Sunday, July 17, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The Fifth - Azure Blue And The Heavy Infantry

Azure Blues
Tsolyani - Heavy Infantry 'A'
Tsolyani - Heavy Infantry 'A'
Thank you for your patience - the first week at the new job has been great, but I've been pretty busy.

So, let's move into deeper and murkier waters, shall we?

Back in the summer of 1975 - the dating is pretty vague, actually, Bill Murray of Old Guard (a manufacturer of historical collector figures in 54mm) contacted Prof. Barker regarding doing a line of Tekumel miniatures in 25mm. Bill had gotten the license to do the line from TSR, but since the latter didn't have a lot of material for Bill to work with, he contacted Phil for more information.

Phil sent him a list of the figures that he'd like to see made - it later formed the basis for the 'Painting Guide' information - as well as a pile of illustrations from both Phil and Dave Sutherland. In the beginning - this is back at the dawn of the RPG era, remember - the feeling was that 'fantasy wargames' would be like the usual 'Ancients' and 'Medievals' games; big armies facing each other across broad expanses of tables. So, there was an emphasis on 'military' figures in Phil's list; the various priests and priestesses were included with the idea that these would be the 'officers' and 'personalities' used in wargames, as well as the magic-using contingents that are part of Tekumelyani warfare. A this time, there were no recognized legions as such; this would come in a couple of years, with Dave Sutherland's "Legions of the Petal Throne" miniatures rules.

So, let's have a look at this 'Ur-list'. I'm using the "Heavy Infantry 'A'" figure; which was drawn by Dave Sutherland. Phil did the drawings of the Standard-Bearer, Trumpeter, and Archer; Dave did the Officer. Phil used these as a generic infantry figure; several different paint schemes exist in his collection. Today, I'll concentrate on what became the Legion of Serqu, Sword of the Empire, in later publications.

The first, and possibly oldest, question about Phil's idea of what his figures should look like is "What did he mean by 'azure blue'?". Well, as near as I can make out, he was probably thinking of the Humbrol MC20, 'Prussian Dragoon Blue'. I used Pactra 'Flat Light Blue' on my own figures, and Phil said that this was several shades too light; he preferred a slightly darker palette, himself, and it became very easy over the next decade to tell my figures from his simply by looking at them; put them side by side, and my figures were always a shade or two lighter then his. It made clean-up after games a lot easier.

So, from what I could tell that was his standard for the classic 'Azure Blue' - which he promptly departed from, as you can see from the photos. The armor on these figures is a metallic dark blue, which I'm still trying to identify: I am pretty sure that it's a Floquil color, as Phil didn't like using Pactra - I did, and the Pactra metallic blue I used looks a little lighter then Phil's color. The 'skirt' is a darker blue, kilt and tunic white, leather is Humbrol 'Red Leather', and trim in gold. I am pretty sure that the plumes are the MC20 color, right out of the tinlet.

Now, at this point I think I need to make a point that Phil was at pains to make for years:

There is no 'color standards list' for Tekumel.

Very early on in the history of Tekumel publishing, Phil got a letter from a fan asking what were the 'FS' numbers (from Federal Standards, published by the US government) and Phil replied that he didn't know. His point, in the course of a long and detailed letter, was that the dyes used by both his Tekumelyani and those used in the Terran ancient and medieval settings did not give perfectly consistent results. So, he pointed out, there will be subtle differences in these colors - the Temple of Ksaul may specify that their members should wear black cloth, but that black will vary between locations and between individuals; unless the very same 'dye lot' of a bolt of cloth is used, you will see subtle different shades in a group of what are supposed to be all the same unit or group.

Interestingly, Phil's point of view has been borne out over the following decades by practical experiment. Various re-enactment groups, such as the justly-famed Ermine Street Guard, have been using natural dyes in their outfits, and there are indeed noticeable different shades of color in fabrics. Hence, his lack of a color standard; it just didn't show up on his radar. He felt then, and for years later, that he was happy to provide descriptions of how he painted his figures but that the owner of a figure should have the right to paint their figures anyway they wanted to:

"Here's my Tekumel; now make it yours..."

Which is why we have this figure in Phil's own collection in blue armor and white kilts, black armor and orange kilts, blue armor and linen kilts, and so on.

"So, Chirine," I can hear you say, "Cut to the chase and tell us what color you use for 'azure blue' and where to get it." I use a color that Howard Fielding of The Tekumel Project found: Vallejo Game Color #72023, 'Electric Blue'. This color is a shade lighter then the Humbrol paint, but a shade darker then the Pactra paint I used; it's an acrylic, and looks very good on the game table.

Which brings up a point; we usually use very good lighting on our workbenches, but very poor lighting for our game tables. For example, I use three 60-watt lamps on my game table, but most of the places that I game have fluorescent tubes that give a bluer light. Wheh I built my game room, I installed track lights that provide a lot of light, in the same color spectrum that I have on the workbench, So, while I am very aware that my figures will look slightly different in some venues, I don't worry about it all that much and just get on with the painting.

Right, then. Questions? Comments?


  1. Hey Chirine,

    So that's the colour you use for Tsolyani troops... Excellent article, and great point about "colour standards". I see you use Vallejo I'll have to grab some Electric Blue my next trip to my FLHS. I switched over almost exclusively to them about 15 years ago, and haven't looked back. These days I only really use my Humbrols for the occasional 54mm figure I do.
    That metallic blue looks an awful lot like the old Testors' "Gloss Metallic Blue" (square bottle). in fact, I'd bet on it.

    1. Yep; Howard suggested it, and I think it looks really good on the troops.

      You may be right about this being a Testor's / Pactra color - the old 'Metalic Blue' that they had. I think it's darker, but then it could be that the primer - Phil used Floquil Brush-on Primer, which is a dark grey - could account for the darker look to my eye. I use a flat white, so that may account for the difference.