Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Showcase: Viridian Skimmers

Introduction

Some of you may remember previous posts on my VOID Viridian models:
If you have seen these before then you'll know of my fondness for this army.  If not, then be aware that I display something from this force about once a year, as the fancy takes me!

Who are the Viridians?  As written in the original VOID fluff, they are technologically-capable fervent ecologists.  They usually choose not to use equipment which would harm the environment in any way.  Most of their military uses updated versions of 20th century weapons, with specially-bred dinosaurs acting as transport (!).  However, that doesn't mean they cannot build fighting vehicles as well, when necessary.  The fast attack skimmers are an example of that...

Viridian Skimmers

Here's one of the Viridian skimmers.  If you have particularly sharp eyes and a good memory, you might have spotted one just like this on my workbench in July 2012.  I've actually got 5 of these models (of 3 different subclasses) and I built them all many years ago.  After that, one was left out on my workbench as a reminder that I needed to paint them.  That lonely model stayed there for at least 2 years (possibly a lot more), until last month - November 2014.

In an attempt to reclaim some of my work space, I finally got round to painting the first skimmer a few weeks ago, though I had to give it a good dusting first.  Since then, I've painted a second as well.  Indeed, the bare model in the pictures above and below is the 3rd skimmer that I have brought out of storage!

I've done a head swap on this pilot; he's got a helmet from one of the EM-4 plastic troopers
I've made some slight adjustments to these models.  The most obvious one is the "roll cage" that I've made from brass wire and plasticard.  I felt that the pilot just looked too exposed on the original models and needed some form of enclosure.  Indeed, if I could have found a source of clear spheres about the size of ping pong balls then I would have used those as canopies, a bit like those on early US helicopters such as the Bell H-13 Sioux.

Since I didn't find anything to use as clear canopies, I went with my second choice and created the "dune buggy" effect.  I built a jig from scrap pieces of plasticard and used this to ensure that each piece of brass wire was cut and bent in exactly the same way.

...And Painted

Support skimmer on the left, regular skimmer on the right
 I've painted the 2 completed skimmers in my standard Viridian camouflage, with a dark green background, superimposed with elongated triangles of dusty, pale green, edged with black.


The basing on the skimmers is something with which I'm not totally happy.  It's meant to look like dust clouds being kicked up, but I think it just isn't right.  If I could think of a better way to achieve such an effect, I might rework the bases.


I think I went a bit heavy on the dark wash for the support skimmer (on the left).  It doesn't seem too bad under the bright camera flash, but the vehicle looks very dark when viewed in real life.  There's not much I can do about this, short of repainting it from scratch (and I'm not considering that!), so I'll just have to live with it.

Conclusion

2 down, 3 to go!  These aren't actually too difficult to paint, once I get round to it - I can hardly believe that I put off painting the first one for years!  Making the extra bars for the cockpit is probably the most time-consuming part of the job.

Finally, a word on realism.  Hovercraft don't have much purchase on the ground (well, that's the whole point, really) and therefore need to rely on aerofoils or directed propulsion systems to change speed or direction.  These skimmers seem as if they're capable of travelling very fast, but I wouldn't like to try turning or slowing down!  They also look very tail-heavy, especially the 2-man command variant that I haven't shown here.

But hey, they're science fiction models, yes?  So everything is all right!


Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Mantic Crazy Box, 2014

Introduction


Every December, at least for the past few years, Mantic have put a "crazy box" into their online shop.  This is, according to their own description, "a massive box of goodies for next to nothing".  Well, £25 plus postage isn't really my definition of next to nothing, but you do tend to get quite a lot of stuff in these boxes.

This year, I was curious to see what I might get in this lucky dip, so I ordered a box.  I was hopeful that I might get some Dreadball models or some of their new sci-fi zombies.  Even some more fantasy elves would be welcome, since my middle son has decided that he wants to build such an army for Hordes of the Things (though to be honest, I don't think that he wants to put any real effort into painting them himself).

I'm full of cold this weekend and feeling pretty rubbish, really.  However, my crazy box arrived on Friday and I've had a day to look at it now.  So, what did I get - and did it cheer me up?


The Contents

Firstly, there was a Kings of War poster in the box.  However that doesn't even appear in any of these pictures because one of my sons snaffled it immediately.  I haven't seen it since.  However, here's the rest of the stuff:

A sprue of 10 elf archers

A packet of 10 (?) Basilean cavalry.  Think "nuns riding giant panthers" and you won't be too far wrong.

One Dreadball figure.  I believe that this is a Keeper from the female Corporation team (the Void Sirens) and therefore this model will be immediately useful.  It does have a considerable amount of flash, sadly.

An introductory, pocket-sized version of the rules for Kings of War.  Seems nice and simple, but I don't think I'll be playing this game - I've already got too many other sets of rules.

2 terrain accessory sprues.  I've got a couple of these already; they have a good collection of sci-fi barrels and crates on them, as well as a lamp-post and a ladder.

2 strange creatures, a bit like giant wolves with mechanical heads and chainsaws instead of tongues.  I believe that these are Deadzone "mawbeasts" and I really don't like them at all.  Too silly...

A pack with 3 figures: 2 sci-fi humans and a small, crouching alien (something like a chimpanzee).

Another alien.  This time it's a giant, floating squid/jellyfish thing.  Interesting.  I wonder how I could use such a creature in one of my games?  Perhaps as a space monster in Full Thrust

A sci-fi Orc with a cloak and a peaked cap.

3 single-piece, 28mm modern humans.  I think that these must be from the newish Mars Attacks range.

Conclusion

There are some interesting models here, though not as much as I'd hoped that will be immediately useful.  The really big item is the panther cavalry (the Mantic website gives them an rrp of £19.99); I'm wondering whether I can re-purpose these either as beasts for my embryonic Hordes of the Things Barbarian army (by adding a figure or two as handlers/beastmasters), or use them as exotic cavalry for my son's elf army.  The supplied mounted figures really aren't right for the latter, though and I don't think that I have any suitable spares.

I've no use for the Orc or the mawbeasts.  Of the rest, I can use the Dreadball keeper straight away, the Mars Attacks people can be used as survivors of the zombie apocalypse and most of the other models have possibilities for the future.

So, was it worth it?  There are some models here that I can use, most certainly!  If I ever get round to selling the bits I don't need then the answer is probably yes, it was worth it.  On the other hand, if they just end up taking storage space forever more then perhaps it wasn't?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

HOTT: The Dragon

It's been quite a while since I added any new elements to my existing armies for Hordes of the Things (as opposed to creating new armies - though even that's not happened for a long time).  With that in mind, I bought a Skeletal Dragon from Reaper, intending to add him (her?) to my 28mm undead army - "The Cabal of the Black Hand".

For a long time, the poor guy languished on my workbench, having been built and undercoated but not based or painted.  However, it's fast approaching the time of year when I bring out my HOTT Santa Army for a battle and I figured that this year he could take on the undead hordes.  This spurred me on to complete the model, so here we have ... the undead dragon!

This isn't the largest dragon model available; he/she/it fits on a 60mm x 80mm base very comfortably.  Although he's quite low to the ground, I've calculated his scale length from nose to tail at over 20 feet, which ought to be quite enough to scare most people!

I didn't want other models (especially cavalry!) to tower over him too much, so I've placed the dragon on a rocky outcrop.  This was made from a slice of cork bark, with some small chunks of cork and some filler to blend in the edges.

If you examine the original model from Reaper then you'll notice that I have given my dragon wings - or at least, I've filled in the gaps between the wing bones.  I used green stuff, rolled out into very thin sheets and then cut to the right shape.  This was a very difficult material to work with, so the wings ended up torn and sagging in places.  I've made no attempt to correct this; if anything I think it adds to the necrotic effect.

Painting was very simple: a base colour and a wash for all the main areas (rocks: grey, skeleton: pale tan, wings: pale grey/green), followed by a darker wash.  Once the few details (eyes, horns & claws) were added, that's about it!

I've got to go to the local pantomime (Cinderella) this evening, so that's all for now.  Until next time, then!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Greek Mythology: Harpies: part 2

Introduction

Last week, I showed how I had converted my harpy models.  I promised then that I would show the painted versions soon.  Well, this is sooner than I expected, but I've got nothing else for today's article so here they are!

Unarmed Harpies

As I hinted in part 1, I've decided to paint these creatures with a purple skin tone.  I wasn't sure about this, though I had decided that I didn't particularly want any normal human colouring.  After all, these are supposed to be monsters!

Some research on the internet suggested that the most popular visualisations of harpies were a Caucasian ("white") flesh, followed by a variety of greens, slate blues and purples.  My elder son suggested that I colour them something like pigeons, with grey bodies and iridescent green hair.  It's an interesting idea, but I couldn't quite bring myself to try it.

In the end, I noticed that the harpy from the 1963 classic Jason and the Argonauts was somewhat purple.  If it's good enough for Ray Harryhausen then it's good enough for me - purple it is!

Melee Weapons

Careful observers of these pictures will notice that there are several different forms of harpy in this flock.  Some have human legs, but most have bird-like legs.  A few harpies have their wings and arms fused together, with claws instead of hands, but the remainder have separate limbs.

I suppose one could argue that these physical traits corresponded to the level of curse placed on the different individuals by the gods, or perhaps to their degree of depravity and consequent physical degeneration.  I don't feel any need to come up with any particular explanation for the various forms; they add some variety and that's good enough for me!

Archers

I'm quite pleased with the way that these 2 more complex conversions came out.  You really cannot tell where are the joints between plastic and metal, especially on the arms.  Unless you look back at last week's unpainted figures, of course - but that would be cheating!

The Flock

I would have liked to model some of the harpies in flight.  I'm slightly disappointed that none of the poses really lent themselves to this, though the one with outstretched wings might have worked.  Perhaps I'll get some more of these models some day and see if I can manage such a conversion?

As always, I've given them what I hope are appropriate names.  This is slightly complicated by the fact that there weren't anything like this many harpies in the original Greek myths.  However, once you add in variations of the tales by different authors (and later retelling by the Romans and others), it is possible to come up with a reasonable variety of names.

Conclusion

Once again, these were very simple models to paint, as the bulk of each figure is just a pale violet undercoat with a dark wash.  I'm still not totally convinced that the purple colour is good, but at least they cannot possibly be mistaken for humans.  It should make it much simpler to tell friend and enemy during a game!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Greek Mythology: Harpies: part 1

Introduction

I seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment with my 28mm models from ancient Greek legends.  Last week, I showed my satyrs and at the end of that article I promised harpies.  Well, here they are - at least, in their unpainted form.

These models come from the Wargames Foundry Greek Mythology range.  There are 4 packs of harpies, each of 5 models, so you'd imagine that there was a lot of variety in this collection.  However, 2 of the packs have feathered wings and 2 have leathery wings; I prefer not to mix and match these, so my choice was reduced to 2 packs.  Added to this, when I picked up a couple of packets at Salute 2014 earlier this year the Foundry stall had sold out of all apart from 1 variety.

So, I've got 2 packets (10 models), with 5 distinct sculpts, though some of the poses are quite similar to others.  I'd like to add a bit of variety; what can I do?  These figures aren't very good for repositioning limbs, as the arms are often tightly coupled to the wings and the wings are very solid.

Inspiration came from reading a passage in the 7th Voyage rulebook.  In the suggested scenario, the cast of harpies have a variety of different weapons (and none).  Although that might not make any functional difference in some rules, it will in others - and it should be relatively easy to achieve.  Let's give them some weapons!

Claws and clubs

The first batch of harpies that I'm showing here have not been given any weapons.  3 of the 4 models are straight out of the packet, whilst the other one (3rd from the left) has been cut off its base and its legs have been repositioned.  I've placed a flat rock on the base and mounted the harpy on a wire; it's meant to look as if she's leaping from the rock onto her prey.

Spears

It was very easy to drill out the hands in a couple of the harpies (especially as Foundry use a relatively soft metal for casting).  To arm them, I found a couple of javelins from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors kit; these smaller spears worked well since the harpies are not quite as chunky as many modern 28mm figures.

Swords

I have a number of spare swords from various Warhammer kits, but all of them were really far too big for my taste (imagine that!).  This caused me some difficulty until I remembered that I also had a part sprue of goblin warg riders from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings range.  Excellent - the LotR models are a very good fit, scale-wise, for these harpies.  Fortunately for me, there were 2 spare swords on the sprue.  Again, I drilled out the hands of the recipients.  Each sword was cut into 2 across the middle of the hilt, with the blade part pushed into the drilled hand from one side and the pommel part pushed into the hand from the other side.

Bows

I was determined that some of my harpies would have ranged weapons.  Again, I raided the LotR warg riders, but this time I cut off the hand or arm that was holding a bow.  These were spliced carefully onto the harpies, after carefully removing their own hands.

These were certainly the most complex conversions of the bunch.  As well as the bows themselves, I added quivers (from the same donor sprue); in turn these needed belts or straps to hold them.  I added a loin cloth to one of the harpies, mainly to help disguise my botched belt.  The other model didn't need such an adjustment as a conveniently-positioned arm already obscured the join between quiver and belt.

All Ready for Painting

So, here's my group of 10 unpainted harpies, based and ready to be undercoated.  In the original Greek myths, there were only 2 (sometimes 3?) of these creatures, but where's the fun in that?  I want a whole flock of demi-humans with a bad attitude.  I see them as something like enormous seagulls: aggressive, dirty and noisy!

I've already painted these figures, but I think that pictures of the finished models can wait for another time.  However, I'll give you a hint as to their appearance: purple!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Full Thrust: Treachery!

Introduction

It's been over 6 months since I last posted a Full Thrust battle report, if I've calculated correctly.  Games (of anything) have been hard to arrange since the club shut down early this year.  However, yesterday afternoon my sons and I played a short, sharp little action.  Here's how it went...

The Scenario

Background

A Klingon flotilla is refuelling at a small space station near to the Cepheus Rift.  They've been tasked with anti-piracy patrols; the Klingons have already disrupted an Orion operation at an abandoned starbase, but these criminals don't give up easily.


As the Klingon commander contemplates how he will conduct this campaign, alarms go off!  Unidentified vessels have warped in, perilously close to his warships.  Immediately after this, all systems on the Klingon vessels suddenly malfunction and go off line.  It seems that a computer virus has been smuggled onto the imperial warships and has been triggered by the new arrivals.  The hunters have just become the hunted!

Setup

  • The defending Klingons have a fleet of 800 NPV value.  They also have an unarmed refuelling station of 400 NPV; this is placed in the middle of the playing area.  All ships are stationary and are deployed within 6" of the station.
  • The Orion attackers have 500 NPV to build their fleet.  Their ships arrive at the start of turn 1, 24" from the space station in any direction they choose.  Initial speed is 6.

Special Rules

The Klingon flotilla at anchor around the refuelling satellite.  From the top left, clockwise: Asgard (heavy cruiser), Conquest (frigate), Ragnarok (heavy cruiser) and Warrior (frigate).
The Klingon fleet has been caught napping!  Their ships are completely disabled by a computer virus and it will take some time for their experts to restore them to full working order.

Every turn, after writing orders, each Klingon ship (and the space station) rolls 1 dice and adds the result to its running total for "preparedness".  The ship can only operate systems when the total value reaches certain numbers:
  • Preparedness 0 [all ships start the game at this]: the ship may not move or fire weapons.  Defensive systems such as screens and point defence do not work.  In fact, no systems at all will function!
  • Preparedness 6+: Defensive systems such as point defence and screens operate as normal.  Thrust is available, but only at 50% of normal levels.
  • Preparedness 12+: All systems work as normal, with no restrictions.
So, it is theoretically possible for a Klingon ship to be restored to fully operational status within 2 turns, but the average will be around 4 turns.  To counter this, the Orions have a much smaller fleet.  Can the attacking pirates kill half of the Klingon fleet within 3 turns?  If they fail to do this then they'll be out-gunned by some very angry warriors!

Our Game

The Orions attack!  From left to right: Pegasus (light cruiser), Etna (heavy cruiser), Buccaneer (corvette)
Right from the start, the 3 Orion ships accelerated towards the helpless Klingons.  They opened fire at medium range, inflicting moderate damage on one of the enemy cruisers and severe damage to the nearer Klingon frigate.

To add insult to injury, we threw for a "non-critical hit" for the damaged frigate.  She took two such hits and lost not only her video arcade but also the captain's prized collection of stuffed tribbles.  What a disaster!  The game had to be suspended for a few moments to allow the players to regain their composure...

In turn 2, the Orion ships advanced again at speed 10 or thereabouts.  Weapons were much more effective at this range and the Klingon cruiser Ragnarok was lashed with phasers.  The crippled frigate Warrior was finished off, though the sheer bulk of the space station absorbed all of the light cruiser's firepower without showing many signs of damage.

The Orion ships continued to approach; the lighter ships slowed as they approached the starbase, whilst the heavy cruiser went wide.  By now, some of the Klingon ships had started to move, though the cruiser Asgard was still completely silent [she had thrown a 1, 1, 2 for the first 3 turns and therefore had a total of only 4 preparedness points.  No doubt her captain was ranting at his technical and security officers as they completely failed to bypass the computer virus that was disabling his ship].

In a surprise move, the Klingon frigate Conquest brought weapons online and targeted the Buccaneer.  The Orion corvette suffered crippling damage, with her bridge smashed, captain dead and a warp core breach.  From now on, the tiny ship played no part in the battle; she coasted along, out of control, whilst engineers desperately tried to prevent an internal explosion.

Retribution was swift, though: the light cruiser Pegasus smashed the Klingon frigate with an overwhelming volley that tore the vessel apart.  On the flank, the Etna continued to pound the Ragnarok, knocking out several of her weapons.

In turn 4, the Orions surprised the Klingon commander by playing an event card: "The engines willnae stand it!" [we were using my Full Thrust Event cards].  The heavy cruiser Etna executed a high speed turn, coming round into just the right position to fire on the refuelling base [though I do have to admit that my heart was in my mouth as I rolled to see if a breakdown would occur - it didn't!].

Due in part to poor communication and the inexperience of the junior cruiser captain, both Orion captains fired on the station instead of either Klingon cruiser.  Whilst the heavily damaged Ragnarok was probably easy prey and could be left for later, the Asgard was finally showing signs of getting her act together.  The undamaged Klingon cruiser restored partial mobility this turn [finally!], though she still had no operational weapons.

Despite receiving the full firepower of 2 cruisers at point blank range, the stations shields served her well and the damage inflicted was not particularly serious.  [At this point, as the Orion commander, I began to wish that my ships were fitted with some torpedoes instead of phasers alone.  The beam weapons were just not effective enough against a large, fully-screened target!]

ThePegasus overshot the station in a way that left her weapons unable to bear on most of the enemy forces.  Between them, the 2 Orion cruisers finally demolished the reeling Ragnarok, just as the other, undamaged Klingon cruiser's weapons became operational.

At this point, I decided that it was time to leave.  As the Orions, we had destroyed a heavy cruiser and 2 frigates in return for the loss of a single corvette [technically, the Buccaneer wasn't yet lost, but given the severity of her damage it would have taken a miracle to save her].  We could have turned to make another pass at the remaining Klingon vessel, but she was quite a bit larger than either of the pirate cruisers and our current positioning would have meant coming at her one-at-a-time.  This didn't sound like a recipe for success...

The 2 Orion cruisers both accelerated at best speed, just heading for the exits.  Although the Etna was clearly going to get away easily, the Pegasus was still in the firing line for a turn or two.

The Asgard contemptuously ignored the crippled Orion corvette [which promptly blew up anyway] and leaped in pursuit of the small cruiser.  Although she was coming from a standing start, the big Klingon ship was very quick [thrust 6!].  Even so, I thought that the Pegasus was safe enough - until the pursuer fired 2 disruptor bolts and scored 2 direct hits!  Pegasus staggered and reeled under the impact, but kept on going.

The Asgard accelerated hard, though the Pegasus was still travelling faster and opening the range.  When the Orion ship was within a couple of inches of safety [i.e. the table edge], the Klingon fired again: 2 disruptors - 2 hits!  The bolts cut through the Pegasus's screens as if they weren't there and tore the Orion ship apart.

Conclusion

Those big Klingon cruisers and the station just kept soaking up the damage, even when their shields weren't operating!  I thought that the Etna [in particular] was very well armed, but it was all she could do to kill the Ragnarok over about 4 turns.

The Asgard had the most appalling luck early in the game when trying to fix the ravages of the surprise computer virus.  In the long run, this probably saved her though: the Orion captains didn't see her as a threat and instead concentrated on targets that were shooting back, or were just about to do so.  The last Klingon warship definitely redeemed herself at the end, though - her gunnery was nothing short of scarily accurate!

So, who won?  At the point where I decided to retreat, the Orions were definitely ahead.  However, the loss of their light cruiser makes this less clear cut.  The final tally is thus:

Klingons

  • Ragnarok (CA): Destroyed
  • Asgard (CA): Undamaged
  • Conquest (FG): Destroyed
  • Warrior (FG): Destroyed
  • Refuelling Station: Moderate damage

Orions

  • Etna (CA): Undamaged
  • Pegasus (CL): Destroyed
  • Buccaneer (CT): Destroyed
Whilst the Orions wiped out more material than they lost, a pirate force cannot afford to trade ships with an imperial navy, even at a 2:1 rate.  They also failed to destroy or cripple the starbase.  Overall, I think I'd give them a Pyrrhic victory - it's good propaganda and will safeguard their operations for a little while, but they won't win the war with escapades like this! 


Thursday, 27 November 2014

28mm Greek Mythology: the Satyrs

Introduction

I'm trying to get back on track with my twice-weekly postings; it's been slipping down to once per week recently.  Still, I should have enough time tonight to show some more mythological creatures.  They'll fight against (or perhaps ally with) Jason and the Argonauts, whenever I get round to staging such battles.

I'm wavering between using Song of Blades and Heroes or 7th Voyage as the rules for my mythological games.  I have both rulesets already and have used SoBH very happily for both my Witch Hunter and Robin Hood settings.  Although I still haven't decided for sure, I might give 7th Voyage a go this time.  After all, it's specially designed for exactly this type of game!

The Satyrs

Satyrs are often represented these days as half-man, half goat, though that's more accurately the appearance of the Roman faun.  Still, only a few people would recognise the traditional  horse-tailed Greek version, so I'm happy enough to use these models instead as Greek creatures.

In ancient mythology, the Satyrs have a deep connection with nature.  For the most part, they're the original party animals: carefree, drinking heavily and chasing women!  However, if they feel threatened or get too drunk then they can become wild and really mean.

The Leader

"My, what a big spear you have..."
My figures come from a Fae starter pack for the Fanticide game, though I believe that the models originate from  Eureka Miniatures of Australia.  They're all painted straight out of the packet, apart from Hylaeos, the leader.

As supplied, the head for this model had large, branched antlers on his head.  I didn't like this for 2 reasons:
  1. Antlers really don't fit with the goat aspect of the faun, or indeed with the horse features of the classic Greek satyr.
  2. On a practical level, the antlers would have stuck out a long way and thus made the model vulnerable to damage and hard to store.
So, I removed the antlers and replaced them with some curled horns from an old Games Workshop skeleton set.  This guy is clearly the boss: he's got bigger horns and a bigger spear than any of the other satyrs!

The Spearmen (spear-satyrs?)

There are 10 fauns with spears in the warband; 2 models each of 5 different poses.  I've used a variety of shades of brown and grey on the goat legs of these figures; there's very little else to differentiate them.

As with many of my figures these days, I've given them appropriate names.  Note that these models are very straightforward to paint; they have very little equipment and so it's just flesh, faces, hair and hooves!

The Archers

The other 8 members in the warband have bows, although 2 of them seem to have picked up rocks to throw.  This might be because they've run out of arrows; their quivers are empty!

Once again, there are 4 distinct sculpts, with 2 copies of each pattern in this group.  The extra equipment means that they took slightly longer to paint than the fauns with spears, but even so these are very straightforward models.

Conclusion

So, now I really have little excuse for not planning at least one game that involves Jason and the Argonauts.  I can see a scenario where the satyrs defend themselves fiercely against an accidental intrusion by the band of human adventurers.  I've also noticed that my Harryhausen-inspired giant cyclops model has some of the goat-like appearance of these guys, so perhaps he might even ally with them.  It's untraditional, but it might just work...

Next in this series inspired by Greek myth will be...harpies!