Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Paper Romans in Germania, Part III

Romans trimmed, scored,
and ready for glue.
I’m still sending my paper Romans into the wilds of Germania on the wargaming table...and I’m still printing, pasting, trimming, and prepping additional forces from the Peter Dennis’ Wargame: The Roman Invasion, AD 43-84 (for imperial Romans) and his Peter’s Paperboys website (for Germanic tribesmen). I’m also considering various ways to play a campaign, though that’s fodder for another article. But since I’m back to making more paper soldiers I thought I’d offer some insight into how I construct and store these wonderfully rendered armies.

My current method evolved from past experience dabbling with other paper soldier periods Dennis provides, specifically his figure books for the American War of Independence (AWI) and American Civil War (ACW). I bought the latter shortly after its release thinking I might shrink the figures to 15mm scale or, ideally, 10mm to go with some similarly sized, pre-painted plastic figures I’d acquired (the manufacture having since vanished). Alas, my earliest dabblings proved 10mm scale paper figures were way too small to manipulate for gluing, scoring, and cutting, with most of Dennis’ excellent artwork reduced nearly beyond recognition. I later returned to the AWI period and found Wargame: The American Revolutionary War (Battle in America) an excellent resource for quickly assembling armies at the 25-28mm scale. Creating forces for this set gave me some experience in what to do and what not to do. Guidance from Peter Dennis’ excellent tips provided in the video and other bits on his Peter’s Paperboys website further improved my technique.

Supplies and legionary
print-out ready for assembly.
Supplies: Having all the tools and other supplies on hand helps speed the process. I have a good metal straight edge, a cutting board, several sharp craft or utility knives, and scissors. My earliest efforts relied on white glue for sticking the figure ranks together, but I’ve since taken Dennis’ advice and purchased a tube of Uhu All Purpose Adhesive. I’d found water-based white glue warped flats before cutting, with Uhu providing a solid bond and just as much structural support. A roll of one-inch thick magnetic tape serves as a slightly weighted base with practical storage potential. A sepia-toned brush marker helps touch up cut edges. I keep a large jar of Mod Podge, which is water-based, as a final coating to protect finished stands of soldiers.

Copying: I have a few different weights of “cover sheet” stock, most of which prove sturdy enough given later reinforcement with glue. I’ve tried printing out sheets of paper soldiers using both a color laser printer and color inkjet printer. I find the inkjet printer provides deeper color; the laser-printed sheets sometimes shed their toner, particularly if slightly bending soldiers during trimming. Dennis’ size recommendation for American letter-sized paper is spot-on; copying or printing them at 93% ensures everything on the book page fits on the printed page. This provides good-looking stands of figures approximating the 25-28mm range.

Careful cuts.
Glue & Cut: Dennis recommends coating the backs of spears and other weapons sticking up from units with a bit of glue on the back before putting the ranks together; this was another place where Uhu worked better, providing a more flexible reinforcement than white glue, which got brittle during the later cutting stages. I use a sharp craft knife and straight edge to trim rank blocks and score the fold lines, then glue everyone. Cutting remains the most painstaking task, especially with fiddly bows and spears poking up from figures. On more than one occasion I’ve lost a Roman pila or German spear with careless cuts. Once again Dennis’ video and other tips offer guidance in the cutting process.

Front rank inked edges,
back rank white cut edges.
Finishing Touches: I take a few final steps in finishing my paper soldiers. I take a brush marker and carefully go over all the cut edges so the white paper doesn’t stand out. I’d tried various tones of gray, which didn’t cover as nicely, but settled on a sepia-tone brush marker I had around for other art projects. The darker tone covers the white and blends nicely with the artwork. For basing I also have a roll of one-inch thick magnetic tape (available at most craft store or online), unrolled and tucked under the cutting board to flatten out the curve. I mount each stand on this (with some added glue to bolster the tape adhesive), then trim it to fit. Units with three ranks of soldiers just fit if carefully centered on the tape’s width of 25mm, with the length trimming at about 40mm; specialty units get custom bases and leaders go on 25mm circles. Most of the rules I use call for leaders as separate pieces, so I don’t mount single commanders on unit bases, though I’ll paste a command group on one locator strip in three. This enables me to use my paperboys for the two systems I enjoy: one or two stands per unit using Bob Cordery’s The Portable Wargame rules and three stands per unit (including one with a command group) when using Neil Thomas’ One-Hour Wargame rules. Finally each stand gets a coating of matte Mod Podge applied with a long plastic palette knife. This applies a thick coat to the soldiers and protruding weapons which, when fully dried, deepens some of the colors and gives them a bit of a plastic coated protection (and if the water-based Mod Podge slightly warps the ranks I can gently bend them back into shape without damaging the colors).

We've been slimed!
(with a protective coat of Mod Podge)
Storage: The magnetic tape bases serve two purposes: to add weight to each stand so they don’t fall over maneuvering around the battlefield; and to provide a method of orderly, protected storage. Given that these are “just” paper figures, some folks might simply throw their armies into a box. Having put a great deal of time and effort into constructing my paper soldiers, I take precautions to make them last. Aside from avoiding the inevitable tangle of protruding weapons, I like to have everyone in tidy ranks so I can quickly muster my opposing forces from the diverse selection of troop types. I have several plastic bins 12 inches on a side and deep enough for most stands (craft store containers for scrapbooking paper); flat metal strapping – suitably spaced and glued to the bottom of the bin – holds the magnetic bases in place. Right now I have one box for my AWI figures and one for the ancients, though I expect I’ll really need one box for each opposing force in those conflicts as I construct more units.

Ranks of tribesmen and Romans in storage.
So far I have respectably sized armies for Romans against Germanic tribesmen and the American War of Independence for use with The Portable Wargame; I really could use more for One-Hour Wargames, which call for a larger frontage for each unit (not being tided to a grid). After some experience my assembly process moves more smoothly. Once I get in a rhythm of cutting the process becomes almost therapeutic, much like painting miniatures; however I can produce more ranks of paper figures than I can painted minis in the same span of time and for far less money. Some might argue paper miniatures are no match for traditional minis, especially on how they look on the wargaming table. They’re certainly far more cost effective and less time consuming than three-dimensional minis, without the fuss of figuring out uniform color schemes and painting complex details (a factor I appreciate with the intricate designs with which Dennis adorns both his Roman and Germanic shields).

I expect I’ll continue constructing Roman and Germanic units as I explore the gaming possibilities in this period. My AWI armies could use some reinforcements; right now I have enough to play out my favorite Battle of Ridgefield scenario with The Portable Wargame, though I would like to try it with the One-Hour Wargames rules with a few more units. I expect my next project with paper minis will delve into the ACW period, for which I expect I’ll need a host of varied units. Other books in Dennis’ series have tempted me – and the Peter’s Paperboys website offers a diverse menu of additions to existing periods and new ones – but for now I have more than enough to keep me busy.

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