Thursday, 16 May 2013

I Say Carruthers! - Black Powder Victorian Science Fiction

After a long search through Victorian Science Fiction Rules I gave up trying to find a battlegame set, as opposed to an RPG/Skirmish game, so I bought Warlord's  Black Powder rules which cover the end of the 19th century up to the development of industrial warfare - marked by the deployment of the Maxim gun.

I decided to use 1/72 models because they are cheap and there is a huge variety available. Also 1/72 plastic toy soldiers are a nostalgic memory of my youth. The size of the figures 20-25mm is a decent one for a battlegame being large enough for detail but small enough to get a sense of blocks of troops.

I use the 4 infantry to a 40mm square base, or two cavalry on a 50mm square base, as suggested in the rules for 28ml miniatures, because 1/72 does require a similar amount of room on the base. However, I use units with half the number of bases compared to Rick and friends. They play on massive tables with huge collections and I, well, don't.

Number of bases in unit sizes are as follows:
Large 6,  Standard 4, Small 2, Tiny 1.
Large 4, Standard 3, Small 2, Tiny 1

The one thing you have to do is to reduce ranges for movement and firing. Changing inches to cm is an easy ploy.

Four bases for a standard infantry unit works well because it is easy to indicate formations such as line, square, column and march. The equivalent cavalry reduction is to three bases. Leaders are on round bases.

Taking a break from Titan building I have painted and based a British desert brigade as might be encountered in the Sudan or on Mars. We have two units of Guard camel riders, two units of Indian infantry, a unit African scouts and a brigade commander. With Black Powder it is not that important what a 'unit' or 'brigade' actually represents. This fits colonial warfare well as units were never as listed on the muster.

Soft (polyethylene) plastic figures can be a bit challenging to model so I thought I would put up the JTS recipe.

1. Take out of box and drop sprues in a container of a strongish detergent solution. Leave there until ready to paint but at least for 24 hours.
2. Dry and cut parts of sprue with a sharp scalpel. Ignore seam marks, they can be painted out later but cut off flash with a sharp blade. Never try to file or sand the figures.
3. Assemble any bits using Loctite All Plastic Super Glue. This pack includes a stick which 'prepares' polyethylene surfaces such that they can be stuck with any superglue. Use same to stick miniatures to a base.
4. Spray with a good quality undercoat. Use two or three coats as necessary until the figure is properly sealed.
5. Block paint with lighter colours than you intend to have in the finished model. Leave to dry thoroughly, usually 24 hours.
6. Apply Army Painter Toned varnish gently with a soft brush until the figure is sealed in and stiffened.
7. If you wish, apply a light matt varnish spray to take off the shine. Personally I like 1/72 plastic toy soldiers to shine but it's not to everyone's taste.
8. Disguise the base with some sort of paste and vegetation. I used Citadel products here but that could be expensive in the long term so I may make my own.


  1. yes i agree with number 8.I like the citadel basing textures,but can get expensive.i was wondering if it can be made? Nice Figs!

    1. I have seen people make mud 'paste' with paint and something solid. Must have a go.

  2. They look really good. I have to say I have a soft spot for Victorian Sci Fi. It has all the 'pulp fiction' elements I love from years of reading this sort of stuff in my younger days (and now, if truth be told).

    1. I love pulp VSF so much I now write the stuff.

  3. Excellent summary of how to model and use the 1/72 models for VSF. Many thanks.

    1. One further tip.
      Stiffen spears, gun barrels ets with superglue before painting.