Converting Plastic Figures to Casualty Markers for Wargames
Simulation games like Crossfire, Fire and Fury, Empire III, and Volley & Bayonet use markers to indicate the morale status of pinned, disordered, or routed troops on the wargame table. Sometimes these markers are yellow and red cardboard rectangles which litter the gaming table and detract from the visiual appeal of beautifully painted miniatures and scenic effects, but in recent years status markers have become a popular miniature wargame accessory.
Fire and Fury was among the first popular rule sets which propagated the use of a cleverly designed range of miniature status markers which facilitate gameplay and are nice to look at. It takes some time to make these markers, time which might otherwise have be spent painting more combat troops, but the effort is well worth it. Casualty markers indicating pinned or disordered unit status are the most common markers used in wargames, and most manufacturers now offer metal or resin castings of casualties to supplement their existing figure ranges. Collectors of 1:72 scale plastic miniatures are fortunate in that they may create their own casualty figure simply by converting unwanted figure poses found in a particular figure set.
British Infantry Casualties
The old Atlantic British Infantry set is an excellent source of casualty figures. Most of the soldiers in this set are marred by silly poses and inaccurate equipment. However, the basic uniform, weapons, and faces are nicely detailed and these figures convert well to vehicle crew or casualties. To supplement the rejects, consider converting some of your prime figures to casualties as well, because these will match the troops on your wargame stands.
British Airborne Casualties
Airfix British Paratroops are easily converted to casualty figures. Many of the paras can be used with only minor modification to relax the pose and make the casualty look convincing. Casualty figure conversion is one great way to finally use the many superfluous and downright silly figure poses in this set. Unfortunately, the exceptional 1:32 scale Airfix Paratroops were never released in 1:76 scale, although ESCI produced some in 1:72 scale hard plastic, and several Chinese manufacturers offer crude 1:72 scale copies of them.
A convincing casualty figure appears to be completely relaxed. This is the key to casualty figure conversion: all movement must be arrested, and the figure should be flat on the ground.
- Relax the head. Most figures are sculpted with their heads held straight, looking ahead. To model a fallen soldier lying on his back or front, cut the head off and turn it to one side. British casualties wearing the shallow tin hat helmet are an exception. The helmet supports the head when the soldier is lying on his back, and overextends it. To model this pose, cut the head off, pin it in a noticeably overextended position, and fill the resulting gap with putty or filler wax.
- Relax the torso. Casualties lying on their backs should have the backpack removed to ensure that the figure can be flattened on the base.
- Relax the arms. Advancing figures are easy to convert to casualies, if their arms are in a relatively relaxed pose to begin with. In most cases, one or both arms need to be straightened to ensure that the entire body will conform to the ground. The British Para casualty, third from the left in the picture above, rests on sloping ground so that his right arm conforms to the ground without the need to modify the pose. Otherwise his shoulder would have had to be repositioned.
- Relax the hands. Empty hands should be open and placed flat on the ground, palm up or down. Cut the hand off at the wrist and reposition it accordingly. Hands holding weapons and equipment should be flat on the ground, otherwise they would have bent and the soldier might have let go of the object. Use spackling to create a small rise in the ground which happens to support the wrist.
- Relax the legs. If the casualty is lying on his back, the legs should be relatively straight, and turned out to the sides. Select a standing figure which is not moving much to begin with. Cut the figure off the base carefully, keeping the boots intact. Remodel the soles by cutting a wedge out of the instep to define the soles and the heels. Cut the feet off above the anklet and turn them out more to relax the legs further. Alternatively, if the figure is moving and the legs are bent sharply at the knee, place the casualty on his face. Leave the legs bent at the knee, but turn the boots out as mentioned above to flatten the legs.
- Finally, place the casualty on its base and sculpt the terrain underneath it to completely support the figure. Sometimes it’s simply not possible to take all the movement out of a particular pose, and the terrain needs to provide a convincing excuse why an arm is supported a few inches above the body, or why the legs are not fully relaxed at the knees. The base and the spackling compound will protect the fragile casualty figure which has been chopped up into so many tiny pieces.
- If nothing else works, place static grass closely around an offending body part to hide the fact that it’s not touching the ground.
- Paint casualty markers in two distinct base colours, green and brown, to differentiate pinned and supressed morale.
- Use your imagination to create particularly gory casualties, if you must.
Converting casualty figures is a fun and easy introduction into figure conversion. Modellers can learn a lot about anatomy and posture by taking plastic figures completely apart and reassembling them in a relaxed pose.