Sunday 30 May 2010

Aquanef: 1/2400th Militarist Flotilla is launched....

A look now at some of the South American inspired 'Militarist' ships that have so far left the slipway, as it were. These are about 80% complete, in that they need some tidying up; doing the Macro photos and seeing the results up close sure helps in flagging up those problem areas!

Having painted a lot of Pre-Dred 1/3000th, and dallied with the 1/48ooth Napoleonic from Tumbling Dice, I thought that these might sit nicely somewhere in the middle, however, I found them quite tough to deal with.
My 'style', if you can call it that, is quick and dirty, and whilst the clean lines of 1/3000th don't allow for too much straying into blobby territory, and 1/4800th actually benefit from a broad brush approach, these were more problematical.
Heavy handedness here meant some obviously over-thick applications of paint, and some very wobbly lining out being more apparent than usual....thank the gods that I have never been brave enough to let myself loose on quality the like of Rod Langton....that would be a car crash!
In my own way, though, and in terms of the tabletop, I'm fairly satisfied with them, and some re-touching and a bit more detailing, along with an ink wash, should finish them off alright.

Below we see the Peruvian ships the Huascar and the Independencia mounted on their integral bases:

I decided to keep the foremast of the Huascar in place after all, as I think it would have looked a bit naked without it - although it might complicate things somewhat when action stations are called!
The other ship needs some attention to the ratlines, and I might change my decision to go with a white trim and brown ship's boats - I think that all-black hulls might be a bit more realistic, if a bit bland, and as most contemporary pictures have the boats in white, then this would add some spots of colour to the whole.

The Huascar in a closer view; I tried suggesting the two 10" Armstrong guns in the Coles Turret with a couple of black 'windows':

Now for the Chileans; on the left the Almirante Cochrane, and on the right, Tumbling Dice's generic steam screw Corvette, depicting perhaps the Chacabuco:

I went with white masts not for any particular historical reason, but rather just to contrast with the yellow of the Peruvians; they might unite to fight off Nemo and his Allies, but are, after all, enemies. In terms of the look of both sides historically, it seems that they followed the standard black, white and yellow ochre peace time scheme of most navies.

I've been very pleased with the integral bases, they fit their respective ships like a glove, and also allow for a bit of 'heeling over' for dramatic effect, should you require it.
I've solved the storage issue by applying magnetic sheeting to the bottom of each, and trimming to size.
I suppose the only thing is that they are really too small to add in any sort of national identifier or name/data, although I am thinking of running with an idea to have a sort of trailing slip which could hold this information, which could be added to the various ships as and when required, but this has yet to leave the drawing board.

So, somewhat tentatively, then, the Militarists deploy their vessels to meet the strange threat of the unknown monster fish causing havoc with their merchant shipping....although apparently on a rather green and fuzzy sea....perhaps it's the Sargasso?

Friday 28 May 2010

Small-Scale Sci-Fi: Plasmablast Games Review

I thought I'd do a quick run-through review of some recent acquisitions here at SteelonSand Towers, which in typical fashion crept in under the wire, and added metal to a project that was officially on much for good intentions!
The temptations in question were a couple of types from the new kid on the block in the 6mm Sci-Fi market, namely PlasmaBlast Games, run by Marios in Greece.

Now as ever, I need little excuse to feed the 'metal' habit, and to be honest, I didn't have a clear role or niche in mind when ordering these particular minis, although having got my hands on them, quite a few interesting possibilities have opened up.
As you can see above, I chose the Nizzlebat Light Grav Tank and Jagon Medium Grav Tank from the Orbital Combine, as well as the Barracuda Medium Tank and Spiderblade Light Assault Tank from the Progenitors.

Ordering was efficient and easy via the Plasmablast Website, and the choice of turrets available for the various vehicles meant you could tailor the order to suit your particular requirements; I went for the Infantry support version of both Barracuda and Spiderblade.
The order arrived within eight days direct from Greece, and was well packed in a strong cardboard box, the minis themselves being in the usual plastic ziploc baggies.
What was immediately noticeable was the quality of the casting of these models, with absolutely no flash being present, and the whole very clean and in proportion. Mold lines are visible, but are not obtrusive.
They are a little on the pricey side in comparison to similar from GZG or Brigade, but given the quality and the fresh and interesting design concepts on show, they are well worth the expenditure.

Plasmablast have some excellent photos of their product up on their website, including detailed images of all the various variants, so I won't duplicate their efforts here, merely show what I purchased in their 'naked', unpainted states, which should give any potential buyer a closer idea of what they will actually receive.

In turn then , the Nizzlebat and the Jagon:

Some beautiful, techie-looking lumps, bumps and protrusions, and a really unique looking design, make these a sure thing for depicting something suitably Alien and menacing. The Jagon turret, as with all the models, fits in nice and snugly, and is an intrinsic part of the model, rather than being just an afterthought, with a whacking great gun to boot!

(Remember, all shots on this page are clickable for an enlarged, Macro view)

From above, you can see the comparative sizes, the larger mini being around 24mm in hull length:

From behind, the superlative detailing is also apparent:

Moving on to the other two, the Spiderblade is on the left (Which is described on the website as a 'stripped down' version of the other), whilst the Barracuda is resplendent on the right with full-length steel skirts protecting and enclosing the running gear:

This is more apparent in the following photo, where you can see a side view; again the design concepts at work mean that you could choose a particular vehicle type for a particular role on your table top, an approach well explored by in particular, Brigade, and also effectively engineered here:

The rear view again gives you an idea of the size, here in the 25mm or so range:

Moving on then, I thought I'd throw in some comparison shots, and below we see the Barracuda up against the Wildebeest HQ APC, SF300-607b, from the SAC faction, a hefty counterpart if there ever was one:

I think it more than holds its own in the role of a medium to heavy tank, an appearance which is underlined when it is placed beside the German Thrall Hover Truck, SF300-310, also from Brigade:

I've been a little underwhelmed by the rather old-school Warsaw Pact feel of some of the MBTs from the recent Brigade Neo-Soviet releases, and have been considering these new contenders to make up part of just such a force, so here is the Barracuda up against the Kunitsa APC, SF300-1203:

Hmmm, certainly more on the medium side of things, I think, but a good, solid looking counterpart all round.

Of course, my initial approach to small-scale Sci-Fi was based around the use of Irregular's 2mm range, and in particular the cross-over potential of various scales of mini, but I must admit that the quality of this exciting new range has me wondering whether I ought to deploy some purely 6mm units that a version of 'scale creep', I wonder.....

So finally, then, the Nizzlebat in the company of that old favourite, the 2mm IKSF28 two legged walker:

Not too badly out of scale, and again opens up the possibilities of some mixing and matching as the mood takes me - certainly I would heartily recommend investing in this new range of models, particularly as Marios expands it, and I for one, will probably continue to be tempted whilst I drift aimlessly toward yet another new project!

Thursday 27 May 2010

Pre-Dreadnought Pictures: Part 10

To commemorate Tsushima Day, and to remember the sacrifice of the men of both Fleets, I thought I'd have a quick look through the SteelonSand Postcard collection, and share a few images of the Russo-Japanese War with you all.

Above we see a German card circa 1920, from the Kudka Series, with the title "Bombardment of Port Arthur by the Japanese Squadron" - and a very spirited rendition it is, too, although I can't answer for which ships are being pictured, but I think it captures the spirit of such an action very well.

Next up, a British postcard entitled "Port Arthur - Reception of the Minister of War", that was postally used in October 1905, so I'm not sure if it is from a view taken before the actual RJW had broken out.

Certainly, we can discern the distinctive five funnelled silhouette of the Cruiser Askold, notable for the smaller fore-funnel, and mighty nice she looks here, too, although the artist colourisation of the postcard has added some rather garish yellow gun shields, and what appears to be a pink lifeboat forward!

Next up, a bit of contemporary reportage in the shape of the 'War Series No: 5224' from S. Hildesheimer and Co. - entitled "Japanese attempt to seal up Port Arthur".

This card was postally used in May 1905, and has a great bird's eye viewpoint of the scene, with sunken blockships, the distinctive shape of the 'Tiger's Tail' peninsula, and the Russian Fleet beyond - it would make a good primer for a scale model, and is the kind of thing I always hope to re-create on the table-top - never quite turns out this way, though....

Next an interesting Tuck's Oilette card, which shows in rather moody chiaroscuro, a scene of the Japanese arranging decoy lanterns before Port Arthur:

Quite a crafty strategy to keep the Russian defenders on their toes, but not a job I would want to volunteer for - the arrival of an enemy Torpedo Boat in the midst of setting these up would definitely ruin your evening....

Finally a modern view of the sole Russian survivor of the RJW, namely the Cruiser Aurora docked at St. Petersburg:

Of course her lines have changed somewhat since 1905, but if your ever in those parts, don't miss the chance to see one of the few remaining pre-dreds out there.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

2mm Colonial: More support arrives.....

Rather little progress on the wargaming/modelling front to report here, I'm afraid, with, quite frankly, too many irons in the fire to have anything ready enough to be worth posting.....that'll teach me to keep jumping from one project to the other!

However, Colonial wise, there have been some re-inforcements completed recently, as you can see above, with the debut of some khaki-coated infantry.

These troops are also lucky enough to have an encampment to shield them from the harsh conditions of the desert wastes; here formed from BG133/134, small and large tents, adorned with the addition of the useful BG142, clump of palm trees:

You can also make out a command stand, with BG24 Army command group. The palm trees are very nicely modelled, but unfortunately are very fragile and prone to bending and snapping - this is exacerbated by the amount of flash on the bottom of the base which means that it needs to be filed down - I managed to ruin a couple of stands whilst trying to remove this too vigorously - so be warned!

A British square awaits the onslaught of the enemy.... but luckily they are not alone:

A single BG14, coupled with a line of RBG11 and BG3 go to form a company of the Naval Brigade, jolly jack tars ready to support the khaki-clad line.

They are in turn augmented by that weapon of the age, the Maxim gun:

A battery of two, made with a clipping from an RBG11 strip, and the BG20 Mitrailleuse.

Meanwhile, the enemy closes:

The Egyptian auxiliaries-turned Ansar seen in an earlier post on this subject, made me think of having a go at some Hadendowa 'Fuzzy-Wuzzy' types, so above you see the splashes of various shades of brown over a black undercoat that go to suggest these units - I was not going to actually look at the Sudan campaigns, but the lure of the Mahdists was too much to resist!

The BG23 blocks seem to do the job adequately, although given the lack of definition, I was forced to add in the palm trees to identify which way around the base is facing...perhaps a few scratch-built flags or banners might lift the otherwise monotone look...

Below we see an Elephant battery moving up to support the line; and unfortunately, try as I might, I could not get any sense of the drag rope chains/limber attachments to work on these bases.
Cotton or silk thread just looked too bulky, and an experiment with thin fuse wire just made it look silly; so I have resorted to leaving them as they were; you just have to imagine the traces, chains and tack connecting it all together..... :-(

Finally we see the Naval Brigade taking their place in the line as the enemy approach; what started as a foray into a Colonial-themed VSF/land Ironclad army is in danger of slipping into full-on Omdurman territory; at least the simple paint-job of the Mahdists mean it will be easy to produce hordes of them, though....

Saturday 8 May 2010

2mm Colonial: More Work in progress...

Just to prove that I haven't been totally distracted by all things maritime and Nemo-related, here are a few quick pics of the beginnings of the based up 2mm Colonial units that are slowly coming together.
Nothing unusual to look at really, just the standard 1.6mm artist's card with magnetic backing available from Tiny Tin Troops, here cut to 40x20mm size, and mounting a British Battalion in square, with a squadron of Bengal Lancers in support:

A close up of one of the companies; the Macro does rather make the basing material look a bit scattered and messy, but to the naked eye luckily has more of a complete look:

The Egyptian Camel Corps has arrived in the shape of the Irregular Ancient's range ABG23 Camelry, with a deployed base with additional RBG11 Dismounted Dragoon figures behind the BG3 skirmishers to give a firing line:

The beauty of working in a scale as small as 1/900th is that you can often mix and match the ostensible periods to give the effect you require.

I realised that I had not done enough Egyptian command figures for the company bases, so will have to rectify that in the near future; I again make use of the RBG11 strip to give officers and NCOs on foot.

Next up, an Egyptian Field Artillery battery; I used a perhaps unhistorical very pale grey for the gun carriages and limbers, just to add to the visibility, although those red fezzes certainly help!

Is it just me, or do some of the Irregular 2mm blocks look better from behind?

It may be that the definition and detail of the individual figures is a little better than the front, and I suppose that as we send the tiny troops away from our commander's eye view and into battle, this is the side we most often see...

So, nothing too exciting going on here, but at least we march onward; and yes, before I'm met with a barrage of complaints, those Elephant guns will be the next priority! :-)

Sunday 2 May 2010

Aquanef: The Fleet of Nemo's Allies

"May, 1879. The Coast of Peru, near Iquique: shipments of arms and ammunition are coming south to equip the belligerents in what will come to be known as the War of the Pacific. Chile, Peru and Bolivia have ignited a struggle over control of mineral rich areas of the Atacama desert, and principally, the supply of Saltpeter, an ingredient essential to the production of gunpowder.
Captain Nemo, outraged by the prospect of militarists fighting a war over the very thing that enables them to destroy their fellow man, has decided to intervene.....two merchant vessels, loaded with a cargo of Minie and Chassepot rifles, see a monstrous shape emerge from the depths and race towards them at high speed...."

A quick run-through, then, of the completed vessels that will fight alongside Nemo in the conflict outlined above. First off, we have the Ironclad submersible the 'Catfish':

Next, we move on to the steam-powered 'Squid'

Finally a couple of views of the 'Piranha'

Some group shots; the paint schemes have come out looking rather more 'cute' than I had originally intended, so I may have to dirty them up with some ink-washes and maybe some rust streaks here and there:

Nemo's Allies sail off to prevent mankind from destroying itself:

So what of Nemo's own vessel, the Nautilus itself? Well, that scratch build would be a distinct step-up from this level, and is something I'm still thinking about. The iconic image familiar to modern readers is probably the version created for the 1954 movie version starring James Mason, done by Harper Goff for Disney studios; I doubt if I could really do this justice -
see some once commercially available versions here:

It is interesting to ponder, though, that the original version described by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, bore more than a passing resemblance to a vessel contemporary to the time of writing, namely the 'Alligator' of Brutus de Villeroi, built for the US Navy:

There's a fascinating site detailing the hunt for this lost vessel to be found here:

I think mine will be more likely to resemble this one, and then the search will be over!

Professor Arronax: "What is in those sacks they are carrying?"
Nemo: "Nitrates and phosphates for ammunition. The seeds of War. They're loading a cargo full of death....when that ship takes it home, the World will die a little more...."