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.