of  a plastic like substance which is not brittle and very forgiving considering the delicate nature of some of the detail on these miniatures. I give these tanks 9/10 Eiffel towers.

I actually experimented with some new painting techniques on the vehicles for this army. Up until now I have always painted AFV's exactly the same as infantry models - Base colours, wash, then highlight a few times. I've never been 100% happy with this style for WW2 tanks especially, it looked to clean and well, a bit unrealistic and comic book style. Plus, it takes a long time to edge highlight every panel on a bunch of tanks!

For these French colonial vehicles I decided to enlist the help of my friend Luke from The Sound of Machines commission painting service to teach me all about the smelly world of oil paints, weathering powders and enamel washes.

Military scale modelers have been using oil paints for years, but only recently have us wargamers started to check this style out. It's a little daunting at first because you'll need a little knowledge on the techniques before you just jump in. Saying that, once you have someone explain it, it's really easy, fun to do and doesn't take long. It's worth explaining these properly in a full article on it's own so I'll try and convince Luke to put one together when he's not buried under a pile of unpainted miniatures!

For those of you already familiar with the use of oil paints and weathering powders, I used the following steps and products to get my results on the FT-17's and the Laffly armoured cars:

  • Basecoat spray of Army painter Skeleton Bone.
  • Paint on base colours of camo and stowage with normal acrylic paints
  • Seal the model with gloss varnish spray
  • Wash the model with a mix of artists oil paints (black, burnt sienna, yellow)
  • Use white spirit to 'remove' the wash in areas I wanted lighter 
  • Secret Weapon Miniatures sand powder mixed with white spirit was washed heavily onto the tracks and tyres.

Like I said, that may not mean much to some readers so we'll endeavor to bring a full article on oil weathering at some point in the future. Either way, I am very happy with the way the vehicles turned out and will be using these techniques from now on. If you have any tips for oil paints or what to discuss the armoured might of Colonial France then head on over to the forum!

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