Monday, September 3, 2012

How to use the new Fantascape recessed historical bases

I'm writing this guide to show how to get the most out of the proposed new thin recessed historical bases, and so I'll start with how to do the basic clean up on a base.

The only thing you need for cleaning up a Fantascape base is some wet n dry sandpaper. Go to any good DIY store (hardware store, for our American cousins ;)) and pick up a pack of P600 paper. While you're there get a pack of course sandpaper'll need this later.

Lay a whole piece of the P600 down on the table and take you base in your fingertips. If it's difficult to hold onto the base for any reason, take a big lump of blutac and plonk it on the top to give you a decent grip. Sit the base on the paper and give it a few circular swirls. That's all it should need, just to take any excess resin off and give a nice flat edge to the base. All you're looking for is a ring of sanded resin around the edge.

Underside of base before sanding.....

.....and after

Any imperfections on the edges are very easily removed with a little scrap of the same P600 paper. Note, don't do this in the kitchen, or around the kids...and please wear a dust mask as resin dust is not very good for you!

The New Bases

I've designed these bases with historical gaming in mind. For some reason when you mount any historical miniature on something like a standard flat GW style chamfered base they just don't look right (my personal opinion, obviously). When you couple that with the fact that most metal historical figures come with a cast metal base area your finished miniature is standing on a little mound of earth and can tower above any plastic models you have mixed into your army, even if they're mounted on the same style of base. The other problem this can cause is to make 1/56th scale WWII tanks look too small as the troops are too tall.

One thing you can do is sand off the metal precast base so you have just the feet to glue directly to the base, but of course the weight of the metal means you will often have to pin the model to the base.  It can be a lot of work to sand it off as well and it sometimes isn't practical especially if the model has extra details sculpted around the feet.

These new low profile Fantascape bases are my solution to those issues and provide a whole range of basing options for your historical miniatures, especially if you're doing WWII stuff.

The range includes 3 different 24mm round bases. One is blank and as such can be used for any model but is included in the range to allow a uniformity across your army when including plastic models. The other 2 have recesses built into the surface. One is a small oval for standard metal models such as those produced by Warlord Games, the other has a slight elongated recess for those models which have an exaggerated elongated stance. The rest of the range includes 2 bases for prone figures, one short, one long, the longer one being for models like machine gunners, the shorter one for loaders, spotters etc. of course, you may prefer to mount your MG teams, for example, on one base, so the range also includes 3 bigger round bases....40mm, 60mm and 90mm (perfect for bigger anti-tank guns, artlliry etc).

Here's how to prep your metal models for use with the recessed bases:

As mentioned above, most metal 28mm historical miniatures come with a small base area as part of the casting. The miniatures shown here are by Warlord Games and are used only for illustrative purposes.

Most gamers tend to simply glue the model, as is, directly to their chosen base, be it a coin or chamfered plastic base, or whatever they have to hand. This is of course absolutely fine, however there is a growing discussion about the scale of miniatures when stood next to the correctly scaled 1/56th vehicles and tanks. Even if the base used is a coin, with the pre-cast metal base on top of that it can raise the height of the model by a good 2 or 3mm (a substantial amount at that scale) and this causes the eye to see the vehicle its standing next to as rather small in comparison. 

Alot of people choose to use 1/48th scale vehicles to combat this but this creates its own problems in that although it raises the height of the vehicle enough to create an illusion of being more accurately sized, it also increases the width and length of the vehicle and in my personal and humble opinion looks just as wrong.

The most obvious way to combat all of this is to remove the pre-cast metal base from the miniature. This can be quite troublesome though and isn't always possible due to the pose of the model, and in most cases leaves you with a weakened model that will more than likely need to be pinned to its base. This especially the case with models in a running pose where only one foot is in contact with the ground.

The new Fantascape historical base range includes two recessed infantry bases which are designed to be used with your metal miniatures to combat the height problem. There is a third infantry base which has no recess and is intended for use with plastic miniatures which have no pre-cast base so you can mix and match your metals and plastics and maintain a uniformity across the army without the metals towering over the plastics on their own little personal hillocks.

The 3 infantry base designs
You can see from the picture above that the recesses are quite shallow (only about 1mm). There's a reason for that...some miniatures have very shallow pre-cast bases and its much easier to make a thicker base thinner than it is to make a thin one thicker, and of course if I made the recess any deeper then they would become almost uncastable. On the subject of thickness, the new bases are very thin at 2mm.

So, on to how to get the most from these recessed bases. After you've finished the basic clean-up on your model lay a sheet of fairly coarse sandpaper on your desk/tabletop. Much like tidying up the underside of the base as described at the top of this post the idea is to use a circular motion to steadily grind down the pre-cast base on the miniature without removing it completely. You're aiming to reduce the height of the pre-cast part so that it fits snuggly into the recess on the base and the top surface comes level with the flat surface of the base. 

Take the model and get a grip as close to the feet as possible without the possibility of grinding your finger ends off. Its important to get this grip as low down as possible as you can more easily apply some pressure and reduce the natural rocking motion of your hands which can create a curved surface on the underside of the model. Don't rotate your wrist....the circular motion should come from your shoulder and elbow.

Once you're happy with the depth of the pre-cast base, try a dry fit in to the recess on the base. Now that the pre-cast bit is thinner its a very easy job to trim it to fit the recess. Now put a couple of dabs of super glue on the underside of the model and stick it into the recess. Remember superglue sets instantly on resin so be sure you've got it in the right place. 

As you can see the model is now sitting perfectly on the base with the feet at the proper ground level and requires absolutely no pinning as the pre-cast base is still there to add stability.

Now you can decorate the base as you would any other model but without having to build a little hillock to hide the pre-cast part. In the past I've just used sand glued on with a 50/50 mix of PVA and water, but I recently started to use Vallejo's White Pumice Paste....its brilliant stuff and all you need to apply it is a nice flat, thin spatula tool. It can be applied very thinly with a bit of care and patience. 

Once you have it the way you want just use a finger to carefully wipe any excess paste from the edge of the base. 

There you have it. A beautifully and sturdily mounted model that won't look out of place next to your plastics or your vehicles.

Next to a 1/56th scale Sherman M4A3

Next to a Tiger I

The full range of bases will be released later this week on the Fantascape website:

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