Saturday, January 11, 2014

28mm Battletech Modeling- Basing Your Miniatures

Basing miniatures goes hand-in-hand with building and painting them. In Battletech: Combined Arms, with 28mm Battletech miniatures, this is no different. Unlike building the miniatures or painting them to a personal standard, basing often gets the least amount of attention from gamers and modelers, so I thought I would take today to discuss some great, easy options for basing your models to a professional level.

Almost every 28mm miniature has a base that it stands on- in fact, it’s the only way most models will stand at all, as balancing them and getting them to work as free-standing models would result in very boring, static poses. The term “basing” therefore, doesn’t mean literally just attaching a miniature to its respective base, but also pertains to how you decorate that base. Armies of miniatures for wargaming look best when there’s a cohesive basing scheme, all of the miniatures on bases decorated to represent the same environment or combat zone. It would indeed look odd if half your soldiers were on desert sand-themed bases and the rest were on dark urban grey.

So when it comes to 28mm Battletech, the question of basing is a valid one. This is especially true when considering the battlemechs themselves: the majority of 1/60 scale battletech models are freestanding, with no need for a base since their large feet and high center of gravity allows them to stand with no support needed. Only when you attempt an extremely de-stabilized pose will you ever need to base a battlemech, and even then you should consider how you want to base the rest of your force to look when deployed alongside it.

The Basics
The most common basing material people use today is sand. Pure, simple, find-it-on-the-beach sand. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s the standard was flock, a sort of fibrous, lightweight material meant to mimic grass or earth. Nowadays the more realistic approach to basing involves sand, static grass to mimic, well, grass, and large or small pieces of slate used as rocks and boulders. This effect works just as well for 28mm Battletech, as 28mm infantry are the same size (ish) in every miniature wargame.

Kuritan Infantry (Defiance Games Chinese Militia), displaying a very basic basing style. 
Basing is most easily accomplished by using wood glue or white glue on your model’s base, painting it on with an old paintbrush, or using a toothpick to smear it on, making sure to avoid the miniature’s feet (or claws, or hooves, or whatever).

 After spreading on the glue, pour sand or flock onto the base, covering the glue entirely. Leave the miniature to dry after this, and then shake the excess sand or flock back into its container.

Some gamers prefer to simply leave the sand or flock the color it came in. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but for a much more professional touch, you can paint the basing material the same way you would paint the model (some painters say to prime the model, paint the base first, and then paint the model, other say to paint the model and then the base, either way works really). Sand and flock work equally well painted as asphalt or cement, muddy terrain, urban rubble, or red-tinted martian dirt.

Advanced Methods
While flock and sand make for great basic bases, many gamers and professional modelers prefer more advanced techniques. There are many different basing materials on the market right now. Among the best are those offered by Secret Weapon Miniatures. This company makes an extensive line of resin bases, as well as what are hands-down the finest weathering pigments, washes, and thematic basing materials.

Among these “advanced methods” I speak of are weathering and scenery effects that more accurately portray real phenomena, such as mud, snow, water, and grasslands. Mud mixtures and snow effects are becoming fairly common, even Games Workshop produces a Citadel Mourn Mountain Snow Texture paint, as well as a Citadel Snow basing material, which is basically white flock.

In fact, Games Workshop’s Citadel Texture paints bear a mention here. Citadel Texture is part of their new paint line, instead of liquid paint, the stuff is almost pure pigment with a gritty, grainy texture. It spreads onto a base (and will ruin a good brush, so make sure you use an old one), best done in a fairly heavy layer, and completely replaces the need for sand or flock, instead working as an all-in-one, easy-to-apply basing material. They offer it in 6 colors, with one other Citadel Technical paint that I will detail below. The colors available are Citadel Mourn Mountain Snow, Stirland Mud, Blackfire Earth, Astrogranite, Armageddon Dust, and Lustrian Undergrowth. Mourn Mountain Snow provides a very decent snow base for your money- though be warned, Citadel Texture paints do not stretch as far as other basing materials or even other paints. I used an entire pot of the stuff to get good coverage on 10 40mm-base models. Stirland Mud is a decent mud mixture, Astrogranite makes for damn-near perfect cement if you make sure to keep the application smooth and even, and Armageddon Dust makes for good sand on desert-themed bases. Blackfire Earth and Lustrian Undergrowth are unfortunately the worst two of the line, with colors that don’t really apply to anything in the real world.

Lastly there is Citadel Agrellan Earth Technical paint. Designed for basing as well, this one differs in that, instead of a generic pebbly texture, it is smooth and at first glance looks identical to normal paint. However, it is specially formulated so that, as it dries, the technical paint cracks and withers, and, once 100% dried, makes for absolutely outstanding cracked, dry dirt. We’re talking salt flats, parched earth, cracked mud, this stuff makes every other desert basing material look pathetic!
Citadel Agrellan Earth on the base of a Defiance Games UAMC Marine 

Decorating Your Bases
While a basic substrate is fine for many models (dirt, sand, snow, whatever), further decoration goes a long way not only in personalizing your army, but also in adding more depth and realism to the miniatures themselves. If you’re doing a desert-themed army, for example, why not add dry, dehydrated grasses with static grass? Or go the full mile with animal skeletons, cacti, or vultures perching on accompanying scenery (or…y’know, Jade Falcons I guess)? If you’re doing snow bases, try using water effects to make puddles of ice, or get the Games Workshop Northern Wastes Basing Kit, which for $33 gives you a whole mess of winter-themed basing supplies such as snow flock, slate, dried tan static grass, and plastic icicles which make a winter base look truly stunning. In fact, GW makes 6 different basing kits like this, each with a different scenic theme from the war-torn cities of Warhammer 40,000 (great for Battletech) to scorched sands of the desert. Adding a bit more of that “personal touch” to your 28mm Battletech miniatures can make an army go from “1st Genyosha” to “The 1st Genyosha During the Battle of Luthien in 3068.”

A fully based Battlemech (3 Guesses which one!). This one features a sand/slate mixture, several larger slate pieces, resin Jersey Barriers from Defiance Games, and two Defiance Games UAMC Marines, as well as a piece of ruined masonry from Games Workshop and a brass etched piece of bullet-riddled metal. 


  1. Please change your font.... I'm using firefox and that script is almost impossible to read!

    1. Changed it to Arial. Hope that helps, sorry it was difficult to read.