A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Expansion #5, and a Question of Tubes

Well, I've paid my ransom money of £17.76 to Royal Mail (that's £9.76 for UK Value Added Tax on an item imported from outside the EU, plus an £8 "handling charge", for the privilege of having my parcel delayed for 2 days at a detention camp in Berkshire), and have now received the promised Expansion #5 for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - "Generals, Marshals & Tacticians" from GMT Games.

I haven't had a proper chance to check it all out yet. There is a reissue of the C&CN Command Cards pack (green backs instead of blue - some tidying up, plus a logical dovetailing with the new Tactician pack), plus the new, additional pack of Tactician Cards, the initial allocation of which at game start-up is based on the ability of the General. There is also a bunch of new scenarios, there are some new unit and terrain types, and there are sheets giving General Tactician ratings for all the past scenarios.

I have steered clear of the C&CN expansions prior to this point. Expansion #1 covered the Spanish Army, but by the time it appeared I had developed my own additional rules for the Spaniards, and I have stuck with them (they are very similar to GMT's, in fact). I have no miniatures for, or particular gaming interest in, Russia, Austria and Prussia, which were the subject matter of Expansions #2 through #4, but I have always thought the role of Leaders in the core game was a bit underwhelming, so I was keen to purchase this latest instalment.

Once again, the production standards are very high and GMT themselves are nice, organised people to deal with - the pre-publication (P500) price represents a good deal, even with the international shipping and RM's ransom demand, and I hope to get some decent value out of the extended rules - what GMT describe as "enhanced fun"!

I'll get the old reading specs on this evening, make some coffee and have a good study - with luck this should encourage me to get the table out for a game next week. Interesting now that I see the scope of what this expansion comprises - prior to this I had very little idea what it would be, so the reality is bound to be more restrictive than the unlimited scope of what it might have been (including all the things I never imagined, of course!).

Looks very good - I hope to say more about this sometime soon. I'm confident you'll find proper, informed reviews of the product all over the place, so I won't attempt anything of the sort, but the mere fact that I, who have scorned all the previous expansions, should have invested in this one is evidence of my devotion!

Separate topic - acrylic paints. When I first started painting again, maybe 12 years ago, after a lengthy sabbatical, with what to me were new-fangled acrylic paints, a friend talked me into using a starter set of acrylic artists colours, in tubes. It didn't go well - I had enough trouble just getting my eye in again with the brushes, and I couldn't get to grips with artists' paints at all - couldn't get the coverage I expected, had problems with mixing and the gloopy textures. I switched to pots of modellers' paints, and have continued thus, quite happily.

My paint collection must have reached a certain age - many of my pots are now turning into chewing gum, and there is a limit to how much reactivation you can do (not to mention the time and the hassle). A big blow during my recent Spanish Grenadiers effort was the demise of my beloved Revell Stahl silver (in a square pot) - it is now metallic chewing gum - visually spectacular but useless.

The time is coming when I'm going to have to replace quite a few of my paints. There is a local problem in that there is no shop selling Citadel or Foundry paints within 40 miles of here, and I don't like buying unfamiliar shades or makes online. There is a Hobbycraft store about 25 miles away, and they sell the DecoArt pots, including the rather excellent Americana series, but the stock is uncertain and there are often gaps on the shelves. None of this is insurmountable, but since I am in any case forced to review my paint preferences, I thought it was probably worth revisiting the topic of artists' acrylics. Again, a friend suggested that was the way to go, though he is not near enough (or supportive enough!) to talk me through this in detail.

So - the point of mentioning the subject - there are certainly a few art suppliers fairly close to here, so availability would be OK. Does anyone reading this have experience or opinions of (tubed) acrylic artists' colours for modelling? I hasten to add that I am not really interested in mixing my own colours, so would tend to use them straight from the tube. I feel it would be silly to overlook these if they would be useful, but even more silly if they were not going to be suitable for my rather childish painting style!

As is always the case with this humble blog, all advice and clues will be gratefully received!


  1. A flow aid of some sort, used sparingly, should help reduces the gooiness of colors straight from the tube and help even out coverage, especially if you use a white undercoat. There are various types available, from watery to more viscous. I suggest starting by examining the websites of the art supply stores near you, and possibly asking for some assistance once you are onsite although no everyone who works the floor in these places necessarily has a clue.

    Best Regards,


    1. Thanks Stokes - I appreciate this - do you use tube paints yourself? Certainly you get spectacular results with your own collections, so I am very interested how this works for you.

    2. I am amused by the reference to "websites of art stores near you" - in truth, the art stores near me are doing well if they have electric lighting, never mind a website!

      Cheers - Tony

    3. Hi Tony,

      I use a a lot of washes (almost) for my painting these days, a mix of oils (thinned with Liquin Original) and acrylics (thinned with FlowAid). Although, I should point out, that virtually no painting has taken place since we left our old house last June and moved into our temporary diggs. Just no space for aeven a temporary painting setup it turns out. With any luck at all, we'll be in our new place by Mid-December, and I'll be back in action during the Christmas Week. The new wargaming/den space is truly something to behold. My wife might never see me emerge from it once I am ensconced. -- Stokes

    4. The problem when you have a perfect environment is that you have to work harder to come up with presentable excuses...


  2. I really, really hope you get a positive answer about this, Tony, as there are some cracking artists colours out there. I despair of the Humbrol range sometimes, but cannot bring myself to pay the generally inflated prices charged for model acrylics.

    1. Hi Matt - are you using the Humbrol enamels? I have had some good results using Humbrol's acrylic railway colours, but this is a haphazard way of getting useful pots. I've eventually rejected the Tamiya paints - I have a few pots, but the smell suggests that the solvent is not quite water, the paint goes "off" on the brush within seconds, and it is tricky to get even coverage. The square Revell pots are good, but their shelf life is disappointing. The Citadel paints have changed names (and the new ones are frequently even more stupid/less helpful than the old ones) and I don't really like the silly flip-top pots. Foundry are a mystery to me - everything is sold in multiple shades to facilitate highlighting etc, and for me this all involves expensive online purchases. I have some Vallejo bottles, which I quite like, but I have to buy them online. DecoArt paints are useful - I like them better as time goes on, though the metallics are poor - I can get those at a craft shop at Musselburgh, which is nearer than Edinburgh. The craft shop, of course, can advise me on embroidery thread or jewellery beads, but know nothing about paints. For scenery and buildings I am well placed, since I use sample tins of household wall paints, and we have a colour-matching service in the village hardware store.

      It is a common experience for me to make a train trip into Edinburgh, and spend ages staring (in very poor artificial light) at racks of unknown paint colours in Wonderland or similar, trying to match a plastic cap with what I think was the shade I was looking for. I have had such bad results that my confidence in this process has collapsed, and as often as not I go home with a pot of black or white and nothing else. I have a fine selection of unopened dark reds and dark blues from Tamiya and similar, which I disliked when I got them home!

      A sensible arrangement with an art shop which sold paints which were not called Snot Green or Bubonic Brown would be a good thing, I think. As a side issue, I don't think that the Citadel/GW naming standards have done a great deal to improve the dignity of my hobby with my wife or friends!

  3. Cor, you're tap dancing in a mine field with the paint thing. I use all sorts, mainly because I'm a bit of a paint slut. I tend to favour Vallejo, supplemented by craft paints (Americana seem to be the best round here, but Deco-Art are most commonly available) and the inevitable artist acrylics. The paints aimed at the modelling/wargaming market are expensive to eye watering by anybody's standards, the craft paints cheap (though not always cheerful), with the 'artists' paint probably best value. If you're set on artist's paint, than go for 'flow formula' or 'soft body' or whatever. These are the paints which will suit as the 'heavy body' stuff is for impasto work. You'll probably find W&N Galleria paints most readily available and they are pretty damn' good, but I think you'll also need a bottle of their 'Flow Improver', which does exactly whatit says. You can sub this with a solution of washing up liquid and water, but who wants to pig around with that?

    Having said all that, you're obviously going to select the 'colour' and not thte gimmicky name, but remember that colour charts (actual and online) are notoriously 'approximate'. Also, as with all paints, reds and yellows are absolute bastards or, put another way, have very variable opacity.

    Oh yeah, that £8 charge from the Post Office is just downright robbery. I weep at paying the HMC&R charges, but eight quid for the Post Office to do almost nothing raises my blood pressure by quite a bit.

    1. Thanks Gary - that's useful. The art shop in the village stocks Galeria, I think. I observe that I have a bottle of flow enhancer on the painting desk, so I guess I have been round some of this logic before - or was it someone else? what is for tea, anyway?

      I'll have a quick chat with the guy in the art shop. To set the context here, the art shop was a seaside souvenirs shop until about two years ago, it often has "back in a few minutes" stuck on the door at odd times in the day, I seldom see the same member of staff twice (they are usually a friend or relative covering for the owner, who can't come in today) and the availability of knowledgeable advice is very variable as a result.

      I have a pressing need for some paint of a shade which I can only describe as Manchester City (apologies if that grates) - maybe I should get myself a tube as a loss-leader experiment...

      The £8 handling charge must pay for the existence of a department which would not have job if international trade were just banned - for my £8 I had a handwritten postcard delivered (no stamp) with a reference number. I paid online (I haven't charged them for my time at all, as it happens) and presumably a computer somewhere had to note that this item could now be delivered, and someone will have put it in a sack. Seems like good value to me.

  4. I painted pretty well exclusively with a smal selection of basic artist acrylics for years, largely Liquitex. At the time I painted largely by washes and glazes over a white undercoat and mixed most of my colours.

    The only reason I switched to cheap craft acrylics was a shortage of funds but I've adapted and have been happily using them exclusively for 20 years now. For some reason the Ceramcoat brand which is the best and most consistent is no longer carried by anyone here so I've had to adapt to the wierd colour of the month varieties that I can find near here. Over washes hide a multitude of sins but most of my painting these days are solid colour glossy toy style. Takes 2 coats to get a solid colour but they look good to me when done.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thanks Ross - you did post it, and it was very useful!

  6. Interesting post.. Any reason why you can't get your replacement Foundry/Citadel paints via mail order?? PO has now backed down on not sending paint by post.. I think... not sure now! Either way, like Gary I'm a huge fan of the Vallejo paints, good coverage and I like the stopper style bottles.. I've never had much success with tubes, I always thought the opacity was a little thin, and I have enough trouble getting one coat "between the lines" never mind two or, God forbid, three! :o)

    1. Hi Steve - thanks for pitching in! - I can get Citadel and Foundry online - more difficult if I need a new shade - as I said, I've problems buying anything unfamiliar online - I must have wasted enough money over the last 10 years on bad paint choices to - to - to have paid for more professional painting - yes, that's it! For Citadel, even with my new name/old name translation chart at hand, I can't get round the fact that the awkward, self shutting(!) flip tops make them even worse value for money than they used to be. There is also a practical issue with the new tops - they are less airtight than the old polygonal jars - on average I use about half a pot before it goes hard. Foundry I don't know the range well enough, so too uncertain (and very expensive). I'm currently working my way through my old paints, but as they go off I become increasingly aware that I need to review my "game plan" for paints - not to change it, necessarily, but at the very least to check that it still serves its purpose, given the inflationary price progression.

      I'm off to the village now - if I survive the rain, and if the right guy is in the art supplier shop, I might come back with a tube of something. Or not.

      Faites vos jeux, messieurdames.

  7. Very informative post. I am off to check both C&C#5 and DecoArt/Americana paints immediately, probably in that order because the latter would involve going outside.

    If I can play devil's advocate on behalf of the Post Office, the cost to them of whatever they do in collecting VAT is in no way proportional to the amount they are collecting so it's always going to seem higher for relatively low value items. And they can't be blamed at all for any bans on sending paint by post as, despite their name, they don't run the postal service. That's the Royal Mail.

  8. Just as I pressed publish I realised that my previous comment was inarticulate even by my standards, having put Post Office where I meant Royal Mail before going on to explain the difference between the two. It's old age.

    Anyway, having looked at C&C#5 I shall definitely be buying copy myself, although I suspect I shall wait until it arrives in the shops here.

  9. Thanks to everyone for very helpful paint discussion. I duly turned up at the village art shop and found they had plentiful tubes of artists' acrylics. Most of them were by Daler (which I think is Rowney? - Cryla paints, anyway) and they were almost all thick textured, so I swerved those, on the advice of Uncle Gary. There was a smaller stock of Galeria, which looked more promising, except that it was clear that if I wanted Manchester City Blue I would have to mix my own (thinks: a full battalion of soldiers with Man C facings will require 5 or 6 sittings with light blue paint - the chances of my getting the same shade twice - maybe even once? - are so slight that I don't fancy it - and please don't anyone point out how awesomely authentic it would be to have different colours in the one unit).

    So I spoke to the very posh lady who was in charge. Hilarious. She was so entranced with the idea of being left to look after an ART SHOP for the afternoon that she could hardly condescend to speak to the customers. She obviously knew very little about the matter, although she might have had a rudimentary understanding of how to work the credit card machine. She concealed this behind a pretence that she only ever used oils herself, and by implication anything else was not worthy of attention. I was not offended by the experience, but after a few minutes I left her (politely) to enjoy her art shop in peace.

    You can imagine the sort of retired ladies who join the local art club in a well-to-do seaside resort - I think this might just have been one. Quite entertaining, to be honest. I wonder what the owner does all day? I doubt that he spends much of it banking the takings. Maybe it will be a gift shop again by next Summer.

    When I got home I ordered 4 pots of Vallejo paint online from a supplier in Manchester (appropriately) - 1 each of light blue, silver and gold, and 1 to replace the old Citadel "Dwarves Flesh" (punctuation?), of which I have about 4 dried-up pots. I'll think about tubes sometime again in the future - I'll stick it in my diary for - ooh - 2025.

    Short word on DecoArt - I only started using these a couple of years ago. They are available in various hardware stores, and the UK chain Hobbycraft stock them, as discussed. They produce various ranges - the most common is the Crafter series, which are OK - fairly basic budget paint, and some of the shades are a bit lumpy. They also do gloss paints, metallics, chalky ones and all sorts - the best are the slightly more expensive Americana series - better shades and (I suspect) rather better quality pigments. My Spanish army is currently consuming rather a lot of the Americana Titanium White - no problems at all.

    1. This has all the makings of a Wodehouse story. . . Or an episode of Midsommer Murders! -- Stokes

  10. Du Gourmand and I haven't had a chance to try Expansion 5 yet, but I have high hopes. There are also tantalising references to a forthcoming Big Battle expansion.

    1. It looks good - there's also some new terrain rules for fortified areas and walled gardens etc which look useful.

      Ah yes - the Big Battle - I'm looking forward to that one as well. Being a sad, pernickety soul, I am saddened to see that this expansion is officially titled "La Grande Battle", which is out of the same Americans-have-big-problems-with-people-who-speak-foreign bucket as, for example, the "La Grande Manoeuver" Command Card from the same game. Franglais Etranglé. No amount of reciting the full first names of French generals at every opportunity can make up for this notable shortfall.

      I was interested to note that there is a sort of place marker in the Exp#5 rules, in which they make reference to some wording on the Tactician cards which will have more significance following some future expansion - intriguing, eh? So future expansions will not just be the Turkish army etc etc.

  11. I'm quite interested in your thoughts on CCN 5. I have it in my sights but haven't pulled the trigger on it yet. Perhaps as Christmas present to myself. How sad is that?
    I have no experience with acrylics in a tube. I favour Americana and Hobbycraft acrylics for a lot of my own painting, with good results. My suspicion of the stuff in tubes is that it is quite thick and would need thinning.
    Let us know how you get on.

  12. Artists acrylics can be used successfully to paint minis as long as we recoginze the following basic issues:

    1) Artists paints generally have the wrong consistency to be used directly. They are toothpaste-like where we need liquid-like. So we need to thin them. But they do not always have the pigment density to support thinning and can easily become transparent when thinned, even when they are by nature opaque.

    2) Artists paints are meant to be applied to large canvases using multiple passes. Therefore opacity is not a primary concern when formulating them. For minis but, transparency is a serious pain in the a**** especially for people who black-base or who work "outwards", splashing on the first colours then defining shapes and areas by overpainting.

    3) Artists paints come in colours defined by nature and by chemistry rather than by military history. You will probably not be surprised to learn that when Leonardo painted Mona Lisa, his palette did not include Fieldgrau, RAF Blue or Battleship Grey. Instead he used "raw sienna", "burnt umber" and such like. None of these artists shades can be used directly on historical military minatures.

    These three problems must be solved to be effective. Generally the solution involves:

    1) Buying the best quality artist paints. Golden, Winsor and Newton etc. El-cheapo craft paints don't have the pigment density to be successfully thinned and are generally less opaque than their more expensive equivalents. Also make sure you have plenty of titanum white - the standard opaque mixing white - which will make all other colours more opaque and less intense.

    2) Learning to thin paint so that it is the correct consistency. Google the "Jen Halley" formula for thinner and practice so that you get the paint thin enough to brush on but not so thin as to become transparent.

    3) Aside from simple tasks like painting brown earth or green grass, you will need some colour mixing theory to get anything useable for historical minis. Of course for sci-fi etc you can just goferit, but if you want British Khaki, German Dunkelgelb or US Olive Drab (or even a passable Roman Imperial Legionary Red) you are going to have to mix them yourself. It's not rocket science, but it does require some reading and a lot of practice.

    1. Thank you for the very detailed note.

      The more I think about this, the more the whole subject of using artists' tube acrylics for miniatures sounds like just the sort of pain in the a*** you mention.

      I have to face up to simply not being worthy - the explanation I got from the hero in the local art shop was loaded with such a high level of condescension that I had already decided that I'd rather avoid a repeat. Mentioning in an artists suppliers that I paint model soldiers for wargaming invariably generates contempt - one such dealer (in Dunbar - now gone bust...) merely asked why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing, and the discussion didn't go well when I replied that I needed a hobby now that I had got rid of my art shop.

      Regards - many thanks - MSF