Paraguay To Peking!

Progress on stuff remains slow but steady and I’ve now got the two chatas and their crews finished that featured in a WIP post a couple of weeks ago.

The plan was to leave them unpainted and continue building other scenery items for the Season of Scenery challenge, but plans change! I’d started work on a large earthwork/fort to be used with my Paraguayan War armies, but after getting the basic shape built I decided it was too big and maybe not what I really wanted. I’d spent a couple of sessions on it, so putting it to one side, or even giving up on it completely, has not cost me much in the way of time. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to know what you do and don’t like!

Anyway, rather than just bash on regardless, I decided to get the chatas and their crews painted. As I expected, the crews took more effort than the boats themselves! The chatas took about four sessions to paint – prime in dark earth, second coat of dark earth, shade/line in one chata and then shade/line in the second one and drybrush a highlight on both. I don’t normally drybrush boats, but since these were a uniform mid brown overall I decided to give them a faint drybrush to pick out some of the edge detail.

The crews were relatively easy to paint. Few details are available on Paraguayan navy uniforms for the period, contemporary writers describing them as being the same as army uniforms. This suited me, as I wanted the gun crews to be able to double as artillerymen to be used in heavy gun emplacements ashore (which is why their smaller bases are drybrushed to match the colours I use for earth emplacements). I’m really pleased with how these have come out, more so at getting them finished relatively quickly and it saves Dave Stone having to send me an e-mail to tell me to get a move on with them!

I also thought I’d try and go for a quick win with another scenery item for the challenge, a Chinese pagoda (and for a bit more on pagodas that might not be pagodas, take a look here).

I’ve wanted one of these for ages! The basic item I used was a plastic aquarium ornament that I bought either from Amazon or eBay and the picture above shows it as it came out of its packing. It’s on the small side, but the doorways are about the right size for 20mm figures. All I did to it was remove the plastic plant, fill in the holes left in doing so and then paint the roofs in a dark grey.

I drybrushed the roofs in mid-grey, light grey and then a very pale grey and that was it!

To make it easier to store I decided against adding a base and I can always make a separate one at some point in the future if I want to. The pictures show it with some 20mm Chinese Tigermen tackling a couple of sailors from a French landing party. The gaming mat, which is the same as the one in the pictures of the chatas (because I couldn’t be bothered to get a different mat out), is a Deep Cut Studios island mat and I really like it, although it’s maybe a bit too blue for the Paraguay and Parana rivers in South America!


  1. The Chatas Look excellent John, and a great entry from you. The Pagoda is a great utilisation of the aquarium piece and another excellent entry mate

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I said it before and I’ll say it again, those boats look store-bought rather than homemade. Really good job of construction and painting, they’re awesome.

    The battle mat: did you get PVC, cloth or mousepad? I’ve been looking at getting one but I’m not sure which type is best.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks Matt, appreciate that! πŸ™‚ I get the cloth mats – I iron them and store them rolled up. I’ve got 3 x 3, 4 x 4 and 6 x 4 feet mats. I assumed PVC would crease and be a bit shiny and that mouse mat ones would take a lot more space up when rolled up. I also have a couple of other mats (Cigar Box Battles and Geek Villain I think) that are fleece and really nice quality! I think I maybe have too many mats!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Pete, glad you like them! πŸ™‚ They must be the simplest boats I’ve built! I might make some cargo so that they can be used as barges and maybe even some wide bridge ramps that’ll let them double as a pontoon bridge!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I really like the boats just like the previous ones but that pagoda is really awesome too. Architecture in Asia is just beautiful and that piece will be perfect to fight over. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more terrain like that here JNV, John! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great work on the boats. I’m very impressed with the scenery piece, I’ve often wondered on using fish tank stuff but always assumed they would not look great, thanks for proving me wrong! So I might have to look at this concept again.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. John, you’re getting me more motivated to scratch-build some Conquistador brigantines (Lake Texcoco circa 1519 – this is the only attempt that I have seen: ) but I am aiming for this:

    Any advice?

    The chatas are great and I like how you have double-purposed the crew and guns for earthen emplacements, very smart!

    And I just ordered a new compass!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well, can I just point out that you’ll need a lake to float them on! πŸ˜‰ The shape of the brigantines is relatively simple, but I’d avoid any complex hull curves and mask/hide them with the overhanging deck/bulwark sections. Otherwise, it’s just two boxes on top of a hull! For storage I’d make the “castles” removable, along with the mast. I’d probably go with my usual 1 or 1.5mm artboard (can be called Daler board or mounting board) stuck together with PVA glue and with the planking scribed on with the back of a craft knife blade (makes enough of an indent to be seen and painted). Extra card “planks” can be added to stiffen up the corners of the castles and add a bit of relief. And you can draw out the bow swctions with that nice new compass! πŸ™‚

      Glad you like the finished chatas! I think I’ll have more use for the crews on land truth be told.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi John, thanks and good advice – though I need to ask a few term-type questions. Is artboard/dalerboard/mounting board just cardboard? And you referred to foamboard – I am assuming that is the same as what we have – cardboard-lined Styrofoam sheets? I was thinking of using balsa/bass wood for the exteriors – maybe over the top? not sure and I have time. Though a teaser, I do have a lake now! Oh yeah, any suggestions on making and attaching representative masts or sails (not unfurled but wrapped on the mast or whatever navy term is correct!)

        Liked by 2 people

        • What I call mounting/Daler board is the stuff I’d get from an art shop that’s usually coloured on one side and used for creating a coloured surround to a picture/photo mounted in a frame (if that makes sense). It’s usually about 1.25mm thick (maybe about 0.060″ to you – go metric, it’s much easier if you ever have to do calculations) and is good quality. For something like a ship model, I’d maybe make the waterline shape and deck shape out of mounting board and run bulkheads the full length of the centreline to join them, with extra transverse and longitudinal bulkheads as required – this makes the hull relatively resistant to warping when it’s painted (and you can always run the grain of the card fore and aft to minimise this as well. I’d use thin card from a breakfast cereal packet for the hull sides, but you could also use mounting board to stiffen it up further.
          Foamcard is as you describe – whereas it’d be easier to use that to create the hul, I’ve found it can be very susceptible to warping. Balsa sounds good, not used that since I was a kid. Not sure about masts with stowed sails – maybe cloth or kitchen paper towel tied in place with cotton.
          Will be good to see your lake!

          Liked by 1 person

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