Designing Airborne Figures

with Ales Potocnik

Hi! My name is Ales, and I am a designer behind some of the figure miniatures produced for Flames of War. For this article, I will guide you through the process of creation from beginning to final product. It is quite a specific line of work since the production of miniatures requires knowledge in different areas; such as 3D sculpting, casting processes, working with small scales, materials, and prototyping equipment. I also had a great opportunity to learn from Charles Woods, who was kind enough to provide me with some guidance. I couldn’t do what I do without a great team behind me, providing me with useful tips and ideas to even further push the miniatures look and improvements.
There are a lot of things that are very specific when you are designing to such a small scale. Not only the size, there are certain technical requirements due to the way the final plastic miniatures are produced. Lines have to be extra crisp in order to get out as much detail as we possibly can, there is a necessary increase in the thickness of certain small bits, because in the end you are left with a choice. Either you can have a detail that is slightly off in size, or not have it all. The same issue would arise with long thin plastic objects which would be prone to breaking. My job is to think ahead for all the processes and final design and adjust the best I can for the best possible result. 

The designing process starts off with a brief that gets written up by Miniature Design Lead Evan. The brief then gets either approved or refined and after that, it ends up in my hands. Briefs will usually include details on uniform and equipment layout, height of the miniatures, and specifics that will need to be taken into account on what we want.  I tend to gather up as much additional material, books and references as I can, since some of the details are very specific or certain parts can’t be distinguished easily in the historical photographs due to quality and size. After all I am looking at gear details on photos where it is not always the intention to capture that at all.

At this point I will start designing in 3d software, usually starting with a 10mm bottom round platform for size reference, moving on to uniforms and then moving on piece by piece. While I design the likes of shoes, pants, belts, entrenching tools, ammo pouches, gasmasks etc., I’m still not designing absolutely everything. Often I am provided with weapons that were designed by other freelance 3D artists working for Battlefront, shaving down the time I would spend on it as an individual, meaning, we are moving faster in the creation. This part usually takes quite some time, since all the parts are designed in a way for them to be as distinguishable as possible, and there is A LOT of gear that differs from soldier to soldier based on their tasks and ranks. While I am at this step, I often bug game designers with searching questions, or I ask for additional information from the Miniature Design lead.

Once we are happy with the miniature design look in digital form, I take over the process of prototyping on our high-accuracy 3D printer. Sometimes when we are in a pinch and we can’t decide for example, a helmet size, it really comes in handy to test them out in physical form. As I am satisfied with the model, it gets a final check up by Evan, and then gets prototyped so we can send it over for inspection.

We make absolutely sure we go through all the quality control steps. Previewed by Miniature Lead again in physical form, checked by our staff members and me, then checked and later on approved by the bosses. If the miniature is not up to standard, we repeat the whole cycle, but most of the time we only need to make minor corrections & adjustments. It is essential that we are communicating a lot at this stage through the way the miniature is designed. If we miss this window of opportunity and we want a change later on to a basic model, I have to make changes to all of the miniatures I’ve already made. For example: if we are not happy with the way shoes are made, I have to remove the old ones, add the new model of the shoes I have made, pose them, and add the details and folds for each individual miniature. Once you stack up 50 shoe changes it turns out to be a few work days of work, making it difficult to stick to deadlines.

Finally, we move on to what I refer to as “making the range”.

This is the process of creating the miniatures and posing them. More direction at this part, since the figure range gets segmented. Riflemen, Mortars, Bazookas, Light machine gun crews and many more. Each usually have different and distinct equipment.

Always looking for cool poses, we base the soldiers on image references, our previous miniatures, and sometimes just trying out something that we think would look cool. At this stage I am looking for any possible undercuts (area that do not have straight lines and would cause the plastic to grab if cooled in the mould) and any other problematic areas which could cause trouble in production by orienting the miniature in an imaginary mould. The gear that I have previously designed now comes into play and gets added on each posed soldier, and adjusted based on the pose, gravity, and orientation. They are also given the right weapons if they carry them.

Each individual figure gets reviewed at this stage again and approved – one by one.
After we are happy with the pose, there comes detailing. Based on the pose, I am adding folds to the clothing, shape to backpacks and pockets based on how full they are, straps and different unique attributes to each single one of them. You must be careful not to overdo it with the gear stacking though! Soldiers can start looking like waddling penguins real fast with all the gear at such a small scale. This process is most difficult for a 3D artist to get used to, since small miniatures are treated completely differently than the large ones. Each crease and fold needs to be exaggerated and needs to be as sharp as you can get it.

As I add the details, myself and Design Lead go over all of them and review them one more time – digitally. After this it’s more prototypes being printed and again, we all review them since you can never get the exact same result you get on screen. Here we make any final adjustments to the  entire range of figures. When the adjustments are done, we are left with final version, Version 2. The soldiers get grouped up, sprues are added in 3D software to specifications and requirements, and off they go to mass production!

Painting US Airborne- Evan’s Guide

with Evan Allen

All my figures are painted with the Vallejo range of paints. These are my personal suggestions only so please treat them as a guide and not “gospel”. I’ve also refrained from my usual technique of adding a little Deck Tan VP986 to the basic uniform colour and drybrushing highlights so you can see the actual colour more clearly.

The M1942 Uniform
The first combat uniform issued to US Airborne troopers, the M1942, was purpose designed for Airborne troops by Maj. William Yarborough (who was also the designer of the US Airborne parachute wings). The design included features such as pockets cut on the diagonal to allow easy access while wearing webbing equipment and large, expanding, bellows style leg pockets that became a trademark of the wartime US airborne trooper. The M1942 uniform was used only by Paratroopers and wasn’t issued to Glider troops. The Paratroopers taking part in combat jumps in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy wore this uniform and even one battalion that jumped during “Market Garden” in Holland was still wearing this uniform.

This uniform was made from light cotton that was a pale greenish-tan colour and I must admit to spending an awful lot of time experimenting to achieve, what I hope to be, the closest match possible. I try to avoid mixing different colours to achieve my basic uniforms but this uniform seems to bring on my OCD (Obsesive Colour Disorder) to get it closer than just plain Olive Drab (887 gets).  The Olive Drab (887) is close but a bit too dark for my taste so, eventually, I settled on a 50/50 mix of Khaki (988) and the Olive Drab (887)

The other colours I chose are:

Uniform Piece Vallejo Colour
Webbing & Equip. Green Grey (886)
Helmet US Olive Drab (887)
Helmet scrim Khaki (988)
Weapon Furn. (wood) Beige Brown (875)
Jump Boots
E-tool handle
Pistol holsters
Flat Brown (984)

The M1942 uniform was practical to wear in combat when it was warm but it offered no protection from the elements when the weather turned nasty. Also, being made from lightweight cotton, the knees and elbows tended to wear out quickly so many an airborne trooper bribed his unit parachute rigger to sew patches over the elbows and knees. The material commonly used for this was cotton duck from old parachute packs and was green in colour. I’ve painted patches on the elbows and knees of this figure over an otherwise standard M1942 uniform with US Dark green (893). You could even mix these with “unpatched” troopers for a bit of variety.

The Glidermen
The Glider borne troops were basically standard infantrymen who woke up one day to find themselves called Glidermen, there were no calls for volunteers here! With a job equally as dangerous as their Paratrooper brothers they were denied the extra “jump pay” until just prior to the “Market Garden” landings when, finally, they achieved official recognition of the hazardous nature of their job. The uniform worn by these intrepid airborne soldiers was almost exactly the same as the “leg infantryman”. The only allowance for airborne duties was the issue of jump boots to a few fortunate troopers and, other than those few, they are the same as an ordinary infantryman in the M1941 uniform.
The colours I chose are:

Uniform Item Vallejo Colour
Jacket/leggings Khaki (988)
Trousers USA Field Drab (873)
Webbing Green Grey (886)
Helmet US Olive Drab (887)
E-tool handle
Flat Brown (984)

The M1943 Uniform
After the US Airborne forces were withdrawn from Normandy they were refitted and brought back up to strength ready for the next mission. This included the widespread issue of the brand new M1943 olive drab uniform to the veterans of the 82nd and 101st divisions. This wasn’t just a paratroop uniform but the beginning of the US Army’s push to standardize the combat uniform. All airborne units received the M1943 uniform, even the Glider troops, but the paratroopers were quick to modify theirs by adding bigger
leg pockets.

The new airborne divisions arriving fresh from the States already wore this new uniform and it was the

uniform seen dropping from the sky, or climbing out of a glider, during “Market Garden” in Holland and
“Varsity” over the Rhine and into Germany proper.
This figure is painted as wearing the new M1943 olive drab uniform. The uniform colour I used is US Dark Green (893). The rest is the same as for the earlier paratroop uniform colours details. For all the airborne equipment, like mortars and bazookas etc. US Olive Drab (887)

as the US Army used pretty much the same colour of Olive drab on everything.





I hope I’ve given you enough to help get you started on painting your airborne force and also a feel for the kind of troops that you’ll be leading, I’m sure, to tabletop success whether from the sky or as elite “leg infantry” with a bit of Armour in support.

Brandon’s Armoured Rifles

with Brandon Davis

At last it is finally here! D-Day American!

I have been really looking forward to this book so I can finally start my late war Armoured rifle and why not kick it off with the Veteran Armoured Rifle Company! I love the speed this company brings! Being able to zip around the board with all those MG’s. They can hold most positions against infantry while trying to grab objectives on top of creating barriers with half tracks them selves.  

Than of course you add in the support of the 57mm Anti-Tank platoon that will back up the half tracks zipping around. They are only AT 10 but that should be able to hold down or take out what I need in time to get into position.

The M4 81mm Mortar platoons and M8 Scotts will rain hell down on machine gun nests and pin down enemy troops until my rifle get into position as well. I also forgot to mention that the M3 half-tracks all have defensive AA!

Over all this army is fast, efficient,  and well rounded. They have all the weapons needed to get the job done. This is definitely going to be a fun army to field.

Fantastic Plastic Forces

with Lonnie Mullins

I’m a plastics guy from way back – if it’s not plastic I have a difficult time including it in my force.  I’ve always wanted to base an American army around a Tank Destroyer Company but didn’t relish the idea of resin M20’s and Jeeps in the security and HQ sections so I held off.  When I found out that we were changing those to plastic the game was afoot.

I’m building a full M10 Tank Destroyer Company – 12 x M10 3-Inch Tank Destroyers, 8 x M20 Scout Cars, and 3 x Jeeps for 59-points.  Being able to whack Panthers and Tigers from the front is not only exciting but will be a new experience for me as my previous American armies have been based around the ubiquitous Sherman Tank (mostly 75’s) and I’d lose 3-tanks for every Panther I took out.  I’ve got an Armoured Rifle Platoon from my mid-war Army already finished so adding them in for 15-points was a no-brainer. Their speed and versatility (and Bazookas, let’s not forget the 5-flippin’ Bazookas) make them an attractive option to take and hold objectives.  Being a BIG fan of air-power, I can’t help but add a P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter Flight (even though they’re not plastic) to the mix for a mere 9-points.
This leaves me with 17-points left to spend on support. Now I could have used those points to add 4 x M4 Sherman tanks, which I’ve already got assembled and painted from my Mid-War army, but instead I’m going with an M7 Priest Artillery Battery of 6, mainly for the smoke screen it can lay down to protect my M10s as they advance (or retreat) and to pulverize any enemy infantry they come across. With 1-point left it was time to peruse the Command Cards. I was tempted by the “Lucky” card from the command deck, but I just could not pass up the “2,000 lbs. Bomb Load” card for my P-47 Flight. With anti-tank 4 and fire power 2+, plus no penalty for having only 1 or 2 weapons firing, it seems like a winner to me and worth replacing my 500 lb. bombs and rocket load out.

Saving Private Ales

with  Ales Potocnik

Hey everyone!

I thought I would share the creative process of making a special miniature inspired by the now -classic Saving Private Ryan movie. It was done as a fun project for myself to celebrate the release of the first FOW D-Day book and it seemed fitting to honour Tom Hanks in his role as Captain John H. Miller. So, I decided to make my own Captain Miller. One of the most memorable scenes for me was towards the end, when he is, in a final act of defiance, shooting at a Tiger tank with his pistol!
Since I had been digitally designing Americans from that period, I already had the basic clothing and equipment.  I had to pose it as close as I could to the scene here and make some of the other equipment he is wearing. Funny part, I also put some blocks in the back to substitute for the motorbike just to get the height and pose right. I take every piece of gear I have, make it fit onto his body and mimic how it would behave on an actual human. Some of the details are made slightly over-emphasised so they will cast well and they can be painted by us.

Our soldiers have a slightly larger heft due to the demands of the 15mm size. If I am making miniatures for manufacturing in different materials I will have to make some changes when it comes to facial structures and emphasis, density of folds on the clothing because I can’t only go for accuracy, I also need to make sure when we get the final product it will take paint well, and there will be plenty of details to paint. . Accuracy and attention to detail is our primary concern and we always try to pull out the most amount of detail that we can with the scale we are working on and the end material. When I see  our products that you guys build and paint I am always blown away. Least I can do is show you respect by doing the same when I am designing these for you.
I took a little bit of liberty since it is inspired by the movie and not exact reproduction, and tilted his head back, and raised the pistol. This was done simply to make him look cooler and even more defiant. At this stage there are no details on the character yet, only the fold at the belt, and distortion on the webbing in the stomach area. These come in later. I already did some work on the face too. The amount of detail I am adding is way more than usual since something like a lip would be less than one tenth of a millimetre thick!

Slowly by adding detail, distortions, folds,  we are getting closer. His left leg is slightly further extended and raised in the scene, but I wanted no empty space under his left knee and flat on the platform. I made a satchel, added the grenades, muzzle, ammo pouch and then detailed them. You can never completely finish something at this stage, personally I could fiddle with it into infinity finding small little details like pant folds and imperfections to add, not to mention the face.

I do the smart thing and leave it as it is.

Final result in all of his glory. I greatly enjoyed making him and I am happy with how he turned out, let me know what you guys think!

US Recon Cavalry Force

with Blair Mackey

While building this list I had two words in my head: ‘mobility’ and ‘utility’. I wanted to create a fast moving force that has a tool for every situation. For this I chose the US Cavalry Recon Company Command Card owing to its relatively inexpensive base requirements, and the tools it has.
 The formation has integrally the HQ, and 3 Cav Recon Patrols which are all Scout and Spearhead units, giving me plenty of throw away units to deny enemy ambush locations and expand my initial deployment area, as well as to out deploy my enemy in Fair Fight missions.

The M8 Scotts will serve to lay out smoke ahead of assaults, pin enemy anti-tank assets, and dig out enemy infantry. Having a Veteran M4 Sherman 76mm Platoon gives me an option for dealing with heavy enemy tanks, with mobility on my side, and being cautious I can limit the potential return fire that I will face, while applying force to a specific part of the enemy line.
M5 Stuarts combined with hedge cutters and sandbag armor can exploit momentary gaps in the enemy lines, and cross terrain easily to assault enemy infantry positions.

The Rangers exist for the purpose of chasing down enemy tank destroyers and captured bailed out enemy tanks. The L4 Grasshopper allows me to engage in counter battery fire against enemy artillery, and have eyes
on anti-tank assets without exposing my Scotts.
Lastly, the P-47s give me another option to deal with Tigers and a Panthers from a safe distance, combined with Total Air Superiority to keep the enemy planes off table, and the Napalm from the 370th Fighter Group the P-47s are really a potential counter to anything that could be on the board.