BADCON: Story of a Wargames Competition

imageBadcon, held in February of every year, is widely regarded (or so our guests tell us anyway!) as one of the friendliest competitions in the competition calendar. It could be our powers of organisation, it could be us seizing the zeitgeist in terms of the current rules systems or it could just be the appeal of the Burton beer. Regardless, Badcon certainly punches above its weight in terms of its popularity.

The competition dates back to the mid-1990s. Inspired by similar competitions in Derby, Reading, Devizes but most of all Usk, the BAD Wargamers decided to host its own, with a distinctly Ancients theme.

The inaugural year for Badcon was 1996. Held in the Riverside Leisure Centre, in Burton’s attractive floodplains, the competition initially drew 36 teams, and used a sole set of rules, i.e. De Bellus Multitudinous. DBM, as it was affectionately known, was the premier Ancients set of its day, having grown out of the mini-De Bellus Antiquitas (DBA), which itself evolved from the much-maligned WRG 7th Edition Ancients rules. Teams were in pairs, a format that followed the Godendag (Usk) model.

From those small acorns, the Badcon competition grew. In 1998, a new venue was sought; initially this was to have been the Bass Sports & Social Club, but having let the club down at the 11th hour, an alternative venue (in the shape of the prestigious Burton Guild Hall) was found. Awareness of the competition had grown rapidly, because in its third year, there were already 60 teams competing.

In 1999, the venue changed again, this time to Burton’s Victorian Gothic Town Hall, where it has remained ever since. Badcon continued to grow in popularity as one of the UK’s premier DBM competitions, with a peak of 80 teams in 2002. Although it never quite reached those dizzy heights again, it was still exceptionally popular, averaging 55-70 teams a year.

Another important change took place in 2008, with Badcon no longer specialising purely in DBM. In that year it was joined by a new set called Field of Glory (FOG) and (cover your ears, wargames purists) Warhammer 40K. The split in the number of teams in 2008 was: DBM 30 teams; FOG 18 teams; 40K 6 teams.

The competition in 2008 was the last time DBM held prominence. In 2009, the unruly cuckoo in the nest that was FOG drew 46 teams, compared with 12 for DBM (and yes, 40K was dropped). Ever since 2009, FOG has been the dominant competition at Badcon. In 2011, there were just 4 DBM teams, with the appeal of that system further eroded by DBMM (which attracted 10 teams, still well below the FOG numbers of 50 teams).

DBM was dropped the following year, but Badcon was still home to three competitions: FOG, DBMM and yet another new set, FOG Renaissance (FOGR). The split in teams in 2012 was FOG 42, DBMM 10 and FOGR 12. 2012 also saw a new innovation, with our friends from the Alumwell club being invited to put on their own mini-Flames of War competition, initially drawing 11 teams.

A scene from Badcon 2014...Early Navarrese face their Medieval descendants.
A scene from Badcon 2014…Early Navarrese face their Medieval descendants.

Which brings us to 2014, the 19th time Badcon has been held. This year, FOG still ruled the roost with 28 teams entering; followed by FOGR with 18 teams, DBMM with 12 teams and Alumwell’s Wild West competition with 8 entrants. Long may the show continue.

A few worthy factoids:

  • Not content with prizes just for 1ts, 2nd and 3rd, Badcon is renowned for offering a whole host of prizes: the team with Best Sportsmanship; Best Painted Team; Best painted Baggage; and the coveted Booby prize;
  • Burton players rarely do well in their own competition. Naturally this is because we are so sportsmanlike and it would be unseemly to do well in our own competition;
  • The sprint to Spirit Games during the Saturday lunch break has become something of a tradition.

And yes, we still have the best beer of any competition…





So, now that I’ve collected the figures, I set out to paint them. The BAD Club has some frighteningly accomplished figure painters. I am not one of them. What follows is a version of a paint job by someone mediocre who’s created something that looks competent from a distance and is certainly good enough for wargaming (if not for winning painting competitions).


The materials I used for the project were:

  • Vallejo: All non-metallic paints;
  • Army Painter: Undercoat spray; Matt Varnish;
  • Games Workshop: Ink wash; metallic paints; basing materials (sand, snow and grass tuft effects).

Some “serious” wargamers are a little snobbish about GW products but I find their metallic paints and ink washes some of the best on the market.


Peter Pig figures are relatively free of flash, so cleaning them up was a relatively easy business. The next part of the process is to score the underside of the figure bases, plus top of the Battlefront FOW bases, to ensure that the PVA glue I use works effectively. PVA doesn’t really like smooth shiny surfaces.

Unlike Ancients or Horse & Musket period figures, the WWII bases for FOW lend themselves to contriving the figure locations so that it’s easy to get at for painting. So, much to the horror of purists, I base my WWII figures in their final position BEFORE painting.

Once the glue is dry, I then glue the sand on. Once that’s dry, the figures can then be spray undercoated. A couple of years ago I used a brown spray for a Hunnic army I assembled, because so many of the elements (horses, bows, spears, clothing) were brown anyway. However, I noticed that brown seemed to make a great base for every colour, so I’ve used it for all periods ever since.

After the basecoat has set, I then put on the first coat: flesh, followed by uniform, followed by equipment. My approach to the uniforms was based on photos in the Steven Zaloga book on the Bulge (plus of course the TV series Band of Brothers!). In effect, units seemed to have a hodge-podge of winter smocks (in white), greatcoats (in Feldgrau) and some poor souls in standard uniform. The Feldgrau I painted in the appropriate Vallejo colour, and the smocks in a sort of dirty grey.

After the first coat is set, the next stage is an ink wash, in GW’s Gryphonne Sepia. Good ink washes are such a bonus for mediocre painters such as me!

Volksgrenadiers #6

Once that has dried, it’s the final coat. This involves painting the raised areas of the figures in a lighter colour, so white in the case of smocks and Feldgrau (with a little white, but not too much) for the greatcoats.

Volksgrenadiers #8

I then tackled the bases. I simply glued on some GW snow, and then 1-3 grass tufts on each base. When the grass tufts has set, I glued some snow to those as well to give a frozen feel. All done…

The units I have finished are below. From back to front, they are: HQ (with the Major Moldenhauer equivalent to the front); first Sturm platoon; Schutzen platoon; second Sturm platoon.

Volksgrenadiers #7

Close up of one of the infantry bases:

Volksgrenadiers #9

And the Major Moldenhauer figure:

Volksgrenadiers Major Moller

Obviously, Moldenhauer was in 12 VG Division; I’ll need to research another officer for my 26VG, but otherwise use the same stats.

Next comes the tanks and guns.

Squarebashing the Germans

The British now all painted (just waiting to be based)


…now I turn my attention to the Germans. After the usual clean up and hot glue to craft sticks they are ready to go. They are new ‘re-sculpted’ Peter Pig Germans. I haven’t seen the originals so cannot compare. When comparing to the BEF I would say that they are a little finer – the facial details are certainly finer.

The BEF had taken me longer than I really wanted, it been over 2 weeks (although I have been distracted). For the Germans my original plan was to undercoat white and gloopy wash grey and then varnish ‘stain’, in a similar way to the BEF. But instead I thought I would cut out a stage and go for a coloured primer. I would have normally used a car primer grey (which is light and neutral), but I thought I’d try an army painter primer. I originally looked at the wolf grey (to get a bluish hue), but thought it was a little too blue. The uniform grey seemed to fit the bill, and with that purchased it was down to spraying. I did go a light dusting of white over the figures in the first instance. When using the AP primers in the past I have found that you end up doing quite a heavy coat to cover all the bare metal. A tough of white primer first seems to alleviate that. It comes out a little brighter and stops a little of the capillary action pulling the paint into the recess.

After the priming I was pleasantly surprised that the grey had quite a blue hue to it anyway, so was I was looking for. It was a little dark though, and I did toy with the idea of airbrushing a highlight coat , or maybe a drybrush. BUT … I reigned myself in … this was meant to be a quick project.


So post the primer I blocked in the boots , rifle stock, pack and helmet.

Then it came to the varnish ‘dip’/’stain’. I suppose in my mind I was going to use AP dark tone. The £1 shop varnish I used last time does have a mahogany tint, and I didn’t really want to the lose the blue grey that I had achieved. The AP dark tone is based on an oily black rather than brown, so seemed to fit the bill. It also meant that the 2 protagonist armies would have a distinct tonal difference.


After that had dried , then I went back and did the face and hands. I like these to be bright, and doing this before the washes had a horrible dirtying effect. Then a bit of red piping , and a touch of metal. Then a matt varnish and the job is complete.


Overall I’m not as happy with these as the BEF. Greens and browns are much easier to pull together with this sort of wash technique. My complaints are , they are too dark for my tastes. germ4The AP dip is very strong. The base coat was a little too dark. If I had stuck to my original plan and gone white – acrylic wash , then I could have had more control and that stage does add a highlighting element. The overall figures just have a flat appearance with little in the way of contrast.germ5


That said its all about getting the soldiers on the table , for this project I can let it slide.

There are more Germans than British, so I will allow myself another 2 weeks to get these done. I should probably think of this in terms of 37 days … a countdown to war…

A little bit of squarebashing

After being caught up with all the centenary media (esp 37 Days), I thought that this year would be a good idea to do a little WW1. The remit of this project would that it would be up and running in a few weeks. Concentrating on the very early part of the war I needed to be playing while the period was still ‘hot’. With that in mind here is my tutorial on how to paint 200 infantry in about 2 weeks.

The first army will be the small British BEF. My preferred 15mm manufacturer being Peter Pig. The reasons being – neatly cast (no cleanup) , comprehensive range , quirky looking sculpts (with a reasonable high relief – more on that later)…. And finally ‘all round good eggs at PP’

With this in mind I will commit to do the whole of the army in a single ‘process batch’. Here are the steps –


Debag the figures.
Clean up (none), other than a scrape along the bottom to keep the base flat
Hot glue gun them lolly sticks (the large ‘tongue depressor’ type). Bagful for a £1 at a craft shop/works


Primer. I picked PSC German Dunkel Gelb for this job. It has a rather pleasing green hue, and it light and bright. As the project would be a ‘wash’ project then at this stage you can afford to be light and bright. The subsequent washes will bring it down (and I like bright!)


Primary Wash. Mix up a big batch of gloopy paint wash. There wasn’t much method to this. It was just a mix of khaki and green (Vallejo Brown violet) until it was an approximation of the colours I was aiming for.


Mix to milky consistency, a bit of acrylic flow improver (vital to avoid tide marks). But on a ‘spray primer’ I find that the surface tension means that you do get a good capillary action. The main worry is that this is too much and the paint pools. Flow improver is good for that. The best I’ve found is GW Lahmian medium (but it is expensive) and for smaller batches I’d recommend. But in this case I just use a cheapo (Windsor and Newton)..

prep5As you can see at this stage you don’t have to be be too fussy and can really blob it on. When it dries it will shrink back and you are trying to use the paint over the primer to do your shading.
At this point I’m going to block paint all the main areas of colour. So, webbing and pack with a lighter canvas colour, rifle stock brown. Not leave the face at this point. The face is the only thing I’m going to paint. The face is a focal point for the eye, do this well and all else if forgiven

Shading Wash. Once you this has dried (leave overnight) then comes the varnish wash. This is a red/brown/mahogany darkoakthat I bought from a £1 shop. Thinned down with turps to a very wet wash and lather it on. All the figure brightness will drop anyway at this point. You can use Army painter dips (which are probably better colour ranges) , but the only thing I find is that they give a waxy finish when dry and its hard to paint any detail over later. I might use AP dip for the Boche later. I like my cheap dip, as it had a Polyurethane finish and acts as a hard coat and can easily be painted over.


Leave to dry for 2 days. This stuff take a long time to dry, and is really stinky , so is best left outside (or in a shed)

Then it is really the home run.

Face painting. A orange brown base coat foe hands and face, then AP tanned flesh and AP barbarian flesh ( I bought a new brush for this, just for a crisp edge). As I said it you do a good face then all else will be overlooked. This triad does give quite a ruddy complexion , but as this was a decision to contrast with uniform (and bring out the greens) .. red and green been complementary on the colour wheel.
You may choice to put in a little paint over the webbing and bring out a strap or two.


The final stage being the matt varnish. I like a lead chromate based paint (outside job) , 1407 Rail Match Matt Varnish. I have been using this for 20 years and have found no equal (and I tried them all!)


 There will be more to come on my blog