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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bolt Action: The Clear Choice for Basing

By Seamus,

When it comes to wargaming, it can be argued that you need some decent basing to really bring the whole thing together, to really make the model stand out. A superbly painted miniature inevitably loses something if the basing isn't also as skillfully done as the model itself. One thing I'm sure we can agree on is that basing is a skill that is rarely easy to come by, and indeed it is through practice that we see people achieving truly stunning results over time. Many of us like to have a theme for our armies, whether it be a specific unit or perhaps a particular theater or battle. I myself have a Gebirgsjager force with snowy bases, an Australian force with jungle bases, and an Italian force with Tunisian desert bases, as examples. These bases really help set the tone for the models and the army and, while my basing skills are not anything to brag about, they do help emote the them of the army. In preparation for this article, I've asked the lads to share with me some of the basing they're most proud of. Here are some tremendous examples of what you can achieve with basing, especially in concert with superbly painted models.

Here are some example supplied by Tristan, including his Finnish artillery piece and an Aussie machine gun team. You can see that Tristan has pulled together multiple types of basing material to really add layers of depth to the model.

Next up, here are some samples done by Bryan. Bryan even went and did a guide to basing, which you can find HERE, and see the results below. Bryan, too, has used several different materials to create character and depth for the models. I especially like the basing on the desert pieces where you can see the dried, cracked earth.

Of course, when talking about basing I don't mean solely for infantry or artillery pieces. Several of the lads have shared example of basing for vehicles in the past. Patch's LRDG truck are legendary, and here are some pics to show how basing helps add to the look of the trucks.

I myself have only dabbled in scenic basing, tending to keep things simple and focus on the models themselves. You could argue that it's something of a disservice. Here are examples of my simple snow and rubble bases for some armies I'm working on.

As you can see from these excellent examples, as well as several examples throughout forums and social media, skillful basing really makes a model stand out. It brings cohesion to the army. It sets a theme, even if you're not familiar with when and where a particular unit may have fought. I am always blown away by what the lads here and members of the community have achieved with their bases. Often, I'm also envious as my own basing skills are not up to snuff.

The thing is though... in general... I, personally, sort of "hate" basing my armies. As far back as 3rd edition 40K, I was magnetizing bases for my Space Marines because it alway bothered me when my bases didn't match the table. Maybe it's an OCD thing. Maybe it inhibits the immersion into the setting of the game for me. For whatever reason, I largely don't care for basing my troops. It is irksome when my Gerbirgsjager, with their snow bases, play on a tropical table. When my Waffen SS, with their rubble-strewn streets basing, end up in a lovely green vale with trees all around or something equally anathema to the force, it is indeed distracting to my game.

What do you do, then, if you don't care for basing but play a game that requires a specific base size? What do you do to make the little soldiers you've spent so much time meticulously painting not look unfinished? I'd heard for years about folks who used clear bases but had never actually SEEN this basing boogeyman anywhere. One day I saw Rich H, frequent guest on the DownOrder podcast and brainchild behind the vehicle design rules (found HERE) that had done clear bases for some London Bobbies for In Her Majesty's Name. Then a good friend of mine did clear bases for his creatures in Warhammer Quest, and I realized that there was possibility there. I bought some clear bases off eBay from a fellow based in Spain, I bought a bunch of wine corks, and I formulated my plan.

I started working on Commandos for the 1943 raiding era and thought they were the perfect candidate for clear bases. I had a small force that could, in theory, fight in snowy Norway or the French coast, the streets of Nazaire, North Africa and the Mediterranean, and even at a stretch somewhere in the Pacific. I sure wouldn't want a snowy base for a raid on the North African coast!

Since my force was mostly plastic, all I had to do was assemble the model without gluing them to a base. I'd then take my pin-vice drill and put a hole in whichever foot was flattest, or knee if the model was kneeling. I would then insert a length of paper clip into this hole and jam the other end into one of those wine corks. I'd then paint them as normal and glue them to the base, using plastic cement which bonded quickly and strongly considering I was mating two mostly smooth surfaces. The results were excellent, and I was well pleased.

Then I got to a bit of a quandary. What to do for weapon teams? This took a bit more doing. I decided I'd cut away the bit of integral base that all of our metal figures have and then follow the same process I had done for the plastics. It only took a couple of figures before I realized this wouldn't be as easy as I thought. I noticed that metal figures tend to have smaller feet, for one thing, which concerned me when it came time to glue them to the base. I also noticed that sometimes the feet weren't fully sculpted, like the sculptor had "cheated" on them. A platoon without vehicles, as I was building, would surely need weapons teams such as medium machine guns, mortars, and the mighty PIAT. So, I cracked on.

The process with the metals was, indeed, quite a bit more difficult but in the end the result is good enough for me. I used a standard cyanoacrylate gel glue to bind them to the bases. This worked quite well but occasionally the model would slip a little when I put them on the base, through a combination of tiny feet and the gel not binding quickly. This of course led to a little bit of hazing where the glue cured on the clear base. Again, Rich H had already see this and was quick with a solution... a bit of Citadel Nuln Oil darkened the haze up a bit and made it look more like a shadow.

One thing I noticed as I got the Commandos on different tables, and I'd heard folks mention it before, was that sometimes the bases would just really catch the lights in the room and had a bit of a glare. Some folks had suggested that painting the outside rim of the base would cut down on the glare so I tried it with a few models that weren't part of my main list selection such as the extra model with the Captain and an artillery crew. The difference was immediately noticeable, and I have decided this is definitely the way to go for the rest of the force. I also noticed that the base actually blended with the table even better, AND the rim being painted clearly defined the circumference of the base which is important when templates are employed.

I'm sold! I really like the way the bases blend with any table they are sitting on, and especially with the rim painted. I will definitely be doing the rest of the bases this way and, indeed, will do other armies in this fashion too. It does take significant effort to do it this way, so it's definitely not a shortcut on a completed model. I know it's not for everyone, and as we've seen above there are some truly amazing things you can do with basing. For the right army, I think it's the clear choice. Thanks to the folks in the forum, like Rich, Stuart, and a few others, that helped guide this project from its infancy. Hopefully this will be helpful to you if you're thinking about doing clear bases or started and are having problems.

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