Wednesday, 29 June 2011

2mm Web Resources: Nice shots of a game in progress

Just a small update to the occasional series on 2mm related things that can be found out there on the Web; this time a great After Action Report with plenty of pictures from Tim Gow's excellent Blog, Megablitzandmore, of Blenheim 1704 in 2mm.

It's great to see the little 2mm blighters in use in an actual game - there aren't enough photos available of them in action, as it were - so hurrah for Tim, Martin Rapier and their fellow club members - definitely a set of photos worth a look, if you haven't spotted them already!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: 'not' Blake's 7 completed!

I must say I'm pretty excited about these, and was keen to showcase them after an uncharacteristically quick completion; probably down to the sheer 'coolness' of the minis!
So without further ado, some eye candy showing off the Blake's 7 ships from Shapeways, as well as some of the perhaps less important personal impressions as to how they are to paint.

As you might remember, I'd started off with the flat black multi-layered spray undercoat, and then made a sortie against the Pursuit ships as you see below:

First off, I found the textured surface was murder on my brush; small detailed and sculpted-in the-round minis require small accurate brushes, but mine were pretty tired after having moved over these surfaces, I can tell you - some remedial work with washing up liquid and much licking of the brush tips (Eeeew!) was required to get them back in shape after the session.

Secondly, although I always work in acrylic with a wet palette, and mostly start off with a dab of water on the brush, then the paint, and sometimes the merest touch of water again to help flow before applying to the mini, the response of this surface material was frankly, well...weird.

Application of the paint-laden brush immediately resulted in all the moisture being sucked down into the surface - it was as if you were painting onto a sponge. This left the acrylic colour on its own, so more water dabbing was required before you could get a good surface flow going - long, contoured strokes with the brush were definitely out - so a slightly hiccupping progress, but alright once you got used to the instant disappearance of the moisture content.

Having said that, the surface took the colours well enough, with a genuine representation of what was being used appearing - here you can see the Miniatures Paint's brand rust colour brushed over in successively lighter shades, and finally touched off with some Vallejo orange:

I am quite please with how these turned out, I'm inclined to think that I need more surface detailing, and the powerplant/engine areas could do with some attention, but I am wary of gilding the lily here - the minis are small and might get a bit overwhelmed with too much done to them, certainly, there has been no final ink wash as yet - to my eye they seem dark and shady enough with that knobbly effect under the colour layers....

I then moved on to the personal ship of Servelan, the female villain of the show, and that all-important white coat - this was difficult to apply consistently over the stippled surface, and at first I was a bit disappointed with the patchiness, but then I realised that if anything, this was rather like a sort of in-built shading or weathering - so not so bad in the long run - perhaps saving me a stage in the process:

Servelan's 'Pursuit 4', a Mark I Pursuit ship modified to be her personal craft:

Moving on now, to perhaps - no, well actually, definitely my favourite craft, the Liberator herself:

The surface of this seems the most pronouncedly knobbly of the three, indeed in close-up it rather reminded me of the clogged-up surface of one of those cloth rollers you used to paint domestic ceilings with, and again, I was panicking about how this might appear under the all-white coat, but overall, I think at normal viewing distances, it somehow conspires to give some more built-in shading and definition, although of course that it hard to take away from the Macro photos seen here.

I had long ago foolishly bought a pot of Liquitex Artist's acrylic called 'Christmas Green', which was only Christamssy in the nuclear accident sense, being a sort of vulgar, florescent swamp colour. I wondered why I had never got rid of it, but then of course, it was because I was saving it all this time as it was an exact match for the green glowing power source of the Liberator!

Actually, for some reason, the 'glowingness' became rather subdued on application, particularly being overshadowed by the inscribed ribs around the globe, but overall, I'm quite happy.

The most difficult thing perhaps, was whether to go the whole hog and hand draw the Alien identification sigils on the three cylinders - they were a feature of the models in the show, but were very rarely visible on screen - in the end I went for it and did my best, and they haven't tuned out too badly:

Overall, then, as I am sure you can tell, I'm pretty pleased with how these went - but that has more to do with the intrinsic nature of the little beauties rather than any ease of process in painting them up. I think as long as you are prepared for a somewhat odd experience in the application of paint, and don't mind sacrificing the odd brush, then the Shapeways stuff is practicable as wargaming miniatures - they are after all, fast becoming the best provider of those obscure craft that we all just have to have.

Anyway, I am thoroughly chuffed with my little flotilla - and I'm off now to Cygnus Alpha to liberate some more freedom fighters!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: Blake's 7 quick update

Just thought I'd throw a quick update into the mix with the 'not' Blake's 7 minis from Shapeways. Following some good pointers from CJR over at the TwoThreeSixMM Blog, I went the whole hog and unusually for me, did a spray undercoat. In the past, not being the owner of an airbrush, I've often found the results from this can be a bit hit and miss, finding it difficult to achieve consistent, smooth results, but given the nature of the material here, it was definitely the best way to go.

If anything, I was quite tentative in applying, and went for a lot of rather light sprays rather than one all-over job. The paint I used was described as 'flat black', although in the past, particularly on metals, it has dried with rather a glossy finish, but it was interesting here that the porous-looking white material meant that the final effect was definitely more on the matt side.

I am pleased with the finish so far, as particularly from normal viewing distances, the visible knobbliness of the material is much less pronounced. Of course the real test will be to see how the paints themselves go on over the top - I tend towards an easy dry-brushing of layers of colour on starships, so I don't yet know how these will respond to that. Two of the Pursuit ships will be a rusty scarlet colour, but the other, and of course the Liberator are mainly white - so fingers crossed there!

For size reference, the three Federation ships against the slightly converted Brigade Pacfed Barramundi, and a trio of GZG Kfirs as Colonial vipers:

I normally mount space craft using rare earth magnets, but found that the conformal sculpting and overall delicacy of these Shapeways ships meant that a magnet was looking far too clunky, so opted to place them directly onto the integral flight stand pegs.
I must say that the fit from the pre-cast holes was excellent - but I am trepidatious about how strong a mounting this will serve to be - I am sure I am not alone in experiencing peg break-off due to routine handling of minis mounted in this way.

Finally, again as a comparison of size, that all important Liberator up against the Bergstrom Galactica - Blake's ship runs out at 55mm, with the Pursuit ship to scale at 29mm long:

I am keen to push ahead with these when time permits, so look out for more updates soon - if I can screw up enough courage to paint all those white surfaces!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Small Scale Sci-Fi Reboot: 2mm Drone Army

A re-visit to an old project now, thanks mainly to the Lead Mountain trade with David Crook of A Wargaming Oddysey, that enabled me to bulk out the available forces in teeny-tiny scale. These came in the form of some of the excellent 2mm minis designed by Jeremy 'Germy' Claridge, available from GZG.

Having had a look at some traditional Alien and Human protagonists previously, I thought it might be fun to have a go at an army of automatons or drones - I was recently re-enthused by the great work being done by Andrew Beasley and his 'Earth vs. the Flying Saucers' project:

His own Human armoured units had me reaching for the brush to do a necessarily basic, but I hope effective scheme to represent automated armour and support, that would be used to counter the heavier weapons and capabilities of an Alien enemy - sort of a 'quantity overcomes quality' type of strategy.

Germy's 2mm is, in spite of its diminutive scale, very clearly sculpted and has bags of character, without looking too cartoonish or overblown. A great example is the GMM10 Medium hover APC - I'm going to use it as a type of 'swarm' light vehicle - here in a couple of colour schemes, so I can do a sort of two-echelon army, brown and green:

Next up some support units - I did little more than the base colour, grey hover skirt outlines, and pick out the weapons; a rather skew-whiff attempt at a sensor window with red stripes over white stands as the marker of their homogeneity:

Moving on to the meat of the units, namely the GMM02 Heavy armour, which on my terms serves in a more medium role:

These are backed up by the GMM01 Super-heavy, probably closer to heavy for my purposes:

I reserve the moniker Super-heavy in this case for that other amazing sculpt from Germy, namely the GMM CYB1 Cybertank - I figure this army of diminutive drone vehicles will need a Drone Controller - it could even, in an Ogre style, be an artificial intelligence in itself, not necessarily crewed, but would obviously need to be much more hardcore than its tiny minions:

As you'll notice, I've made my own interpretation of the Cybertank - Germy's version can be found at the GZG website, but they kindly provide the whole in what is effectively kit form, with all the various turrets and weapons separate, allowing you to go wild with your own versions:

I threw in some plastic tubing from an ink pen, and a radar/comms dish from who knows where to mark its role as controller, oh and plenty of guns and of course the land-train style missile carriage to go along too:

It will be a while before I have time to get these guys based and furthermore re-boot the original small scale forces I did some time ago, but I thought a quick effort would encourage me to get some work in wherever I could - obviously the Cybertank is next on the list.
Just one slightly left-field idea occurred to me whilst I was working on these - the shape of the Heavy Tank in particular got me thinking.... a very quick and rough paintjob later, and we maybe have some re-booted maniacal pepperpots on the horizon too.....?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: 'not' Blake's 7 ships from Shapeways

I'm vey excited about this - being of a certain age, I am old enough to remember arguably one of the best Sci-Fi series ever to grace UK television, namely Blake's 7. Created by Terry Nation, the originator of the Daleks, it told the tale of the adventures of a rag-tag band of ex-criminals, adventurers and freedom fighters, and their struggle against the evil Federation.

Move over Star Trek - forget Firefly - this was the real deal - wobbly sets and ropey special effects- yes, but also probably one of the wittiest and most mature scripts ever seen in the genre, as well as having a candidate for one of the most evocative theme tunes ever to grace a TV show.

Moreover, it gave us the easily one of the best, unique and charismatic spacecraft designs ever created, namely the 'Liberator' or Deep Space Vehicle 2.
This was an alien craft found empty and drifting in space, that was acquired by Roj Blake and his band of freedom fighters as their primary weapon against the Federation.
Now many moons ago, Corgi Toys produced a rather cute diecast model of this ship, which you often see for sale on EBay, but it is rather on the large size for Fleet Scale gaming, so imagine my delight at finding some 'not' Blakes 7 contenders amongst the output of Shapeways in the US.

I am sure most of you have seen the increasingly interesting Sci-Fi related productions coming out of the various design studios over there, but this was my first experience at ordering from them, and I have to say I was quite impressed. More on that experience later, but back to the ships in hand.

The Liberator was designed by the renowned Dr Who set designer Roger Murray-Leach, and built by Space Models of Middlesex in the UK, with detailing by Martin Bower - I believe two models were created for the filming of the show; some great shots can be seen here:

and a fan site has the low-down here:

Of course, no heroic protagonist is worth his salt without a worthy nemesis, and the Liberator was most frequently at odds with the Pursuit Ships of the Federation - again, from the excellent fan site:

So, I just couldn't resist the LRV-7 Insurgent and Alliance Pursuit Frigates from Admiral Duck Sauce's shop:

Ordering online was a breeze, and a flurry of confirmatory and status update emails from Shapeways themselves meant the overall experience was smooth and definitely rewarding!
A fourteen day or-so wait, and I received a lovely package from the US via UPS.

The miniatures were in individual bags as you see in the photo at top, and were well protected by packing within the box - a good thing, as the material these are made of is extremely light, and I would imagine on the fragile side. Here's a photo of the two ships together for scale:

As you can see, the 'White, strong and flexible' material has a rather porous-looking, slightly rough surface - I'm yet to throw any paint in their direction, but I imagine they will be pretty thirsty - looking close, the knobbliness is apparent, but at a visual or gaming distance, I am sure it will not be noticeable - the proportions, clarity of sculpting and detail are all excellent - as you can see in this view of the underside, showing the precast attachment holes:

The only wrinkle in the whole process was that of the three Pursuit ship types, one was missing part of the rear engine drive detailing.
I could have made a try at geting a replacement, but given that this would mean missives back and forth to the US, I decided to compromise and accept it as-is; in any event, I wanted one of the trio to represent the white ship of the Liberator crew's arch-enemy, Servelan, so this can be made unique by removing the small strip of rocket motors and re-applying it to the centre - no great loss.

Apart from this small kerfuffle then, I would be pleased to recommend Shapeways for those hard-to get or otherwise unavailable ship miniatures - they are flying a bit close to the wind copyright-wise, but with my avaricious gamer's head on, I can certainly see around that!

It might be a while before I can get some paint on these little beauties, but in the mean time, for those of you who might want to wallow in some nostalgia, or for those who haven't a clue as to what I've been going on about - have some fun looking at these Fan vids on YouTube:

Remember - 'it was acceptable in the 80's!'