Saturday 15 December 2012

Plastic Fantastic: Biodome update and Workbench

Thought I'd do a quick follow up on those Lego 'Biodomes', that I was playing around with a month or two back, as part of the series on taking various plastic odds and ends and turning them to wargaming uses.

As you can see in the photo above, the yellow tinted dome has been turned into an agricultural or hydroponic station, complete with airlock tunnel made from a few odds and ends, together with its complement of vegetation inside. The scale/size definitely leans toward the 2mm or small-scale SciFi end of things - seen here against a base of Germy's light hover scouts from GZG.

Unfortunately, the yellow sheen of the dome, whilst without a doubt being absolutely Space-tastic, lends a rather sickening and disorienting visual hue to the woodland scenics inside; this is somewhat apparent in these photos, although in real life the effect is much more mindbending - I would probably use a clear transparent dome in future, so the internals would be more visible and appealing.

This negative effect was compounded in the T.I.E. fighter cockpit piece when employed in a similar role - I'd envisaged it as some sort of power generation facility or processing plant with those chimney-like uprights, but the dark smoked plastic together with the printed-on framework means most of the interior is obscured and hard to see - I'd used all sorts of bits to represent machinery and placed them on a printed circuit board off-cut, trimmed to fit the internal footprint of the dome - all now rather lost under the completed piece:

So, all in all, Biodome '6' on Mars, and the Terraforming Energy Generator on Dantooine are a bit under-powering, but were an interesting experiment that gave me some good ideas to expand upon in the future, and of course were cheap and easy to build - always a plus!

Moving on to what is now on the Workbench, a view of what first got me started on this whole mucking about with plastic bits lark; namely the feet from Lego Bionicle toys:

This small selection shows the obvious potential for building space vessels on a budget, with nice inscribed details and suitably SciFi aesthetics; the only wrinkle, I think, being their large size, although that said, two combined back to back would easily make a pretty impressive Dreadnought type:

Will be playing about with some of these over the Christmas break, and also what has recently caught my eye, via EBay, some Kinder Egg Surprise spaceships...... Buck Rogers meets Hydra Miniatures' 'War Rocket' anyone?

Wednesday 21 November 2012

New Teeny-Tiny buildings from Brigade Models!

Great news from Brigade Models on a new range of roughly '2mm' Land-Ironclad scale buildings that are under development - have to say, they look amazing:

Definitely can't wait to see this range come to fruition.

Sorry for poking my head above the parapet without a fully formed Blog post; just couldn't resist spreading the news about these hopefully soon to be realised beauties!


Tuesday 23 October 2012

6mm Sci-Fi: Review of items from Angel Barracks

Thought I'd do a 'first look' review of the new 6mm Sci-Fi items recently released by Angel Barracks, having today received a bulging Jiffy bag within three day of ordering - great service as usual!

I had been looking forward to the release of the OKI walls set, as well as the new vehicles, at the same time as catching up by having a look at the excellent cargo containers that were available previously.

Michael at the Barracks has done a good job of describing and detailing his recent product developments in various places on the web, so much so that I feel even the most demanding gamer/collector will have been catered for - this is not the kind of manufacturer where you will have to struggle to find measurements, comparison shots or close-up photos of the products, as well as a straightforward  purchasing process  - and that is not even to mention both the quality and fresh designs of the minis themselves - truly a class act!

The items that I ordered were well protected when sent, and certainly did not disappoint in the flesh - no flash, casting irregularities or problems to speak of, and great proportions and clarity of sculpting all round.
The new OKI walls are in a smooth matt resin finish, and are particularly crisp - with a really close fit between all the component parts once you place them together. The containers are similarly well made, with doors at one end - the framework edging appearing smooth to contrast with the matt panels of the sides.
The vehicles, in this instance the Camel MPV and the MS1 Pathmaster, are absolutely lovely - great concepts and realisation, and I think extremely competitively priced given their quality.

We see below the two components of the Pathmaster, along with the weapon and sensor accessories, which slot cleanly and purposefully into place - the MLRS unit has an integral 'tilt' in the design, so that it looks ready to fire - a small detail, but an illustration of the thought that went into these - note also in the foreground the tow bar / umbilical link that comes with the vehicle components - this could easily get overlooked if you open the packet too enthusiastically!

This bar fits smoothly into two corresponding holes on the underside of the vehicles - like I said, a class act.

The weapon and sensor equipment is as well cast as the chassis themselves, and their mounting is straightforward - a recess on the Command Module, and with a small plate shim on the Pathmaster - all goes together smoothly, and of course means that you could vary the weapons fit as you might desire - plenty of space to put in your own ideas.

The Camel is of identical quality, detail being clean and finely cast - there is a space above the central portion that would allow the addition of more sensors or equipment, as well as the mounting spine of perhaps an antenna at the rear - a pin drill and some wire and it would be easy to personalise the vehicle.

Two in the pack also means excellent value, given how expensive Sci-Fi vehicles can be across the board.
Basing-wise, if that is a route you prefer, 50x20mm for the Camel and 70x20mmm for the Pathmaster would be quite adequate.

Moving on to the OKI walls - these are again going to have to attract some superlatives from me - these are not afterthoughts or contemporary ones scaled down, but rather freshly realised designs that are both simple and elegant - they ooze 'Futuristi-cality' (yes, it is a word, or at least it was since I made it up...), and have a lovely ergonomic curve to the outside face.
What is also impressive, and something that could have been overlooked by a weaker designer - is that the connecting 'corners' follow the same design and are beautifully and smoothly whole, ensuring that it all fits together nicely and in proportion.

I have to admit that I am sucker for a good cargo crate in a Sci-Fi setting, and any set-up that lacks them just doesn't look right to my eye - from Drop-ship pods via the cargo unit of a Space 1999 Eagle transporter, to well, anything painted Hazmat yellow with a radioactivity sign on it - it just has to feature - and these units are spot on.
The plain panel sides would allow for a number of different identities/employments through differing colour schemes, and perhaps the only complaint is that there isn't a half-sized version - just one 'cell' as it were - to add to the loveliness!

Finally an overall shot with a large MHU and some other bits inside to get an idea of the whole -  a ground footprint for the compound would be around 180mm wide by 130mm deep, with the wall heights easily encompassing vehicles and the housing units and containers, which by the way stand some 18mm high by 40mm in length.

As you might have guessed by reading the above, I don't really have anything negative to say about these, or indeed any of the existing range - my only concern would be to hope that we see more, more, and more of the same!


Saturday 15 September 2012

Irregular Miniatures' 2mm Fortifications: Review

Thought I'd post some thoughts on the new range of 2mm fortifications recently released by Irregular Miniatures. These are welcome additions to an expanding range, and being available in separate parts, offer a whole range of options.

They are very much made in the new trend by Irregular to more closely scale the size of their 2mm buildings to the miniatures themselves, whilst still not being near a true 1/900th, are closer visually than the older parts of the range that concentrated on BUA -type sections that depicted a whole range of housing types on a single base.

I found that with these new sculpts there was much less tendency to find flash that needed removing when fresh out of the box, and indeed, the undersurfaces of the various ravelins, bastions and walls were nice and smooth; what were present, however, and noticeable on close inspection, were mould or casting lines on the crenellated turrets. Given the small size of these, though, this didn't really affect them adversely.

Irregular have some good close-up pictures of these new items on their catalogue pages, so I thought I'd concentrate on how a standard set up would look as a whole - I think most of us would want to deploy a fortified structure in its entirety; I've combined a crenellated section within a Vauban star-fort - sort of a medieval town later enclosed in the seventeenth century kind of thing.....

Fully laid out, this is quite an impressive sight, and depending if you were to want to base the whole lot as one piece, you might be looking at a footprint of around 150 by 200mm or so, even bigger if you were putting in further outerworks.

The pieces, posed here individually, fit together very well, and are nicely in proportion with each other, with natural-looking angles on the scarping/earthworks, and even some windows visible on the turrets!

Although I haven't illustrated it here (d'oh!), the standard artillery bases from the Renaissance and Horse and Musket ranges will fit in the open top of each bastion, even the RBG 29, large Ren. cannon, with a bit of trimming, will go in there - so you can even show the works ready for action!

As a size comparison, the next photo shows the layout next to a plastic city piece from GW's Mighty Empires game, and then the BG118 castle fortress, the closest contender, I suppose, from the existing ranges; you can see the scaling-up tendency of the newer pieces, but I think they wouldn't look out of place on the same playing surface....

That said, plonking the Mighty Empires piece into the middle of the crenellated walls, you could imagine that as a neat set-up all it's own, certainly the design of these has a distinct Romano-Byzantine feel to them rather that later Medieval; I suppose if one was putting together a wish-list, some circular turrets would also be nice, although these could be scratch-built easily enough at this scale.

Meeting the up-scaling half way, I've 'gone large' in the next photo by adding in a trio of 1/1200th buildings by Rod Langton, which visually have aways to my mind sat closer to the actual heights and appearance of the 2mm infantry blocks themselves - these are paired up with three of Irregular's own IKS10 house model, making the whole layout appear 'smaller' - more town than city, but very effective nonetheless:

Overall then, I'm very pleased with these latest new additions to the range of 2mm scenery and terrain - I can see them not only accompanying 1/900th figures, but not looking out of scale as coastline pieces in a 1/1200th or 1/2400th naval set -up either - their pricing is also very reasonable, so you could get quite a lot of bang for your buck; here's an interesting link for inspiration, recently posted on TMP by andygamer:

It wouldn't be too hard to replicate a lot of those real world forts if you really went for it.......!

Saturday 8 September 2012

Minifigs Ships: Republic of Risorgimentia

Without further ado then, let's move on to the great adversary of the Bostro-Danubians, in the person of the Republic of Risorgimentia, and their respective naval forces represented by Minifigs ships.

For generations, the great peninsula dominating the northern Mediterranean was a maelstrom of competing petty monarchies, foreign-supported fiefdoms and vaguely defined territories, that vacillated between being the pawns of greater powers or hardly registering in international affairs by dint of the chaos which seemed to reign overall.
This was all to change, however, in the late nineteenth century, when individuals who had been instrumental in the republican and independence movements of key South American nations found a willing audience amongst the middle classes of this land known generically as Adriatica.
A surge of political awareness saw conflict erupt throughout the many principalities, as one by one the notion of a nation state, independent and free of old prejudices and feudalisms took hold, and civil wars gave way to the birth of a nation: The Republic of Risorgimentia.

The military forces of the new republic were in a parlous state at the end of the unification struggle, and indeed, the naval ships of the larger territories were to begin with dated and focussed mainly on limited aspirations of defence; coastal monitors or gunboats that could barely police an area a few miles offshore from the extensive coastline.
Guiseppe Biscotti, the first president of the Republic, however, had aspirations to exert influence over a wider area, and restore the imbalances in trade that had helped to keep the country at the mercy of foreign powers, and he saw the ability to project military power beyond his own shore as key to this policy.
Financial crises amongst the very South American nations that had initially spawned the republican movement, saw them offering warships that they had bought from Britain at second-hand prices, and Biscotti garnered all he could from his former revolutionary comrades, in return for hard cash, and began to build a modern navy.

From Chile, Risorgimentia took on two Lord Nelson class battleships, that had never even seen the native shores of their putative owners before they had had to put them up for sale; at one fell swoop the new republic had two powerful and modern contenders in the battle for naval supremacy - the 'Giustizia' and the 'Liberta':

(In the foreground, a BMC style hollow casting marked as B4 at the stern, and at rear, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '1')

The acquisition of these ships had initially somewhat alarmed the British, however when it became probable that Risorgimentia might turn next to their rivals France for a complement of cruisers, Her Majesty's Government was only too happy to offer a pair of Drake class armoured examples at a very reasonable price; the 'Regina Elisabetta' and the 'Londra':

(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '7')

These were further augmented by a single Devonshire class ship from the Argentinians, named the 'San Martin':

(New Minifigs sculpt numbered '8')

Unfortunately for Biscotti, these purchases all but drained his exchequer, and his vision of a larger fleet had to be somewhat tempered by financial prudence; his admirals knew that they might never challenge the battle line of their near rivals in terms of tonnage alone, however they were quick to adapt to the emerging technologies of torpedo and light craft that could punch above their weight:

(Two new Minifigs sculpts numbered '24', and closest to the camera, a single '19')

Indeed, within a few years, the Republic's torpedo boats and destroyers had become a byword for innovative and effective tactics, hunting in packs that had a lot of their competitors' captains nervous, even if they would not admit it openly:

(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '24')

This thirst for innovation to balance numbers also saw the deployment of some basic submarines; although in 1910 these were seen as more an asset in terms of reconnaissance rather than a destructive arm:

(Two BMC style castings that are unmarked, and in the middle, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '25')

The Republic's main battlefleet might be small, but they pack a powerful punch:

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Minifigs Ships: The Fleet of Bostro-Danubia

A look now at the first part of the Minifigs 'Imagination' fleets, here in the person of the Empire of Bostro-Danubia.
In 1910 or thereabouts, this ancient monarchy is located either side of the Danube, and was once the bulwark between the West and the Oriental expansionism of the Ottomans. However, these old glories have tended to fade of late, to be replaced by the inertia and inefficiency characteristic of late nineteenth century bureaucratic states.
In spite of this, the shrewd political decision to fully support British colonial adventures in Egypt and the southern Mediterranean was rewarded by a beneficial Naval Treaty, the Anglo-Bostro-Danubian Pact. The outcome is that soon the concentrated output of such firms as Armstrong Whitworths and Yarrow is pouring into the naval inventory in the form of modern warships and technical expertise.

(At least that is how I am rationalising the heavily British bias in the BMC/Minifigs inventory....)

Whether of course such innovation and development will sit well alongside centuries of autocratic and conservative military practices remains to be seen, particularly in the context of growing rivalry with their nearest neighbours, the Republic of Risorgimentia...

Above we see the Canopus class battleship that has been adopted as the flagship of the reinvigorated Kaiserliche Marine, and named the 'Graf Rudolf'.

(BMC style hollow casting marked as B1 at the stern)

This ship is now ably supported by a pair of Swiftshure class battleships, the 'Kaiser und Konigin Elisabet Marie' and the 'Kronprinz Radetsky'.

(Two further BMC style hollow casts marked B2 at the stern)

Moving away from the main battleline, we see a pair of Town class protected cruisers, the 'Huszar' and the 'Pandur'. These vessels are of note in that they can be seen wearing the most recently innovated light grey colour schemes alongside the older "Montecoccolin Green", which had a brief flowering after many years of the typical peace-time pre-dreadnought black and white.

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '10' underneath)

These lighter warships have been augmented by a trio of Highflyer light cruisers, whose colours cover the whole gamut from the dusk of the nineteenth century to the dawn of the first decade of the twentieth; the 'Admiral von Trapp', the 'Esterhaz von Esterhazy', and finally the 'Cattaro':

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '13' underneath)

Bostro-Danubia has been somewhat slow in introducing modern Torpedo Boat Destroyers, and these next craft were added via German shipyards as part of an experimental trial - there is something far too underhand about all this whizzing underwater exploding silver cigar business....

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '20' underneath)

That is not to say, however, that the Danubian flotilla would pass up the chance to own some of the fastest small craft currently produced by Britain, particularly as these were a gift from interested parties that were keen to stay one step ahead of their competitors - it is rumoured that these ships run all the faster for not having any of those unsporting torpedos aboard!

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '21' underneath)

Finally, and somewhat counter-intuitively, the twin monarchy is also the proud owner of U3 and U4, modern unterseebooten of German pedigree, which are tolerated by the Naval staff because allegedly the young Kronprinz won them in a wager with his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm, and to refuse their deployment would be taken as a personal insult and career suicide...

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, marked '26' underneath)

So there we have it for part one of the 'Imaginations' - these all need basing of course, but a disastrous attempt at scoring and snapping perspex for bases has caused some delays, so they remain a work in progress.

I'll end with a view of the cruisers en masse, and also a couple of useful links, one a discussion on the use of a distinctive green colour scheme by a country not a million miles away from Bostro-Danubia:

and finally an informative and detailed post regarding the pedigree of these enigmatic and characterful warship sculpts:

Well worth a read, following on from the detective work done by Steve Cady at Castles of Tin, and David Crook of AWargaming Oddysey.

Next post: The ships of the Republic of Risorgimentia!

Friday 31 August 2012

Plastic Fantastic 4: Sci-Fi Bio Domes

My recent dabblings in 6mm Sci-Fi, and the on-again/off-again 2/3mm Sci-Fi project has had me casting around for some ideas regarding scenery, and whilst as the regular reader might have noticed, Hobby activity has been a bit thin on the ground of late, I did manage to source these interesting candidates in Lego via Evilbay....

What could be more futuristic than Bio-Domes, from worlds-in-a-bottle archetypes a la Logan's Run, to the Agri-ships of Silent Running and Battlestar Galactica?

I think these particular examples relate to some sort of undersea diving toy, and most tellingly of course, the cockpit glass of a Lego T.I.E fighter, however when placed on a suitable base, could do duty as protection from the poisonous atmosphere of most Alien worlds.

They're not particularly large, but this example from the outbuildings pack available from Brigade Models looks pretty good ensconced in its 'bubble', I think:

Talking of worlds-in-a-bottle, how about this City base from Mighty Empires - this would certainly go well alongside the 2/3mm Sci-Fi stuff - adds a sort of super-villians lair look to the whole:

The smallest dome, seen here alongside the large MHU from Angel Barracks, with one of those ubiquitous plastic bottle caps for scale, is not going to fit much in the way of habitat, but would look pretty spiffing housing the mutant product of a deranged experiment in a laboratory complex, or maybe a single earth tree specimen the colonists couldn't part with when they travelled off-world:

Given the pocket-money prices these can be picked up for, (or free, of course, if you raid the kid's toy box...) they are never going to be big enough to contain full-on 6mm buildings, but they still scale well alongside some well-known characters from a certain Space Opera:

These are from Irregular Miniatures, and are among a few dozen cool minis I've been inspired into painting up recently, joined as you see below by my version of a unit of Decontamination Troops - Power Armour from Brigade Models, and the excellent Comms set from Michael at Angel Barracks:

Who of course are here to deal with any ugly and troublesome Alien Infestations that they come across - to whit the excellent Drill Worm Nests from Angel Barracks:

I'd like to see any parasitic Alien fauna, or even face-huggers take on these guys, in their hardened Hazmat suits.....

These bases still need finishing off, of course, when time permits, and I keep telling myself that this is all just a sideshow to all the rest of my projects, but I guess only time will tell.....

Tuesday 24 July 2012

More 2mm Buildings from Irregular released!

Great news just announced from Irregular Miniatures; they have released a whole slew of new 2mm buildings and accessories, BG161 through 167, and IKS11 to 14.

These encompass individual crenellated wall sections, medieval style gate towers, and even more excitingly Vauban style architectural fortifications that will enable the construction of whole layers of town and city defences.... the additions to to the 20th Century range have stackable tower block sections and a factory, as well as their ruined counterparts - it's great to see that the recent upsurge in interest into the tiniest of troops has been reciprocated by expansions to the ranges we all know and love.

Even more good news is that Ian and the gang have illustrated all these new things with photos, which you can peruse in the 2mm scenics and accessories section of the website - hurry on over and take a look-

Yes, I know I tend to get over-excited by such tiny things, but that's just the way I am.....  ;-)