From Troops to Nuts!

When I finally picked Nuts! as my rule set for Skirmish Wargaming, I had to decide on a theater and scale. I thought that the Brits and Germans in France ’40 would be out of the ordinary and hearkened back to how our original HO and Microarmor collections got started with the early years of World War II in the early 1970s.

Still having a large 6mm collection, I momentarily considered using them. Then I snapped out of it, realizing they would be just too fiddly on single bases. Currently my 6mm and mostly based in pairs as platoons or companies for CD or GB respectively. Then I decided to go with a scale where there was a wide variety of products to choose from: 15mm, 1:72 (approx. 25mm) or 28mm.

For Skirmish, my goal was to give the troops with personality and customizability. Initialy I was really impressed with Perry Miniatures‘ 28mm due to the excellence of the molds and while their lead are as pricey as one might expect, they have two sets of Afrika Korps & Desert Rats troops in plastic that are reasonably priced. They have lots of head gear that will help provide some variety of look for troop moulds that are otherwise identical (plus different weapons and adjustable arms). They also have a wide variety of Commonwealth heads with Turbans, French Foreign Legion etc.

I was really impressed with the “Archduke” Rafa, the Spanish guy who painted up many the Perry website’s samples.Here are some of his masterpieces with chipped paint on helmets, nice shading and unique touches.

desert-rats_byArchdukeRafaInSpain
British “Desert Rats”
afrika-korps3_by_ArchdukeRafaInSpain
Afrika Korps
ffl-1_FrenchForeignLegion_byArchdukeRafaInSpainPerryMinis
French Foreign Legion

Unfortunately, when I contacted Rafa, he was no longer taking commissions from new customers. Maybe he will again if you inquire. So, I felt that my limited skills at painting might take these beautiful sculptures and convert them to tawdry junk. Like taking Greek statues and dressing them in Bozo the clown outfits.

And then there was my realization that as much as I liked the Perry quality, with its lack of terrain maybe North Africa is not a very good skirmish campaign topic! Perry does have lead miniatures in other theaters but another big issue for me was the big cost for the vehicles. One doesn’t need a lot of vehicles perhaps but the cost of each one in 28mm is shockingly high.

So I considered Plastic Soldier Company in 15mm but felt that their smaller troops were a bit too generic. Though maybe I didn’t look at enough companies in 15mm. On balance I felt that the 1:72 scale has a huge number of choices and I could tolerate my painting “skill” in that size.

This would be a good time to mention the vast difference in sizes within the same scale and sculpting technique. There seems to be two main styles to sculpting: animated bears (stocky) and sedate Greek statues. I didn’t like the stocky approach and really didn’t like the “comic book” animation. Zvezda (a Russian plastic producer) was almost a bit too sedate for my taste but there was not much in between to suit me. After having worked with them and painted just under a 100 Zvezda and Plastic Soldier Company models, I have to say that Zvezda’s separate base approach means that you have a numbe rof repairs to do—or I just was using the wrong glue—and the near total lack of folds in the paints and jackets meant that I had to paint on shading.

By comparison Plastic Soldier Company has “exaggerated detail” for folds and straps that make it easier to develop shading with washes and dry brush. I also like how their plastic is less bendable than Zvezda but not brittle hard like some plastic models I have worked with. Zvezda are beautiful but are “Watusi ” tall compared to PSC. Well some people are taller than others.

If you can live with the lack of heft and delicate guns and arms of Plastic Soldiers, there is a great review website that reviews the enormous variety available. You may find another company that suits your taste better.

On balance, I probably should have just bought about 20 figures on each side and painted them up. Then I wouldn’t be so committed and could switch to another company after having the experience of what I liked and didn’t like. But my “production line” thinking kicked and I thought about “What if I want to play Nuts! on a platoon per side level? And need some variety?”

So after all the planning and deciding, here are the France ’40 Brits.

NutsBritishTroopsFrance40IMG_1801
The different colored rubble brick is to indicate which squad/company they are from. A little feature: being that the Bren and German MG gunners are on steel washers, the loaders have magnets that allow them to be added or pulled off. The Plastic Soldier Co. Brits have (admittedly later)camouflaged helmes and the Zevezda Brits at front have the helmets with camo nets.
GermanTroopsFrance40
About 60 Germans on Skirmish bases and will make magnetic sabots that allow them be used for CD also in pairs. Just need to “deslick” them with Dullcote and I am going to try spraying a few with Plasti-Dip to protect their delicate guns and arms. Curious to see if it bulks them up too much.

I really like the aquarium gravel for the bases since it hides the figures base while increasing the tenuous hold that the Zvezda Germans have. I had to look through numerous pet shops (including a lot of neon colors) before I found a place that was selling it au naturel in however many 100-gram dollops you wanted.

I finally sprayed on about 4 light coats of Plasti Dip Rubber Coating (matte clear). I was concerned that it might turn glossy, gummy or bulky. And overall it was fine. The goal was to encapsulate the Germans’ paint jobs particularly so that even if the guns flexed the paint might be “encased” and not flake off easily.

So far so good but limited combat action so far… just some “maneuvers”. I was concerned that it might ruin particularly the flocking, gravel or the scrub grass. And the only bit of detail that got “ruined” was the scrub grass. It turned kind of whitish on the tips. But on the other hand the grass is bulkier now whereas before spraying it was so fine as to be wimpy wisps. So I may go back and and some paint to change some of the white… like tan for dried or green for fresher grass. That variety will add a bit of subtlety.

One of the things I have learned is to be sure to add a lot of little details (dabs for buckles) even if they aren’t strictly accurate. Really duller and less contrast would be probably be more accurate. The eye seems hone in on details and these bits of color really finish the look.

Part of my France ’40 project was to buy a Plastic Soldier kit that has 3 hulls & can make 3 types of vehicles: Pz38t, Marder 139 & Marder 138 Ausf H with the varying superstructures.

So being thrifty, I wondered whether i could just make 9 superstructures to drop on to the 3 hulls as need be. The answer to that was almost:

A. Need to trim the back corners of each superstructure so it would drop in behind the back plate of armor. Can’t see the missing bits.

B. The Marder 138 uses the same engine deck as the base model tank but because it’s mostly covered up by the added U-shaped basket, I accomplished that with a piece of sheet styrene. The whole assembly is a bit weak in the middle but I think it will survive.

A key step for each type’s superstructure was to use the hull as a jig to carefully glue the bits together and make sure that the glue did not drip down. Then lift it up carefully before completely dried to see if it was holding together or had become all glued together with the hull–and needed to be pried apart. All patients survived.

There’s a guy who has done a nice job of documenting the build process (albeit as 3 separate models), here.

He mentions how the instructions are missing key bits that you have to figure out. For some of those it helps to check the color code for the type. And I suggest Google images for the position of the basket in the back of the Marder 139.

The only problem is that the Panzer grey of the 38t of early war is less common by the time the Marders come along. So paint scheme is the irresolvable glitch but c’est la guerre. I have never seen a gamer turn down a badly painted tank saying “Send it back, I will not have such ahistoricity in my command!”

So here are the results:

 

Pz38tVersionsForWeb_IMG_2088

I got a few paper terrain buildings to see if I could make them up. One thing after another. Sort of like the children’s book Give a Mouse a Cookie.


In January 2017, I finally got the chance to try out Nuts! by THW and we liked them. The rules are quite different than the average miniature game but I think they are worth learning the unique approach. John Holtx used to say give a set a rules 3 chances before you give up on them.

Jeff Glasco had recommended Nuts! and has posted some game reports at his blog Gentlemanly Wargaming.

 

 

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