Wednesday 8 February 2017

The Portable Wargame - Raising Forces

The Portable Wargame recently released by Bob Cordery has inspired me to look at how I manage my own wargames.

If you are new to wargaming and do not know quite how to proceed or maybe you are a grizzled veteran looking for a change in focus to get away from making significant efforts to get a game together.

I have decided to investigate the Portable Wargame and look for an entry strategy with minimal effort in an attempt to get started.

The first thing you might want to consider is troops.

OK, troops, tiny tin men, how many do I need and what size should they be? Will they be difficult to paint?

Unfortunately there is no simple answer here but I have made my choices and here they are.

I decided to go for the wars of Marlborough (famous General right?) and you get to take a poke at some French (traditional enemies right?) but mainly that uniforms in this period are relatively simple.

I bought a blister pack of Pendraken Marburlian French, £31 retail but £30 on the day at a show. This pack will give you 15 cavalry figures (maybe not enough), 150 infantry figures (probably too many) and a couple of guns with crew (probably OK).

I chose Pendraken as their figures are 10mm. Just a nice size to handle and paint, a bit of detail but not too much, remember we want to get up and going as soon as we can.

I could have gone for 6mm but many think they are just a bit too small. I think they are OK but not for this game.

I could have gone for 15mm but they will add a level of detail which we are trying to avoid at the moment.

OK back to the task in hand. I expect to have about 8 units per side in the Portable Wargame so I think that 6 units of infantry would be about right to start with.

I hope to have about 8 figures per unit so selected 48 figures from the pack, all the same pose with no officers etc.

I chose the shouldered arms marching pose just because I like it. The bases needed a little bit of a clean up otherwise they won't stand properly. This took but a few minutes.

Here is one of them in a close up.

I mounted all 48 figures on painting sticks with little blobs of blu-tac.

Now, this army is going to an imaginary army based on the French. I will call them 'les blancs' for the time being.

Using acrylic paint and a well worn number 3 brush paint the entire figure white except the top of the head and the base.

Switching to a number 1 brush paint the tricorn and the back of the head black. Don't go lower than the jacket collar.

Paint the base green (or whatever colour matches your tabletop). Paint carefully around the feet.

Paint the face a flesh colour.

Paint the jacket cuffs blue. This may overpaint the hands and the musket but that's alright.

Paint the shoulder strap a buff colour. Paint the haversack and scabbard too.

Paint the musket brown. This may overpaint the hands.

Paint the hands a flesh colour.

Now, if you are a painter like me go back and correct all the little mistakes that you made. Don't be too fussy.

Make up a solution of 1 part water and 1 part soft tone ink wash. Using your number 3 brush paint this over the entire figure.

Set aside to dry.

They should look like this.

I did all this painting in about 5 hours from start to finish so if you are time constrained you could nibble away at this, say one hour a day or maybe a bit quicker at 2-3 hours a day. In other words they won't take long to do.

This painting style cuts some corners, for several reasons. The tricorn is black and the hair is black saving a bit of time. There is no lace on the tricorn. This take times to get right and we don't have time.

The ink wash will enhance fine details on the casting, this is OK, it saves more time.

The next post will have a look at basing your figures and also what other figures will you need. Some cavalry and some guns, what about command, and, what about opponents.


  1. Nice post and nice project Jim. It interests me on several levels, but in one area in particular, I am trying the get the consistency of a wash right for the white uniforms of Austrian napoleonics. I picked up a paint medium yesterday called Lahmian medium by Citadel (GW), apparently it is used instead of water to thin a wash / ink. I experimented yesterday at 1:1 ratio and today I am going to try 2 parts medium to 1 part soft tone. I am guessing the sweet spot sits somewhere in that range.

    Looking forward to seeing this fast 'set up and play' unfolding. Will you be using your Kallistra Hexon?

    1. Hi Norm

      I await with interest your experiments with the Lahmian medium.

      Fortunately in 10mm any old pale grey will suffice for French infantry coats.

      My initial thoughts on a board is for 50mm squares as I expect I will be using 40mm square figure bases. I haven't quite made that decision yet but perhaps I will by this evening.

      I am planning to include some contingency to use my Hexon tiles with as many as two figure bases per hex.

      Time will tell.

  2. Hi Jim
    I have shared your blog post on 10mm Wargaming Facebook Page ( and 10mm Wargaming Facbook Group (

    Why not join the 10mm Wargaming Facebook Group and post more about your project.

    Take care


    1. Hi Andy, good to see you at the weekend.

      I am a wee bit loathe to get involved with Facebook, it must come from working in IT for more than 40 years.

      Thanks for sharing my post with Facebook guys.

      I'll probably add a post to the Pendraken Forum since I am using Pendraken figures.

  3. Yeah it was nice seeing you at york. Facebook not for everyone

    Take care


  4. Jim,

    What an excellent 'How to ...' blog entry! I've always avoided figures smaller than 15mm, but having read your explanation I might give the smaller figures a go one day.

    Good luck with your project.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob

      I'm not particularly happy with the picture quality in my 'How to ...' post. They are too dark.

      I'll do another one soon and hopefully make the process much clearer and simple to perform and even guys like yourself might give 10mm a try.

  5. They've come out very decently! And at what, about six minutes per figure, that's a cracking result :D


    1. For this batch of 48 figures that's about right.

      It went up to about 15 minutes per figure for the next batch of 8 figures. You spend proportionally more time cleaning brushes and opening paint pots with smaller batches.

    2. True that!

      The greatest boon for painting I found was when I got a permanent place I can leave things. although my desk now looks like an explosion in a rubbish tip...


    3. I bit the bullet a few years ago just before I retired and built myself a wargames hut.

      The price difference between a 3 bedroom house and a 4 bedroom house where I live is about £100,000 so my £6500 hut was a bargain.

      It is my space and no-one is allowed in unless I say so.

    4. Haha, excellent - money well spent, I am very jealous :) My three foot deep at the back of the extention is not so cunning :)