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Friday, July 31, 2009

To Mud or Not To Mud: That is the Question:

Few folks realize that William “Billy Bad Bones” Shakespeare was an avid wargamer. You see, when he penned the famous line, “To be, or not to be: that is the question:…”, he originally wrote, “To be muddy, or not to be muddy: that is the question:”

But seriously, whether or not to apply mud to wargames figures, and how much to apply if you choose to do so, is a great discussion topic.

Being an old soldier, I operate under the maxim that there are no clean uniforms or vehicles in a warzone or even on the training field. Clean uniforms and vehicles belong on the parade field!

In a warzone, paved roads are luxuries that are more likely to bring sudden, violent death, than traipsing around in the woods, through all that “nature stuff”. Dirt roads are only marginally less dangerous, though most vehicles require some sort of road to travel on. Infantry wisely avoids the roads or even trails, in order to avoid potential ambuscades.

I tend to sling a lot of mud on my figures, working my way up from the boots or tires/tracks. I recently described the reasons for mud to a friend by saying:


Imagine it has rained for a week or two... the grass in your back yard is so soggy that when you step in it, muddy water squishes up between your toes.

Now imagine that you are running an "I’m on fire" drill in the back yard.

You run - mud slings up your legs... you drop, you get mud on your stomach, chest and fronts of your legs... you roll... you get mud on the back of you. As you go to get up, you use your elbows - turning them as dark and muddy, as your knees, which have borne the brunt of the mud.

That's combat - minus the "4000 guys trying to shoot me" while you do all that! ;-)

Mud tends to be darkest on knees and elbows - the initial points of impact for a body in motion in a dirty/muddy place.

Uniforms don't need to be obscured, cuz it's a wargame... a game. Toys. In real life, I've had uniforms become the color of the soil I was operating on - almost all over!

Add sweat (white salt) stripes around your webbing... Heh! It’s nasty!”

Dirt and mud are an unavoidable part of warfare, whether in real life, or in any historical (or fantasy/sci-fi) war.

So, to mud or not to mud:

To mud: Add mud for the added realism and to add, through the painting of your figures, the gritty, dirty feel of real war. Real soldiers fight. “Wanna-be’s” prance on the parade fields! (Editors note: Quit with the mudslinging!)

Not to mud: Choose not to mud because mud obscures. Some wargamers prefer the “parade ground” look for their figures.

They’ve spent considerable time painting a very detailed, lovely miniature. To throw mud on it would obscure or detract from all that work.

I believe that a compromise can be reached between the “mud” and “pristine” camps. After all, if we didn’t want folks to see what a nice paint job we put on our figures, we could just paint them muddy brown top to bottom and leave it at that. Obviously you can have too much mud!

For those who don’t want to obscure the paint jobs on their figures, I recommend a light touch of drybrushing mud onto the boots, perhaps a touch on the knees – and for “modern warfare models” (call that WWI to current time and sci-fi models), I’d lightly touch on the elbows as well. Add an occasional splotch of mud to the helmet or head, and that will give the feel of warfare sufficient for a game!

In the end, it’s about gaming and having fun, and your figures are your own. Do as you see fit and as suits your style, since your figures are likely to spend more time on a shelf being admired than they are actually being pushed across the table, unless they are the only army you own, for the only game you play!

How to apply “mud”:

1. Pick a “dirt color” appropriate to the area you plan on wargaming. If the area was not renowned for a particular color, then select a good middle ground brown. Games Workshop’s (GW’s) Graveyard Earth is a wonderful mud color. Snakebite Leather, also a GW product, works well too.

2. Apply mud coloration from the bottom of the fully painted and inked (I use brown GW ink, mixed 50/50 with water – or the new brownish wash, Ogryn Flesh) model towards the top, using the drybrushing technique.

2.a. For vehicles, some “throw back” is recommended. By painting up and towards the back of the vehicle you effectively show the forward movement of vehicles through dirt and mud.

3. Apply “splashes” and splotches. A little dab’l do you here; some on helmets and turrets, perhaps partly obscuring unit or number decals – but only partly obscuring!!

4. Seal with your favorite clear coat sealant to protect your hard work!

5. Bask in the glow of your fellow gamers admiring your handiwork – or revel in the verbal warfare than ensues about “To mud, or not to mud:”

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