Here’s the first batch of Texian Volunteer cavalry. You can see that the “top hats” from the Spanish Guerilla set are perfect. Big and distinct, and easy to grip with my jittery-fat-fingers. I used a drop of Super Glue on the body, and I dipped the head into a small puddle of INSTA-SET (which I’ve found at both local hobby shops as well as game stores). Hold the head in place for the count of ‘five’ and it is set. Seems to hold permanently, as I’ve yet to have a transplanted head come off from handling/ gaming. I’ve added some cactus from the Pegasus models terrain set (a great addition for any desert gaming, as the box has every variety of south western desert cactus I’ve ever seen, both large and small). I’ve used this on some of my Mexican infantry stands and it adds a lot of flavor.

You’ll notice I based my cavalry one figure to a stand, mostly for ease of painting, but also for skirmish gaming. It’s easier to group them together as a unit when necessary, particularly b/c cavalry units in this period are pretty small. At five-to-one scale you can put six to ten cavalry figures together and call it a squadron, and that’s a large turn out for any of the battles of this period. Sure, the Mexicans did mass more cavalry as a whole, but they were so spread out as skirmishers and reconnaissance, having a few figures goes a long way. Currently I’m planning to make about ten Texian mounted figures, including a couple of them as leaders, since Sam Houstan famously got shot off a couple horses at San Jacinto (so I know he was mounted at least).

Ideally I would like to represent Juan Seguin and his Tejano cavalry (about 30 men total, or six figures), but I’m not sure what cavalry figures to use as a starting point. They most likely had serapes like Mexican civilians, so that’ll have to wait I guess.

Okay, so putting the Road Warrior aside for now (for finished pictures of games go to and search for Trialbyfiregames) I’m revisiting a period that I’ve enjoyed a lot: the war of Texan Independence, Alamo, etc. I got into this period using plastic HO scale figures b/c they are inexpensive, but look great. I found an article online that suggested that if you prime them in model-quality spray paint (such as Model Master’s Flat Black) they will not lose any detail, but the paint will also not flake off them (both true!). After playing with my army some I found that bayonets would lose paint and I began finishing my figures using Liquitex Matte Varnish (brushed on) to seal the paint. After that the plastic figures are as tough — or tougher — than metal figures.

Anyhow, the new project is to create mounted Texian volunteers (yes, “Texian”, this is how they were referred to back in the day). Also, I am planning to make Mexican Presidial troopers. Both these VERY common troop types are not yet available in plastics, so I’m going to make some of my own. To start with I got Civil War cavalry as the base, and both the new Imex American Infantry and HaT’s Spanish Guerillas for heads. I also got another set of the Texan infantry for heads, but didn’t need them as much. While the Civil War cavalry have mostly shell jackets, I’m hoping that if I paint them in civilian colors, or as vests and shirts, they will still work fine as Texan Militia. As U.S. Army Dragoons (another spoke in the wheel of conversion that I’m planning) they are ideal. The same uniform, except w/o the riding boots. Hopefully when this is done I can do the battle of San Pasqual, which is THE local battlefield out here in San Diego.

The American Infantry cap is perfect on the Imex figures and the heads are easily chopped off with an Xacto. Same for the “top hats” in the HaT set. They came with some badges and plumes on them, but those were easily cut off.

The whole table for the RW playtest

I just wanted to include this shot b/c it allows me to talk a bit about using your gaming space. The two roads are not meant to be parallel, but are two lengths of the same road, the top road in the picture leading to the bottom road. There is a crease in the felt table-cloth (invisible in this picture) that was the dividing line. The objective is the the town of shanties and tire walls at the end of the bottom road.

Actually, the first scenario we did had the cars going along each road to “encounter points” that generated encounters using playing cards (a black card = a road block; a face card an ambush by raiders; etc), and the survivalists were on the road until they encountered a safe town in which to trade and find a haven. It worked surprisingly well with a little suspension of disbelief, and a lot of moving of terrain as a bridge spanning a rocky gorge appeared and disappeared as the protagonists traveled down the road. That is a great feature of setting this in the desert b/c there is so little distinctive terrain to lay out or pick up. A few cacti and tumble weeds flesh out the desert, and when a rocky outcropping appears it’s quickly laid out, or picked up. This is as opposed to doing a road-trip scenario in Germany with forests giving way to farmland, industrial centers to theme parks. Each of those would be one scenario in itself!

Oh, a quick note on the car wrecks along the highway. If you want to work off some frustration by just breaking some stuff and having it serve your needs, buy some hotwheelz or matchbox cars and squash them in a vice, and whack them with a ballpeen hammer! Great fun, and you can get some really authentic looking automobile wrecks from them. Oh, and don’t be squeamish, when they say “die cast metal” they are NOT messing around. They are hard to hammer into! To finish, dash them with a dusting of black spray paint for fire-scorch marks, and a layer of Flat Varnish to take the new-car shine off the toy cars.

The Escort Car holding off the bikers

You can see the escort car, a modified Hotwheelz Dune buggy, trying to hold off the bikers shooting the gap between the buggy and the roadblock. Three bikes ultimately made it by, but you can see the cop sidecar (Stan Johanson figures) down, and the biker on the yellow chopper sliding out of control.

By the way, the buggy wind-shield cage was scratch built using plastic sheeting used for Yarn needle-point (it’s labeled “Darce number 7″ if that means anything to anyone out there…), but you can get a 12″ by 14” sheet for 69 cents at Joannes and Michaels type arts & crafts stores. I’ve done some pretty good chain-link fences using that stuff too by the way.

The Desert Road, long view

This pic shows a longer shot of the road, and you can see the burning roadblock set up to channel the escaping survivalists. This worked against the raiders, though, as the escort car backed its way to block the only open piece of road, leaving a gap only big enough for a motorcycle.

Desert Road, closer view

This is from a playtest of the first Road Warrior scenario I’ve been working on. You can see the roads have their traffic lines but no flocking yet.

The scenario is a survivalist convoy returning along the highway and being ambushed by a gang of raiders laying in wait. The raiders are delayed moving over the desert, giving the survivalists on the highway a head start. As I had just finished some motorcycles you can see that the raiders are bike-heavy. Not a great choice for an attack vehicle, but the best way to make up ground on an opponent with a head start. At the end of the scenario when my raiders had finally passed the escort car (with a pair of MGs on the hood), only three motorcycles challenged the survivalist van on the last leg of its escape.

Yet More Shanty buildings.

These buildings are more examples of how I painted the Shanty town. One thing I’ll add about a painting project like this is that I prefer to build and paint everything more or less at once, b/c it lends a symmetry to the look of the town when you lay it out for a game. That may sound ridiculous when you’re talking about a town of random shanties, but if all the buildings are painted with the same theme — same paint schemes and colors, and the same washes — thenĀ  they look like they belong together and they don’t distract from the figures fighting amongst them. After all, the figures are where we put the majority of our efforts, and we want our terrain to accentuate them, not take our eyes off them.

Let me also put in a “shout out” for the game FALLOUT 3, which is the most visually inspiring resource for post-apocalyptic ideas I’ve ever seen. One of the next projects I hope to tackle is a collapsed freeway overpass. There are some stunners in the game, and they seem like they’d be fairly easy to replicate… we’ll see.