Thursday, July 5, 2007

US Paratroopers Army Update -10: Initial Recruitment

Retrocative Date: December 2006

Easy Company is the force I got into Flames of War to model. The original Battlefront castings were just starting to be pulled when I got into the game, so I went with a German force to start with, but the Paratroopers were always in the back of my mind. I knew from general comments that, when the army was re-released, everyone and their brother was going to build a paratrooper army. I also expected a lot of "fanboy" comments for anyone modeling the 101st, particularly Easy Company. Lets face it, they are kinda high profile. But I wasn't going to be a fanboy. I was going to be the fan boy. I didn't want to just slap together some paratrooper castings and call it Easy. I was going to make in Easy Company the ultimate Paratrooper army.

I set as my goal to make the finest 15mm wargames force my hands could create. It was to be historically accurate down to the smallest detail. It was to be exquisitely modeled, rich in detail and dramatic action. I wanted it to look like Band of Brothers -- in other words, I wanted people to recognize scenes from the miniseries represented in the models. I wanted to be able to pick up any model in the army, and be able to tell you who was on the stand. The real Easy Company was the best. I wanted mine to be the best.

As I read the prerelease hype Battlefront was releasing for the re-released Paratroopers, I started to firm up my ideas about how and what I wanted to do with this project. I started gathering books and scowering the internet for historical information and uniform details. At the same time, I watched Band of Brothers again, with an eye for truly memorable moments and impressive actions. While I wanted to model every member of the company, it quickly became obvious that in terms of screen time there was going to be some repetition. Not every soldier got a close up, while several "stars" of the show had many instances of model-worth badassery. I could pick the best moment to represent any particular character, but I didn't want to just throw all the rest away. There were also modeling considerations to consider. For instance, I planned to make every platoon in the army distinct but matching. That is, there would be some elements common throughout the army -- the color of dirt and rocks, the style of basing, the snow I planned to add at the end -- while other elements would be used to distinguish one platoon from another -- ammo boxes on one platoon, trees on another, rocks on a third, etc. All that would require planning, and would come to affect which moments I would pick for certain characters. A given scene might have been very memorable, but if it really didn't fit in with the theme of the platoon that individual actually served in, it just wouldn't work. I would resolve this by giving that action to another soldier in the platoon that best matched the scene. This would let me use the most moments from the miniseries possible, while giving something special to do to the soldiers who did not benefit from close attention on screen.

I got to work on the research even before the models were released. Coming up with an historically accurate roster was going to be a challenge. Before the Company Briefing was released I was working in the dark in terms of how troops would be bought and deployed, but I had a pretty good idea of what platoons I was going to make -- all of them. I was able to find pretty much all the original Battlefront castings for most of the units in the army, but decided to buy the new ones, too. This would give me as many poses as possible without using too much non-Battlefront stuff. I don't have a problem going to other brands, but with as much work as I was going to do I really wanted to be able to show these guys off on the Battlefront forums. Also, I knew I was going to chew up a lot of guys doing all the conversions and customizations this force would entail, and I was going to need the extras.

I was setting my sights high with this project. It was going to take a lot of planning, and a lot of time. The conversion work alone was probably going to take months, to say nothing of the painting. There were to be no cut corners, nothing short changed because it would be easier or cheaper. Time was the real expense here, not the money to buy castings or bits or whatever. From an artistic standpoint, Easy Company was to be nothing less than my masterpiece.

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