Tlaxcalan Novices, Elite Warriors, and Command Group

The Tlaxcalans were a Nahua people that were at a constant state of war with the Aztecs of the Triple Alliance for decades. The Aztecs never fully conquered the Tlaxcalans, as they found them to be a far more useful source of slave labor, sacrificial victims, and resources than as a vassal state. The Aztecs were able to take these captives and supplies by allowing the Tlaxcalans to merely exist – and by challenging them repeatedly to a series of “Flower Wars”. Flower Wars were basically ritualized arranged gang-like “throw downs” where usually the Aztecs would emerge victorious, as they were a larger and far more powerful empire based in Tenochtitlan. Certainly, with this level of abuse, there was no love lost between the Tlaxcalans and the Aztecs.

Into this theater of conflict came a new revolutionary factor in the early 16th century. Hernan Cortes and his Conquistadores arrived in Mesoamerica in February of 1519. In September of that year, he encountered the Tlaxcalans and briefly fought them – as the Tlaxcalans were unaware of who the Conquistadores were or from whence they came. Both sides came to peace terms relatively quickly after some tough fighting – during which mutual respect was gained for their respective courage and capabilities in battle. The Tlaxcalans informed Cortes of the vast riches (especially in terms of gold) of Tenochtitlan and their emperor, Montezuma II. The Tlaxcalans happily joined the Spanish on their march to Tenochtitlan and indeed were staunch allies for them. Indeed, without the Tlaxcalans who formed the bulk of Cortes’ forces, the Spanish would never have been able to defeat the Aztecs during their conquest of New Spain.

I have been working on building Aztec, Tlaxcalan, and Spanish forces for the upcoming launch of my rules supplement for Buck Surdu’s Feudal PatrolTMskirmish tabletop war game. My supplement will be a free download from the website and will be called Civilizations Collide. The supplement will cover many aspects of the Spanish Conquest to include the Aztecs, the Inca, the Maya, and more. Back in August, I began to work on the Tlaxcalans. I was working on my Tlaxcalan Archers, (which you can read about here), and quickly realized that the level of detail that I wanted to achieve on these figures could not be achieved if I was to work on too many at a time. Therefore, I broke up the project into two phases. The first phase was the completion of the 8 Tlaxcalan Archers. For the second phase – which this post concerns – I had 18 figures, all from Outpost Wargames Services via their US distributor, Badger Games. Eight were from TX2 “Tlaxcalan Novice Warriors in Padded Vest”; eight were from TX3b “Elite Warrior in Feather Costume”; and two were from TXC01 “Tlaxcalan Captain and Conch Blower. These are all 28mm in scale and metal. Still, this two-phase approach took me a lot longer than I had expected to take to finish these – primarily as there were (as you will see) multiple shields, weapons, and backbanners to paint and assemble. As source materials I used both multiple Osprey books and especially the two blog posts from Steven’s Balagan blog on Tlaxcalan painting and especially his post on shield painting and design. These are fantastic resources and I recommend them highly for anyone interested in the period in addition to the Osprey books. I also recommend Badger Games as a source for these figures as well as those they sell from other manufacturers.

I will generally show some WIP stuff and discuss some of the aspects and challenges of the project and how I dealt with them. I’ll end with a recap of where the overall project progress is now, and what paints and stuff I used here. I did not take as many WIP shots as I normally do because while I have tackled more figures at a time previously, this project phase kept me very busy (and as this was during golf season, that took some hobby time too!). If WIP shots are not for you, just scroll down to the “Eye Candy” section to see how they all came out. With all of the photos – just click on them if you want a bigger view.

TX2 “Tlaxcalan Novice Warriors in Padded Vest” WIP Shots

The TX2 baggie of Novice Warriors as received
The painting plan for the Tlaxcalan Novices. I did find that I needed to change the weapons selection after painting as some of them did not fit quite well into the figures’ hands or did not look as good. I chose specific shield designs from Steven’s Balagan and the Osprey books. The numbers you see are applied to the base bottoms and help with my ability to make game menus and aids later on.
Here you see the novices mounted on 1″ steel washers on specimen jars with poster tack for ease of painting. I also labeled them (and all the figures) with their numbers, their future weapons, and their planned shields. The Tlaxcalan Archers behind them were completed in phase 1 (a previous post described them.

I chose to try to paint all of the separate components (figures, shields, weapons) before assembly. I did find that I had a bit of difficulty getting certain the weapons to fit easily to some models so I ended up switching between issuing a macuahuitl (broadsword/club-type with obsidian edges) or a tepoztopilli (obsidian-edged thrusting spear) for a few. I should have tried to widen the figures’ hands a bit more than I did. Certainly, I think using Citadel “Apothecary White” contrast paint on the white ichcahuipilli (quilted cotton vest armor) was a big win.

TX3b “Elite Warrior in Feather Costume” WIP Shots

The Tlaxcalan Elites would be a bigger challenge – primarily because in addition to the figures, weapons, and shields, each had a huge (and relatively heavy model-wise) feather backbanner. I ended up using a wooden jig to hold them during the project in between painting colors. According to my research, there were other types of backbanners – and even this type (TX3b) was supposed to have the white egret backbanner as an option. All I had were 8 of the same type of backbanners- so I diverged a bit with color selections on the center section to aid with tabletop identification. I also decided to paint them a bit differently. I used Citadel “Nuln Oil” as a wash immediately after priming white. This allowed me to get better shading – especially with subsequent uses of contrast paints on the feathers. After I painted the backbanners, I applied a satin varnish to preserve the brighter colors as I used a final matte varnish at the end of the assembly. Clearly, between the costume and the feathered backbanner, these elites had a lot of “battle plumage”! Historically, fighting in melee with the backbanner on must have been tough. I do wish I had had one of the egret backbanners, but not enough to buy any more…yet.

I did paint the elite figures a bit differently as well. I find that dry brushing over contrast paints leads to too much abrasion and wear on the contrast-painted areas. These Tlaxcalan elites have a nice feathered costume, and I wanted to bring that aspect out. So, I painted the figures’ flesh first, then similarly applied Citadel “Nuln Oil” as a wash. Then I dry brushed the costume with Citadel “Hexos Palesun”, followed by an wash-like application of Citadel “Iyanden Yellow” contrast paint thinned with Citadel “Contrast Medium”. My only change going forward would be to paint the flesh base after as of course I had to cover up some errant dry brushing.

Left is an elite figure after dry brushing but before adding the contrast paint. The right one has had the contrast paint added as I described above.
A finished Tlaxcalan Elite figure – more to see in “Eye Candy” below.

TXC01 – “Tlaxcalan Captain with Conch Blower”

Finally, I wanted to add some leadership for the group. For painting, I followed a similar path as described above for the elites and the novices.

TXC1 as received. I ended up giving both a tepoztopilli (spear).
Gotta have a plan!
Fast forward – and the Captain completed. I do like the way he came out – and more eye candy below.

Notes on Painting Shields, Assembly, and Basing

As discussed, this project took a lot of time on details. Each figure had its own distinctive shield design. After free-handing these, I used a satin varnish similar what I did on the backbanners.

The shields were affixed with a “sandwich” of E6000 epoxy and Gorilla Glue. The weapons were attached with Gorilla Glue. Assembling the backbanners was trickier. They weighed a lot, and I wanted to make sure that they would be set up for both tabletop survival and looking good. I used Gorilla Glue on them, and then finished off the mount with green stuff. This necessitated yet another wait for curing. I primed the green stuff black and left it black as I liked it better than the brown I originally planned. Better yet, it is solid, and will support the figure as it is picked up!

Figures painted – need weapons, shields, backbanners, and bases flocked and finished!

As for basing, I probably do too much, but I think bases are so important. This time I did the bases before affixing any weapons, shields, or backbanners. I used Army Painter Brown Battlefields with PVA (Elmer’s) glue. I then add two kinds of Vallejo pigments with Vallejo airbrush thinner. Once that is dry (again a wait) I drybrush the base with four different shades of tan. After varnish, the last step is to add some static grass with PVA, and gently vacuum that mix (once a bit tacky) so that the grass gets a little frilly.

The absolute last thing I do after final matte varnish is added and static grass is to highlight the obsidian-edged weapons with some Vallejo Model Color “Glossy Black”.

Eye Candy

For shots here, I got a new background from previous posts – and added some cacti that I had flocked and washed. Hope it adds to the shots!

Tlaxcalan Novices

TXN1 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl.

TXN2 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and is armed with a tepoztopilli. Also has the “thick-lipped” shield.

TXN3 – has the black mask war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl.

TXN4 – has the black mask war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl.

TXN5 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and a different head cover, and is armed with a macuahuitl.

TXN6 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and a different head cover, and is armed with a tepoztopilli.

TXN7 – has the black mask war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl.

TXN8 – has no war paint and is armed with a tepoztopilli.

Tlaxcalan Elite Warriors

TXE1 – has no war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl. The center of his backbanner is tan.

TXE2 – has no war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl. The center of his backbanner is yellowish-tan.

TXE3 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl. The center of his backbanner is yellowish-tan.

TXE4 – has the black mask war paint and is armed with a tepoztopilli. The center of his backbanner is light green.

TXE5 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and is armed with a tepoztopilli. The center of his backbanner is tan.

TXE6 – has the black mask war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl. The center of his backbanner is bright white.

TXE7 – has the red-striped-over-white war paint and is armed with a tepoztopilli. The center of his backbanner is bright white.

TXE8 – has no war paint and is armed with a macuahuitl. The center of his backbanner is light green.

Tlaxcalan Command Group

TXC1 – Tlaxcalan Captain, with no war paint, armed with a tepoztopilli. His backbanner has a serpent on it.

TXC2 – Conch Blower, with no war paint, armed with a tepoztopilli.

Tlaxcalan Command Group

Next up I need to add some warrior priests for the Tlaxcalans – and I have some old Ral Partha ones that will do the trick – I hope – stay tuned!

Miscellaneous details and references for those interested:

Posts on Games and Units for my 16th Century Spanish Conquest Supplement for Feudal Patrol™ – “Civilizations Collide”

  1. Tlaxcalan Novices, Elite Warriors, and Command Group (this post) – 18 figures – 8 Novice Tlaxcalan Warriors, 8 Elite Tlaxcalan Warriors, 1 Tlaxcalan Captain, 1 Tlaxcalan Conch Blower
  2. Tlaxcalan Archers – 8 Veteran Tlaxcalan Archers
  3. Aztec Game for Feudal Patrol across thousands of miles – via Zoom!
  4. Aztec Snake Woman and Drummer – 1 Aztec General, 1 Aztec Drummer
  5. A June and July Jaguar Warrior Frenzy (plus some Aztec Veterans and a Warrior Priest to Boot) – 3 Aztec Veteran Warriors, 17 Jaguar Warriors, 1 Aztec Warrior Priest
  6. Doubling Down – Aztec Veteran Warriors – 24 Aztec Veteran Warriors
  7. Aztec Arrow Knights, Ral Partha circa 1988 – 6 Aztec Arrow Knights
  8. Aztec Eagle Warriors from Tin Soldier UK – 6 Aztec Eagle Knights
  9. Aztec Novice Warriors and a few Frinx – 12 Novice Warriors

Total figures to date for this project: 97 figures:  71 Aztecs, 26 Tlaxcalans


  1. Gorilla Glue
  2. 1/8″ x 1″ Everbilt Fender Washers
  3. Plastic plates
  4. Poster tack
  5. Vallejo “Surface Primer – White Primer”
  6. Vallejo “Flow Improver”
  7. Vallejo “Airbrush Thinner”
  8. Testors “Universal Acrylic Thinner”
  9. Citadel “Nuln Oil” (shade)
  10. Battlefront “Wool Brown”
  11. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Wyldwood”
  12. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Contrast Medium”
  13. Army Painter “Tanned Flesh”
  14. Vallejo Game Air “Black”
  15. Citadel “Agrax Earthshade” (shade)
  16. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Basilicanum Grey”
  17. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Volupus Pink”
  18. Vallejo Game Air “Dead White”
  19. Citadel Air “Evil Sunz Scarlet”
  20. Vallejo Model Air “Weiss” (off-white)
  21. Citadel “Averland Sunset”
  22. Vallejo Game Color “Bronze Fleshtone”
  23. Vallejo Model Color “Sunny Skin Tone”
  24. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Darkoath Flesh”
  25. Army Painter “Flesh Wash” (wash)
  26. Army Painter “Red Tone” (shade)
  27. Citadel “Caliban Green”
  28. Vallejo Model Air “Tire Black”
  29. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Apothecary White”
  30. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Blood Angels Red”
  31. Vallejo Model Air “Moon Yellow”
  32. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Warp Lightning”
  33. Battlefront “Chocolate Brown”
  34. Citadel “Biel-Tan Green” (shade)
  35. Citadel “Seraphim Sepia” (shade)
  36. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Iyanden Yellow”
  37. Citadel “Hexos Palesun”
  38. Vallejo Game Color “Livery Green”
  39. Citadel “Auric Armour Gold”
  40. Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSS” (shade)
  41. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Terradon Turquoise”
  42. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Snakebite Leather”
  43. Citadel “Hexwraith Flame”
  44. P3 “Sunshine” (ink)
  45. Secret Weapon Washes “Blue” (wash)
  46. Vallejo Model Color “Dark Blue”
  47. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Talassar Blue”
  48. Vallejo Game Air “Escorpena Green”
  49. Vallejo Model Air “Cockpit Emerald Green ‘Faded’”
  50. E6000 Epoxy
  51. Elmer’s PVA Glue
  52. Army Painter “Brown Battlefields” (flocking)
  53. Vallejo “Dark Yellow Ochre” (pigment)
  54. Vallejo “Burnt Umber” (pigment)
  55. Citadel “Steel Legion Drab”
  56. Citadel “Tallarn Sand”
  57. Citadel “Karak Stone”
  58. Americana “Desert Sand”
  59. Green Stuff
  60. Reaper MSP “Black Primer”
  61. Vallejo Mecha Varnish “Matt Varnish”
  62. Vallejo Model Color “Glossy Black”
  63. Army Painter “Grass Green” (flocking)

Thanks for looking!!! Please let me know your thoughts and feedback in the comments section – I really appreciate hearing what you think.

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Author: Mark Morin

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