Bolt Action, Bolt Action - US, Painting & Modelling

Hobby: Converting USMC Plastics

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With the recent release of Empire in Flames Warlorder Rich.D’s been adding to his Bolt Action US Marines with some fantastic conversions;

Rich Wardogs (2)

RichD: I’ve been collecting US Marines for around 18 months now – having started during the release of our (rather fantastic!) US Marine Plastics back in January 2014.

You may have followed the initial stages of the army’s growth in last year’s ‘Collecting Armies for the Pacific Theatre’ series of articles (click the pictures below for more details!).

Rich Army 1

Rich Army 2

Rich Army 3

Since the initial spurt of activity building the army, I’ve worked on several other Bolt Action armies and forces from other game systems – however, my Marine army has been a slow-burner that I’ve continuously worked on in the background around other projects.

If you’re a member of the Bolt Action Facebook Group, and/or you follow Warlord Games’ Instagram feed, you may have seen some of my Dr.Frankenstein-like conversions and creations based around the USMC Plastic Sprue

rp_WGB-SPRUE-10-USMC-Sprue.jpgWarlord release new products each and every week… so whenever I spot a particularly interesting new model – whether it has a particularly nice head, arm, hand, leg, or piece of equipment – they tend to find their way into the force sooner or later!

As a quick preface before we delve into the guts of the article… my conversions are often a little unusual, and aren’t always historically accurate… I draw influence from movies, documentaries, TV Shows, photographs found online, re-enactors, my own ideas, and those of my colleagues here at Warlord as well as the wider community… so not all of the models below are especially historical or realistic…

Command Team

One of the recent Partizan shows offered a show-only miniature called ‘The World’s Smallest Wargame’ – which featured a small diorama in tiny scale, of two miniatures playing a wargame…

…but that wasn’t enough for me… I had to create a ‘Bolt Action-ception’ diorama as a Command Team – with a pair of American officers playing a wargame…. of models playing a wargame…

So – I grabbed a 28mm table from my bits box, and converted a couple of models to stand around it.


Medic Teams

We include a fantastic USMC Corpsman and Casualty in the US Marine Corps HQ set – however, having poured over Stephen Spielberg’s fantastic ‘The Pacific’ TV series, I couldn’t help but include some stretcher bearers in my army…

Again – I dived back into our USMC plastic sprues for the majority of the teams – and the stretchers were improvised… one is made from one of the benches from an LVT Buffalo and a pair of Sherman gun barrels… and the other was made from a pair of 50mm spears and two plastic Roman Scutums.

…and since making these teams, I’ve got a bit medic-mad! – My army now contains I-don’t-know-how-many medic models! (Given my dice rolling prowess, I’m going to need all of them on the front lines STAT!)


USMC War Dog Teams

When we began releasing our Landsknecht range, I loved the character of the models and the subject matter – the range is packed with some really characterful miniatures… I couldn’t help but raid them for Marine fodder! – The Hunting Party set contains a pair of fantastic hounds that were just dying to join my Marines. Of course, I also pillaged our other ranges as well – so there are some Roman War Dogs and Celtic Mastiffs in there as well…

Due to the nature of the Pacific fighting – with the Japanese having dug vastly elaborate tunnel networks of inter-linked blockhouses, gun positions, and firing points – the Marines employed the use of attack dogs to hunt out the Japanese concealed positions…

…and – with the release of Empires in Flames this past week, there are now rules to use them in-game! (on page 104, for those lucky enough to have already received their books already!).



Mule Train

I don’t remember the exact inspiration behind my Mule Train conversions – I may have simply been at a loose end – or I might have had a little too much caffeine that day…

Either way – we produce a number of Mules – I think the majority are from the Chindit Mule Teams and Napoleonic Mule Train – and I even threw in the Roman Pack Mule for good measure!

Handlers were mainly USMC plastics again – with a little Grey Stuff and the torso from one of the original Chindit handlers.

Game-wise… maybe they’d make a nice objective, or I could bash together a scenario in which a Marine army have to defend a supply convoy against Japanese attack?

Rich Mules



We had a few miscast US Jeeps lying about the Warlord warehouse, which I was only-too-happy to adopt… and adapt!

Not satisfied with leaving them standard, I consulted Google, and uncovered a few ‘more interesting’ Jeeps!

The first features a 37mm Anti-tank gun mounted on the back (yes, it’s British, but shh!)… a simple conversion, using a pin and a couple of key components from our US 37mm Anti-tank Gun kit.

In-game, I either use it simply as a 37mm Anti-tank gun, or alternately, as we’re all pretty lenient, friendly gamers here at Warlord HQ, it’s really easy to throw together house rules for it.

The second Jeep needed a little more BANG! – so… there are a few different setups of Calliope-equipped Jeeps… however the easiest one for me to replicate is pictured below…

Sure – it’s not 100% accurate… however it does the job! – again, I used a pin as the main support… then a few Tulip Rocket kits – and hey presto!

Game-wise – I simply use it as a Rocket Launcher (from page 33 of the ‘Armies of the United States’ book,) however again – there’s potential for some fun house rules….

The third Jeep was a little silly.. a late night chat with Andy Singleton of VolleyFirePainting sparked some wicked inspiration in me…

From what I can find, there’s one recorded reference of a Wasp Jeep, created for Popski’s Private Army… one was made, and then it was decided that it was not needed…

However, it’s a fun (and challenging) conversion… with an Oil Barrel, the backpack from our German Pioniers set… I’ve included the barrel from a Churchill Crocodile, and for the life of me, I can’t remember what the gunshield is from… it’s not intended to be a gunshield though!

Gameplay-wise – I’ve not used it in anger yet… but again, I’d suggest either using it simply as a Flamethrower team being transported in a Jeep, or coming-up with a house rule with your opponent.

Finally for the Jeeps – NOT a Jeep!

When we released the Japanese Kurogane Scout Car, I couldn’t resist but pinch one for my Marines… and it just so happened that – by using our Jeep Driver, Jeep Gunner, and some of the Crewmen bodies from our SAS Jeeps, you can cram five men into the Kurogane with relative ease! (and I’m sure I could perhaps cram a couple more men on there – maybe standing on the rear bumper?!)

So – with a few head-swaps, body-swaps and some creative arm-positioning, I have a looted Kurogane!

Misc Others

Of course… I don’t always go into these things with a plan… sometimes inspiration will strike in the wee hours of the morning, I’ll bash components together and create something a bit ‘different.’

Sometimes, it’s simply a model from another range which has a distinct and unique piece of equipment… you’ll see below – the flag from our Pike & Shotte Command blister, shovels from our one of our recently released Russian tanks, a pick from our Roman Engineers Set, a yoke from one of our Landsknecht models, a briefcase from a Judge Dredd model…

…and of course, it doesn’t end with infantry models – the plastics can be used to convert alternate crewmen for your Anti-tank guns and Artillery (with or without heads – ahem!), Motorbikes, Jeep Crew, Tank Riders…

Get Converting!

To summise, and to draw this article to some form of logical conclusion… the main point of this article is to encourage creativity!

I’ve been an avid wargamer for 15-or-so years now… before I came to Bolt Action, I never really attempted conversions… and historical wargaming perhaps isn’t the most conversion-friendly of sub-genres. Warlord’s USMC plastic sprue is packed with options and possibilities right from the box… however, if you want to add a little more personalisation to your force – it’s much easier than you’d think!

I started with a head-swap here and there, then I combined components between the USMC and US Infantry plastic sprues… and it naturally escalated from there. Nowadays, I’m chopping-up bits and pieces from across every Warlord range – plastic minis, metals, and even vehicles – and mixing everything together – taking heads from one model, hands from two others, a USMC body, and creating all kinds of bizarre creations. Admittedly, there’s quite a range of levels of success – and there’s a lot of adjustments and re-working to be done… and yes, I still feel guilty each time I hack-apart one of our lovely sculpts – but you have to break a few eggs when making an omelette. However, it’s great fun to play around with Warlord models – there’s heaps and heaps of flexibility and opportunity in every box!


I can’t recommend strongly enough that – the next time you have some leftover components left from a box set, or bits spare from a blister…. keep a hold of them – and think about how you might be able to put them to use!

The key point is to have fun… you’ll make mistakes along the way, and you’ll have to tear models apart again later if they don’t quite look right…. but overall, it’s a hugely rewarding exercise to create some unique models to scatter throughout your army!

Check out the fantastic parts found in the Bolt Action Armoury here:


View Armoury


View in Store



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