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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bolt Action - French Armoured Carriers

I've recently added some armoured transports to my French Foreign Legion platoon. The Berliet VUDB carriers were manufactured in the 1930's by France to help police it's North African Colonies, with a limited number fighting in the Second World War. Today they are manufactured by by Mad Bob miniatures in 1:56 scale resin. I'll give you a review of the kit as well as a step by step painting guide.

I'll begin by saying that this is an obscure vehicle, in an obscure theatre of the war. So I will give the following disclaimer that with the limited information I could find on these vehicles and the fact they are wargaming miniatures not museum pieces, I am taking some artistic license with painting them as well as fielding them in Bolt Action.

Some basic history

In the years leading up to the second world war the VUDB amroured personnel carriers were fielded by the Foreign Legions Cavalry regiment in France's North African colonies of Algeria and Morocco. Apparently the Legionnaires hated them, as they were prone to mechanical failures on long distance patrols, and not to mention basically being ovens on wheels, baking in the scorching Saharan sun. But! In Bolt Action they are very, very interesting. You see, they happen to be one of only two armoured transport vehicles in the game that are NOT open topped. I'll let that sink in.

In Bolt Action

Not having the open topped special rule like 99% of armoured transports out there means they are completely immune to pins from small arms, only heavy weapons can effect them, and most importantly the infantry inside. They are also wheeled mobility, so are very fast especially on roads and open terrain. They aren't too expensive in points being armour 7 and only armed with a single LMG, but they have a decent transport capacity of 7 infantrymen.  I have purchased 4 of the VUDB's and plan on playing a variant of my infantry list as a fast moving cavalry recon platoon.

Likely the only time the VUDB carriers saw action in the Second World War was when the French forces in Morroco and Algeria finally joined the allies and invaded Axis Tunisia in early 1943. The Foreign Legion's 3rd REIM Cavalry Recon would have included these armoured carriers alongside it's many armoured cars and some native cavalry mounted on more traditional horses and camels. This is the army list I am planning on fielding soon when I have all the miniatures painted. But more on that in the future, let's focus on the VUDB for now.

The miniature

The Berliet VUDB miniatures are currently only available in 1:56 scale through one manufacturer, Mad Bob Miniatures. Like all of Bob's vehicle miniatures, they have been originally been designed on computer software, then had the 'master' miniature 3D printed. This master is then taken and after a little cleanup, moulds are made for the vehicle to be mass cast in resin.

The design of the miniature is robust, with fumbling wargamers hands firmly in mind. I did find the stowage racks on the side a little delicate but after filling them with some actual stowage, constant handling won't be a problem.

One great design feature is the kit has a bare minimum of parts to assemble. It comes with a one piece hull, 6 wheels, and three hatches for the top. The hatches are separate so you have the option of having any of them open or for adding a crew figure if desired. Clean up time was a little more than usual for a Mad Bob Miniature (which is usually less then 5 mins per vehicle!) as the there was a some extra resin flashing on the undercarriage around the axles. You won't even see this area of the miniature once assembled anyway, so this wasn't a major problem. It took me about an hour to clean up and assemble the 4 of these VUDB's, including adding my own stowage and crew.

The one downside I found with the kits is there is no LMG weapon included. Although I haven't been able to find a photo showing where this was mounted, I have read that it was a crew carried weapon and could be fired from any of the many firing ports in the crew compartment. In Bolt Action the LMG is classified as firing in the front arc, so for clarity on the table I have converted mine using spare plastic Japanese LMG gun barrels cut too length and glued coming from the front firing port.

Lastly, I added as much stowage as I could. Because it looks cool, and to me it made sense an independent Calvary Reconnaissance unit operating in the desert would take some extra gear with them. I collected the stowage from Warlord Games metal allied stowage set and a box of Tamiya 1:48 scale plastic stowage.

For both sturdiness and looks, I based my vehicles on plasticard and textured these with pollyfilla from a hardware store and some small stones.

Overall I really like the VUDB from Mad Bob Miniatures and can recommend it, it was not perfect, but is easy to add your own extra bits to the kit. I am giving it 4 out of 5 Legionnaires.

VUDB Painting guide

Right onto painting them! In my research I discovered a variety of colour schemes for the hull and unit insignia's. Seriously, google image search Berliet VUDB and you'll see what I mean. I have chosen the one above for pure aesthetic reasons. Like I say, please don't hold me up on historical inaccuracies as I just wanted to paint my miniatures how I thought looked coolest. The unit insignia seems to be a kind of mythological Centaur drawing a bow on a blue circle background, so that won out on cool factor alone. Plus of course the French tricolour was painted on the door. I also added to the front cab armour plate, the Legions symbol of a hand grenade with a flame coming out of the top.

Step one - base colours

I am painting my vehicles with acrylics for the base colours and then using oil and enamel paint to shade and weather them. So, to begin with I primed the carriers with Plastic Soldier company Dunkelgelb, followed by a light overspray of Army Painter Bone - to give it a lighter shade on the upper hull. All the basic colours were then block painted.

Tyres: VMC995 German Grey
Stowage: VJ887 Brown Violet, VMC914 Green Ochre
Gun: GW Boltgun Metal
Insignia: VMC930 Dark Blue
Base: VMC876 Brown Sand

Gloss varnish the entire model now. Seal that sucker completely otherwise the white spirit used in the following stages will strip this paint off.

Washes and weathering tools: (left to right) Wash and Grime from AK Interactives 'DAK' set, makeup applicators/removers from ebay, artists white spirit from an art supply store, sand pigment from Secret Weapon miniatures, 3 artists oil paints from an art supply shop.

Step two - wash

Use a mixture of regular artist oil paints. I used a mix of 90% Burnt Umber, 5% Black and 5% yellow. You can see them in the picture above. Thin this down with white spirit into the consistency of a regular wash and cover the whole model.

Step three - more wash

Next I used AK interactive DAK wash to 'pin wash', that is directly target areas I wanted darker. In this example I applied the pin wash to the crevasses in the main hull and under the rivets.

Step three - rub it back

Here is the trick to the whole 'oil wash' technique. Wait until your wash is touch dry, but not to long (so depending on weather conditions 40mins to 2 hours) and then use white spirit to strip off the wash from the raised areas. I do this in two stages, first I use an old rag dipped in a small amount of white spirit and simply wipe it over the vehicle. This will take most of the wash off the raised areas. After this I use small make up application/removal sticks to get into the hard to reach places and rub the wash off with a little more white spirit.

Tip! If you start taking the wash off before the wash is dry then it will just move the paint around and make it all messy. If this happens, wait a little longer and then try again. You should actually use a tiny amount of white spirit to remove the wash, too much and you'll rick it eating through and stripping paint. A little trial and error and you'll get the hang of it.

Your desert vehicle should now look like below. Compare it to the previous pic and you'll see what the effect should end up like.

Step four - Sand pigment

That is the hard part over! All the rest is fun playing around with various weathering products. First I added a sand coloured powdered pigment to the tires. This really makes the dark grey wheels 'pop' by having the sand all stuck into the tire tread. The exact product I used was Secret Weapon Miniatures 'Burning Sands' pigment. What you do is take a small scoop of this powder and mix it with white spirit into a wash like consistency. Slap it onto the areas you want sand and dust to gather. Then wait. Over the next hour or so as the spirit evaporates, it just leaves the pigment behind. You can then judge whether you want to add more or rub some off using spirit like the wash in stage 2. 

Step five - Drybrush highlight

At this stage looking at the model I wanted it to have more depth and so decided to add some highlights to the edges on the hull. I simply drybrushed the hull using VMC847 Dark Sand.

Step six - finishing details

To finish the miniature off I used AK interactive 'streaking grime' from their DAK paint set. This was applied directly with a thin brush in streaks where I thought they might be, eg: coming from the engine or under vision slits.

At this stage the base was now drybrushed up in three stages. First with VMC876 Brown Sand, then VMC847 Dark Sand and finally VMC837 Pale Sand

Lastly I added grass tufts of various size and colour to the base to simulate the arid wilderness of Moroccan and Tunisian desert. I painted up all 4 VUDB carriers and once and it was an efficient way of getting them painted considering you'll be waiting for drying time at various stages.

The Warlord Games French tank crew figures fit perfectly into the open hatch's of Mad Bob's resin vehicle

Got any questions on obscure French vehicles or want some more painting advice? Just hit me up here:

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