Saturday, November 23, 2013

Victorian Science Fiction: Space Prussians! (Part 2: Tanks and War Balloons)

Making Tanks

At first I figured I would just buy some tanks. There's a lot of VSF armor out there, from a range of companies. Unfortunately, I didn't find much that really popped out at me. I think a large part of the problem is that VSF tanks are generally modeled after WW1 tanks. These looked a lot like boxes and pipes thrown together, and this shows in the sculpts.

I figured rather than pay real money for something that looks like that, I may as well try scratch-building them myself. It wouldn't look much different, and if I botched things all it would cost me would be an afternoon.
I got googling, and quickly found Dyehard's Victorian and Edwardian Science Fiction Page. It's a lovely collection of VSF scratch-building resources, tips, and a record of his own work. There's also a collection of WW1 tank plans set up for one to print, cut, build.   
I tried building an A7V. It came together at first, but then things went South pretty quick. I figured by that point I was all in, and may as well try and have some fun with it. After all, the point was to make some VSF tanks, not some A7Vs.
Side machine guns were a must. The brackets that form the sponsons are just some MechWarrior bases leftover from previous madness. I wanted an obvious, tank-caliber gun on the top, so I slapped one on and stuck it in place with some epoxy. The tubes are made from ear buds.

For the smoke stacks (twin-engined, for more power and redundancy!) I used the cap lids of some permanent markers. The markers cost me about a dollar each. It felt a bit wasteful, but for just over a buck a tank, I made my peace with it. The tank hulls of course, were made from Rar's cat food boxes.

War Balloons (Krieg-Ballon)
It would be a pretty drab game if I had to work with were foot sloggers and lumbering tanks. I wanted something with a bit of speed and striking power. Air units seemed the right choice.

I needed a light transport, that could support a fire team or two with a machine gun. I also figured a heavy bomber would be useful, that could aim (poorly!) from a safe height, or come in low but put itself at greater risk. Having a burning Hindenburg come down on the enemy would be its own reward.

Still delighted with my tank scratch-building, I went looking for parts. I found these  squishy little foam rugby balls at Arpico for about 75 cents (Rs. 100/=) each. Their surfacing tore easily, but I figured I could pass this off as battle damage.

 A fresh paper-cutter blade cut through them easily, and the foam didn't react badly to super glue.

For bases, I used some ratty old, GW flying stands. I wanted the balloon bomber flying at a higher level though. I found some crappy plastic desert cups on clearance for about fifty cents (Rs. 69/=) for the whole lot. I flipped one over, and I had my flying base.

And here are the finished goodies! The Infanterie-Kompanie of Hans Frans I, or the "Hans Frans Vahns" as they are affectionately known by the settlers of Martian Swabia.

Cheers, Navin


Friday, November 22, 2013

Victorian Science Fiction: Space Prussians! (Part 1: Infantry)

The Victorian Age, Science Fiction, and Victorian Science Fiction
The 19th century was a great one for Science. Darwin was getting hounded for declaring apes as our ancestors. Faraday invented the dynamo. Maxwell was unifying magnetism, electricity, and light. It looked liked Science was going to answer all our questions about the world - and was creating new ones of its own. Out of Science, Science Fiction emerged.

Typical of the times, Science Fiction was critical inquiry into a specific question. Could animal electricity be used to bring back the dead (Mary Shelley with Frankenstein)? What if a ship could travel under water (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)? Will the Martians suck?

Science Fiction has moved so much on from these early steps, that we take an entirely different delight from them. They are dated, but they are charming - like 70's scifi films. Their serious extrapolation is our quaint whimsy. Further, the Victorian Age is often remembered for its cuteness. Tea cosies; handlebar moustaches; and penny farthings are as much its legacy as the Suez Canal and post-colonial, civil wars.

Herein is the state of Victorian Science Fiction (VSF) today. Some pieces, like the fantastic The Difference Engine, are a serious "what if" exploration. That book for example, explores what might have happened if Babbage had actually built his Victorian computer. Others, like the Wild Wild West, are just fun and ridiculous. The innate cuteness of the subject matter plays well to this.

VSF is well explored by wargamers, and there are no end of companies that make VSF figures. A great place to explore the scene is the Lead Adventure's forum. Even if you're not into VSF, give the forum a look. It's a wonderful gateway into alternate wargaming and minis.

My own VSF project is quite whimsical. Work and life are pretty serious, so my hobby space usually has little room for that. As such, it was only of matter of time before Space Prussians happened. Here is the first part of their tale.

Trench 2114

It's rare that I am so delighted by a miniature that I reach straight for my wallet (well, I suppose more rare than it used to be). Cactus Games' Trench 2114 had me doing this, my only regret is that they didn't have a larger range. Here are their "Heer Light Infantry".  Click, and be delighted too.

At $5.50 for a pack of 10, they're a huge win for a cheapskate. Also, the picture on the site doesn't do them justice. Once I got them, I couldn't help but notice they were some of the nicest 15mm infantry minis I had ever seen. They rival 28mm in detail. Khurasan is doing some incredible work with 15mm characters, but I've not seen anyone do rank and file this good.

I must also say that even the service was great. John the owner:
- Shipped the goods the next day.
- Replied all my follow up emails within 24 hours.
- Reserved a stock for me from the next casting, asking for no money down
- Cared.

I'm keen to see their ranges expand - They also do 28mm as well. Trench 2114 is one to keep an eye on. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mechwarrior Repaints

As you may have noticed, I'm a big 15mm fan. 

There's a lot of 15mm infantry out there, especially scifi infantry. Dropship Horizon maintains a catalog of many available choices.  However, while the infantry is quite cheap, the vehicles usually aren't. I'm not saying the prices are unjustified, far from it. I'd just rather see if I can find a bargain.

Mechwarrior was a good starting point. Mechwarrior is not 15mm, and a lot of the vehicles are just too small. The mechs though, are fine. If you're not too picky, a lot of the armor will do as well.

I sourced my Mechwarrior minis off Miniature Market. They're a fantastic source of CMG singles. If you don't mind repainting, CMG singles a dream. Most cost pennies, and they're easy to find. I searched their Mechwarrior by price, and set my max per mini at $1. About $20 later, I had over 30 vehicles.

Mechwarrior is no longer being made of course, so Ebay is your best hunting ground.

Here are some shots of what I got up to. 

And a better group shot of the lot. 

How do they compare against 15mm infantry?

Well, here is an (unimaginative) kitbash of a 15mm, Flames of War, Sherman tank chassis. I'm using these as APCs. See how they scale against some Khurasan figures.  

Now see how the scale against the Mechwarrior figs. 

Close enough for my taste. For less than a dollar each, I'm quite happy with these.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Grey Deep Space Explorer Fleet

So my girlfriend is a big fan of X-Com: Enemy Unknown. I thought she'd like her own little X-Com wargame set, so I got her some minis (an upcoming post).

For the sectoids, I used a set of Rebel Minis 15mm Alien Greys (Armed). I'm a big fan of Rebel Minis because of their platoon-sized packs. This blister gets you 22 Greys, for $10.95. This was plenty for X-Com.

Here's how they came out:

More minis were inbound for this project. While waiting for them, I figured I'd get some glue on my hands. Greys have a great pulpy feel: why not give them some ships? Not for X-Com, but just silly, 1950s, atomic scifi games. This quickly spiraled into a full on army.

A cheapskate army, to be sure.

I did a few sketches: I wanted an OTT, Imperialist, Invader Zim feel. These Greys needed to take themselves a too seriously. I figured bold vanes, grasping tentacles, and looming-doom would work.

Cardboard; bottle tops; Mechwarrior bases; and Dark Eldar bitz were what I had lying around at the time. Here's what I came up with.
 The obvious question here, is where are the bubble-top canopies? I'd love to have had those. For whatever reason, I've not seen a single one anywhere in this country. I've been looking for those, all over.

For years.

I'm probably going to have to source some on Ebay, and keep them aside.

Scout Craft 
Nice and simple. Bottle tops on Mechwarrior bases. They're drilled underneath to accept a standard, GW, flying base. A based Grey fit's inside them nicely.

Abductor Transports
Fire/Science Teams gotta ride in style, yo.

Note the bold vanes, made out of simple cardboard. They're angled to look menacing, and excessively tall to convey arrogance. Grasping, biomechanoid, tentacles are essential for abducting cattle and bumpkins.  The Dark Eldar tentacles (from the Talos kit) were perfect.

Science Mothership
The brooding, deadly, mothership. The only rounded thing I could find was - well - the top of a deodorant bottle. While gross and distracting to an opponent once pointed out, that's not why it's here. It's here because it's critical. It's the only spherical component in the entire army. If I couldn't have bubble-top canopies, then at least the mothership could look appropriate.

It's got four Dark Eldar guns, but that's just for show. In game, it'll hide in a corner and rain down indirect fire (artillery). It's bottom is from a laptop cooler. It looks pretty cool underneath, but unfortunately, that's underneath.

And that's pretty much it! Here are some vanity shots of the fleet. The special lady is quite delighted with them. I expect she'll be annihilating me with them, this weekend. 

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Modern Warfare in 15mm: Iraq, 2004

I've been hankering to run a modern warfare game for a while. the bits and pieces had slowly been falling into place. Some Rebel Minis insurgents here. A Last month, I put together a few minis from:

- Rebel Minis
- Khurasan Miniatures
- Old Glory
- Some Chinese toy company that makes almost-Matchbox

And ran a rules-light version of the 2 Hour Wargame's "Quick Reaction System". It was a blast, and I could write an essay about it.

I won't though, cause that would be pretty batshit-insane. Instead, here are some pretty pictures.

Quick Reaction Force
- Blackhawk (meh)
- Hummvees (seemed a little small)
- Predator Drone (utterly fantastic)

The blackhawk was extremely accurate - but I felt the casting was low detail, as if from a worn-out mold. The pewter rotors were great - except unfortunately, they can't support their own weight. They droop over time.

 Rebel Minis
- US Special Forces
- Insurgents
- Hostages

Great prices on these. Rebel Minis gets that you may as well build armies at this scale, rather than skirmish forces.

Most of their minis come in 20+ figure packs, and they usually go for around $10 a blister. Tough to to argue with $10 for a platoon.

The terrain was pretty simple. Cardboard boxes, cut up to look like ruins. I cut in windows, doorways, and glued in floors and and ledges where appropriate.

Some quick dusting with some spray paint, and a whole board's worth was ready.

Khurasan Miniatures
- SEAL Team 6 (I know, right? Kickass!)
- Taleban (Not-Bin Laden comes with a hostage)

Khurasan's sculpting quality is higher than Rebel Minis. The owner also seems more "intense" about his work. Just look at how much detail goes into for his US modern military codes, versus how Rebel Minis manages that.

His stuff is also pricier than Rebel Minis, but completely worth it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tusk: Mammoth Hunting from 12,000 BC to 1914 AD

Tusk is a charming beer and pretzels he game of Mammoth hunting. Players control little bands of cavemen, and must coax, annoy, or terrify mammoths (and other beasties) into traps or off cliffs.

It uses a reaction system (so it can even work single-player). What makes its shine though, is that hunting parties cannot directly attack each other. Instead they have to arrange convenient accidents (brush fires!) or poach kills. They prey don't always cooperate either.

Despite it's silly theme, Tusk is well designed. Action points are limited, forcing players to consider their tactics. The unit types affect game play differently- thought must be given to party composition.

It's scaled for 15mm, and but works well in 28mm too.

My Own Tusk Setup
While I love 15mm, Tusk looks better I feel in 28mm. My favorite wargaming blog, Irrational Number Line Games, discovered some cheap, plastic, cavemen which they put to their own good use here.

There are TimMee figures, you can buy them 48 for $12 on Amazon. While you're browsing, take a look at what else TimMee does. They do some ridiculous and incredible shit, including a C-130 :) .

Next I needed prey. I didn't want to do mammoths - who cares about mammoths? Dinosaurs are way more awesome, and I had tons lying around after the Mechasaurus Rex project.
I used the big ones for "mammoths," and the little cute ones for hunting "dogs."

Next was terrain. I've been working on several 4x4 foot layouts for different environments:

- Mars / Red Planet
- Urban Warfare
- Desert
- Woodland

This needed woodland. We glued dirt to four, 2x2 foot squares, sprayed them in dark brown, and gave them a drybrush.

I love CDs - they're great bases for making terrain. I used a few to make some grey boulders, and kept aside a few others to make marsh; watering holes; and tar pits.

Trees I needed professional help with. I bought some from Pegasus Hobbies. The banana trees are excellent, and the palms really tie things together. They have a very Lost World / jungle feel.

The Completed Board
Will upload some action shots soon, as these are being taken to the next Geek Meet for their first game! For now, here are some teasers.

Tusk is made by Wessex Games, and is available in PDF at the Wargame Vault here.

Thanks for reading!