Painting Buff Coats in By Fire and Sword: A Guide.


Author’s note: While this guide was written for the miniatures made by Wargamer for their proprietary game By Fire and Sword, this guide can ostensibly used for any 15mm miniature or ruleset that takes place in the seventeenth century that features buff coats. For larger scale miniatures, additional intermediate highlight colors between the base coat and the final highlight may be required.

Buff coats are one of the most common armor types seen in western unit types in By Fire and Sword. Reiters, cuirassiers, some infantry (mainly pikemen), and certain officers would have worn buff coats. These are modeled and represented on the miniatures of the game as men with long, thigh-length coats. These can be painted as either buff coats or as regular wool coats, depending on the look you are attempting to achieve for your soldiers. As armies of the period trended away from the heavier full plate armor cuirasses, buff coats became a popular and cheaper alternative, especially with cavalry units. The buff coat was a compromise between the heavy, expensive immobility of a full plated cuirass and the more affordable but significantly more vulnerable wool coat. Buff coats could be seen from units ranging from the Eighty Years War to the English Civil War to the War of Spanish Succession.

If you play By Fire and Sword and have a faction that uses reiters or similar armor types, you will probably find yourself painting buff coats at some point. Buff coats, being made from a tanned animal hide (ranging from ox to elk hide), are usually a brownish-yellowish color.

What you will need:

A unit with a buff coat. Featured in this guide are pikemen from Wargamer’s Imperial infantry set. I’m using a set I initially painted when I new to the hobby, but want to repaint to bring them into line with my recent standard of painting. These are meant to represent infantry from the late Thirty Years’ War period of the 1640s. At this time, plate armor had fallen out of favor with the Imperial pikemen. Even buff coats themselves were becoming less popular in favor of ordinary woolen coats (1).

A black/dark/cold colored spray primer. I used Citadel’s Chaos Black spray, but you may use any black or dark gray spray primer. You may use a painted-on primer if you wish, but a spray primer will save you time.

Paints (duh!). You may choose the paints of whatever paint maker or provider you like, as long as your colors roughly match (To avoid confusion, use https://www.dakkadakka.com/wiki/en/Paint_Range_Compatibility_Chart or a similar paint chart). The paints I typically used were Citadel Steel Legion Drab, Citadel Tallarn Sand, and Vallejo Model Color White.

To paint a buff coat, you have three steps: 1. Priming 2. Base Coat. 3. Highlight

For these figures, the left and right figures will have sleeveless buff coats, while the center figure will wear a plain red wool coat. To paint a full coat, you simply have to include the sleeves in your painting process. To paint a sleeveless buff coat, you only paint the torso, blouse, skirt, and tails of the coat, leaving the arms to be whichever color you desire. Additionally, the figure on the right in the top photograph has a small metal breastplate, which has been burnished in black. While plate armor was falling out of favor with Imperial pikemen, it perhaps would not have been uncommon to see a breastplate or two, especially if a soldier was to be in the front rank.

After having cleaned and primed your miniature, you will need to provide a base coat. For the base coat, I will use Steel Legion Drab. Be sure to thin your paint appropriately (or use a wet palette as I do) to avoid clogging details with excess paint. Once your base coat is down, your next step is the highlight. For 15mm scale, you only have room and detail for one bright highlight typically, as the smaller size of the miniature will mean that the nuance of a two-step highlight is lost. To ensure maximum contrast and attention to detail, you need to make sure your highlight is well chosen and painted. The highlight is best painted on raised areas, such as the ridges of folds in the clothes and the tops of creases. To ensure maximum detail, the highlight should cover the raised areas, but the base coat should still be visible in recessed areas.

To provide a maximum variation between the base coat and the highlight, I use a mix of two parts Tallarn Sand and one part Vallejo Model Color White. While Tallarn Sand by itself can be considered a highlight color for Steel Legion Drab, I find the white provides the extra brightness necessary to stand out from the base coat. If you don’t want to mix colors, you can still use a different yellow color for a highlight, such as Vallejo Model Color Iraqi Sand or Vallejo Model Color Desert Yellow. You could also alternate between using Tallarn Sand/White mix and one of the other desert colors on various models to provide a heterogeneous mix of yellow-brown colored hues, and to avoid an overly uniform shade for your buff wearing troopers.

Bonus: Iron Armor Plate

For the pikemen on the left above, I achieved an iron plate even though the sculpt does not originally feature one by simply painting over the torso where a plate would be with plan Vallejo Model Color Black. This plate covers the front and black. Once I achieved the basic outline of what the plate was, I highlighted it with a mix of 1/3rd White to black. This represents that most armor was simply burnished black to avoid rusting in the field.

1. Vladimir Brnardic, Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years’ War (1): Infantry and Artillery (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009), 33.

A Whole Imperial Battalion.

In my last post, I detailed how I was painting musketeers from the Mansfield Regiment (circa Vienna Campaign of 1683) for my Imperial army for By Fire and Sword. I’ve now completed a whole battalion, with four companies. Here they are in a standard post-Thirty Years’ War pike-and-shot formation, with pikemen in the center and squadrons of musketeers on the flanks. They are supported here by a regimental 3lb cannon. These are representative of Imperial-Habsburg infantry units who would fight in the War of the Holy League against both the Ottomans until the 1690s as well as Louis XIV of France and his wars of expansion. By the end of these conflicts, there would be drastic changes in the infantry’s equipment and appearance. The pikes would disappear, obsoleted by the socket bayonet. Infantry would adopt tricorns to replace the slouch hat and the flintlock fusil would see widespread adoption over the less reliable matchlock musket.

Infantry Battalion from the Mansfield Regiment, Habsburg Imperial army.

I simplified my painting process somewhat. I still prime in black, but I just use a base color and then a single but highly contrasted highlight on raised surfaces and edges. This saves the times from painting third highlights (which are not really perceptible in 15mm scale) or waiting for washes to dry without sacrificing visual quality or fidelity.

It is worth noting that for the actual period that By Fire and Sword (1648-1672) is set in, the Imperial infantry would have worn red uniforms as noted by a description by French diplomat Frischmann here:

“… there were about 5,000 infantrymen, all dressed in red cloth.”

Frieschmann was describing the forces of the anti-Swedish coalition in Denmark during the Second Northern War. A fuller version of his quote, including a description of Polish and Brandenburg units in addition to Imperial units, can be seen here. It is presumed that the Imperial army would have worn red uniforms in the 1663 war against the Turks. Additionally, there are artistic depictions of Imperial infantry in red as late as the 1676 Siege of Phillipsburg.

However, given that the Vienna Campaign took place only a little more than two decades after the Second Northern War, and that the pearl-gray/off-white color is strongly associated with the Habsburg army uniform (there are examples of Imperial regiments under Field Marshal Gallas adopting the color in 1645, partly as a cost saving measure as the color was essentially undyed wool), I chose pearl-gray as the uniform color for this time (1). I do have plans for an entire Imperial regiment in period appropriate red, however.

Make Ready!
Open Fire!

Up next on the painting list are some Swedish cavalry units that will serve for both the Thirty Years’ War and Second Northern War, followed by Imperial Croats.

1. Geoffrey Parker, ed., The Thirty Years’ War, 2nd ed., (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 171-2; Vladimir Brnardic, Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years’ War (1): Infantry and Artillery (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009), 37-8.


Painting Little History: Habsburg Musketeers from the Imperial Mansfeld Regiment, Vienna Campaign, 1683

“Here we think of nothing except military affairs. Last Monday the Dieppental battalion, 500 strong, was inspected by the imperial commissaries. Nine hundred horses and 169 wagons for the artillery, and 19 large anchors for warships, also arrived; while the same day, the foot marched out along the Tabor road to the suburbs, and went down the Danube next morning. On Tuesday 3 craft from Steyr came in, with 2,000 cannon-ball, and many thousands of smaller shot. Half of the Scherffenberg regiment (with 1,020 men) also arrived, and marched through the city … Today, half the Mansfeld regiment (again 1,020 men) were stationed outside the Burg-gate at 9 0’clock, when the Emperor went out of town to hunt; he took the opportunity to inspect them. They were well clad in grey, with blue facings …” – Observer in Vienna, April 22, 1683, quoted in John Stoyer, The Siege of Vienna: The Last Trial of Cross and Crescent (New York: Pegasus Books, 2006), 63.

I’ve recently been expanding my collection of Imperial units for the game By Fire and Sword. I’ve been working on completing at least two regiments of Holy Roman Empire infantry. The first will be painted as Imperial infantry for the Vienna campaign of 1683, while the second would be for Imperial infantry for the 1657-60 Northern War in red uniforms.

Given it is the more famous engagement, I decided to start with the troops from the later Vienna campaign. Using the first hand account of the uniform of the Mansfeld Regiment quoted in Stoyer’s book, I decided to use the Mansfeld regiment as an example unit.

I started by cleaning and preparing the miniatures. I then glued them with PVA glue to a couple of cheap old rulers to provide a base to hold while I painted. I then primed the miniatures with Games Workshop Chaos Black Primer spray. For the uniform coats, I base coated with Vallejo Model Color Basalt Grey. To add definition, I then went over with a coat of Games Workshop Nuln Oil shade. Then I highlighted with either Vallejo Model Color Sky Grey or Vallejo Game Color Ghost Grey. This gives a variety in color which reflects that uniform dyes weren’t quite so precise and that the coats would appear different shades due to natural wear and appearance. The cuffs and other visible facings were then painted with Vallejo Model Color Prussian Blue, shaded with Nuln Oil, and then highlighted with a Prussian Blue/White mix. Next painted were faces, hats, trousers and stockings, and shoes. This were of various colors, but I’ll give an example of each below.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Faces: Vallejo Game Color Beasty Brown Base, with a Beasty Brown/IWM Paints 77-705 Flesh mix as a first highlight, leaving only the lowest recesses not covered. To give definition, Games Workshop Reikland Fleshshade was shaded over the base layers. Then a final cheek/forehead highlight of pure IWM Flesh was used, sometimes mixed with white on the nose bridge and forehead.

Hats: I varied between gray, black, and brown hats of various shades to reflect that these would often be a multitude of colors. For a basic example, I mixed Basalt Grey with Vallejo Model Color Chocolate Brown to give a brown-gray tint as a base coat. I washed with Games Workshop Agrax Earthshade for definition, and then highlighted with a White/base color mix. Sometimes, I edge highlighted with a extreme white/base color mix to give a “pop” to the hat rims.

Trousers: For red trousers, I started with a Vallejo Model Color Red base coat, shaded with Games Workshop Carroburg Crimson shade. I then highlighted with Vallejo Model Color Scarlet.

The results of this process you can see below. They are finished, needing only to be varnished and based before they are tabletop ready.

KODAK Digital Still Camera