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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Making Magnetic flight stands

I posted on The Black Ocean that I'd get a post on here about the flight stands I've made for our FSA ships. My first attempts at making these were using some 3mm x 2mm neodymium rare-earth magnets that I've used for magnetising 40K tyranids (I should do another post on that too, I suppose!). This is actually harder than it sounds, as it involves gluing two of these fiddly things, one into a hole in the ship (relatively straightforward), and another onto the acrylic post of the flight stand. Needless to say, unless the flight stand is absolutely vertical the magnet doesn't want to stay there whilst the glue dries, and acrylic isn't that responsive to superglue anyway, so if you knock the table etc it falls off and sticks to anything not made of acrylic (the table, paper, fingers, jeans etc). I did one Aquan frigate, and put it on when it had dried to find out it was not straight at all.

Now these magnets are pretty cheap nowadays (you cn get 100 on ebay for less than 5 GBP /~$7 including delivery), so I wasn't that bothered about using double the magnets, I was more concerned with how long it was going to take me gluing all these magnets to flight stands well. Of course, you don't need two magnets if one side is a ferrous material, which got me looking into 3mm diameter steel rod. You can pick 33cm/13" lengths of this up on-line or on ebay for about 7 ($11) GBP per metre delivered - I got 10 lengths for 20 GBP delivered.

Each of these cuts into 7 FSA flight-stand-length pieces, but of course as it's stock material you can cut it shorter or longer if you want some variety - this also has the advantage of making it easier to cluster your ships together without cross-talk (sneaky, eh?). Cutting the lengths is the dullest part of the operation, but obviously was made harder in my case because I was making them for a lot of ships at one time. Once cut, they need levelling out and de-burring which only takes a few seconds per piece.

Once cut & cleaned up, they go into the stand without any issues, just replacing the normal plastic flight peg.

On the ship side, the first ships I did, plus the metal frigates, all got magnets as they were, which makes them pretty much flush to the surface - here's an Aquan escort to show that;

I used 5 minute epoxy rather than superglue, because it's both stronger, more flexible and easier to carve if it gets where it shouldn't. It also has nice gap-filling qualities, which is good because some of the holes on my models were almost 4mm in diameter (more of this with the resin models in a moment). The magnets are strong enough to hold them even if not sitting flush to the end of the flight stand, but on some ships - notably the Relthozan frigates, they don't necessarily hold them perfectly. One reason for this is that the glue can lip up over the edge of the magnets or cover them completely, meaning uneven contact with the rod. This can be easily remedied with judicious use of a scalpel - you can see this has been done on the escort above.

On the resin models, the magnets aren't necessarily doing the holding up of the model, they're more keeping it in place, so the rod still needs to support the model lateraly. As some of the resin peg holes are shallow anyway (the Sulan and Aquan cruisers, together with the Dindrenzi Heavy Cruisers are worst for this), they really need drilling out some more. Here's the magnet in a drilled out Relthoza battleship - just visible down the dark hole...

This is easier on some models than others - Terran cruisers aren't very deep to start with! I mentioned some of the holes were pretty wide anyway, and again the Sulan cruiser comes up here - it's got such a wide, shallow hole I don't believe it would stnd on a normal flight stand anyway. When I first magnetised one the magnet sat flush with the model's hull, and the weight of the metal front just pulled it down. After digging the magnet out of the epoxy, drilling a deeper hole and re-magnetising, they do very well indeed. Here is the Rethoza battleship above being held upside down on one of the steel-pegged flight stands - just the magnet holding it there... (I did test it out a few inches above a soft cloth before doing this, but was still a bit nervous!)

So, for an outlay of about 25 GBP ($40) you can convert about 70 flight stands (which should be enough for most games) and have a bunch of magnets left over for other projects - plus you can use the left-over Spartan plastic rods to glue lava rocks onto for asteroids!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Persecution Class Dreadnought - WiP

So thought I'd get the first basecoat on the Directorate Dreadnought last night, and write a bit of a mini-review on it, having also finished our first game with it in last night too.

So the Persecution class is a relatively short Dreadnought, being a shade over 16cm long - this places it just slightly longer than the Relthoza battleship. Bulk, however, is where the Directorate excel, and this is over 7cm wide and 3cm deep, weighing in at about 110g, which (like most Directorate craft), gives an impression of being a hefty slab of a ship. The hull is a single-piece casting with the three resin cannon accelerators being supplied separately in a little baggie. Mine had a slight mould mis-alignment at the rear, but as I got it at less than half price it was nothing I was that bothered about nor that will be very noticable on the table. It has some great detail, including 19 plasma turrets underneath and the characteristic Directorate armoured carapace. She's a sleek-looking ship despite her bulk, and looks like she means business, especially with those cannons glued in place (a completely painless operation, incidentally).

Stats-wise, I'm not sure how it plays compared to other dreadnoughts, and it didn't see a whole lot of action in our recent game. It did get some damage, but nothing major, and it was able to throw out some big dice rolls - 19AD in range band 2 with linked fire from the fore broadside and cannon, which is pretty nasty. 13AD from Starboard/Port with linked fire is also not too shabby, and although I had variable results with these, this was really down to my dice rather than anything else. Its shields did (very luckily) prevent a critical hit, so even though only SH1 I can see some value there. I did try the FSD boarders, but even in range band 2 I managed to space them, so not sure about that MAR. Lack of mines, FW and torpedoes means its activation is pretty short and straightforward - it moves and shoots, making it quite limited in some ways. I think where it's going to get mostly used is as a capital ship hunter - a hunter-killer submarine type role.

When looking for a colour scheme for my Directorate I was pretty uninspired by what I've seen out there - I didn't mind the metal/green scheme, but that felt a bit unimaginative and "samey" (I do like to have unique fleets - maybe its an ego thing?). The Directorate are a corporate group, so how would a company approach things like spaceship paint schemes? Well, looking at military companies today, they usually go for military finishes, which today are usually muted green tones for ground forces, and greys for air/sea. This got me thinking about navy schemes, and although they're all just low-vis grey nowadays, back in the first half of the last century they had disruptive camouflage applied - often in hard-lined "splinter" pattern. With the Directorate ships having a distinct top & bottom, I thought I could also paint the lower hull a brick-red like many ships hulls then, with a black band around the centre - this would provide a bit of colour and visual interest, yet still be relatively easy to paint.

As I'd already primed the model in grey car spray primer, I just needed to add dark and light shades (this already providing a mid-tone). I masked up with Tamiya masking tape and sprayed the dark areas with thinned Adeptus Battle grey, then remasked an repeated with Astronomican Grey. When dry I then masked the edges and sprayed the entire underside with Scab red, followed by highlights of Red Gore and Blood Red to give some tonal variation and impression of depth. That's as far as I got before going to bed - and here she is;

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Oscar Painted Tyrant Guard & Biovore

So Oscar wanted to paint a couple of Tyranids at the weekend, so these are the results of that. His dry-brushing technique os getting pretty good, though he did end up using a too-wet brush on the guard's neck, thus getting paint in the recesses - not to worry, this is one of the best ways to learn, and not really a problem.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Incoming Firestorm Armada!

Well, got a load more goodies courtesy of ebay and The TrollTrader on Saturday, which was great service considering I won them on Thursday evening, so despatched Friday and arrived next day. Amongst the resin and pewter were all sorts - from a Persecution class Directorate dreadnought which is impressively large, to some tiny (but rather cool) RSN Frigates. Oscar got the Manta-class Battle Carrier he'd been saving towards, plus some Barracuda Mk II Frigates (he has yet to earn!).

I put together a scenario yesterday for a game we started last night, where the Zenian league have discovered a derelict but very advanced alien ship in the outer reaches of a system. It's unknown energy system interferes with fold-space technology, so it couldn't be shunted away, meaning it's being stripped for whatever tech can be taken for examination in safety...this game me a chance to use the gun, torpedo and PD satellites that came, plus some civilian ships to ferry away the stolen tech. A (slightly) rule-bending League fleet with the Persecution class, RSN frigates and Dindrenzi cruisers/gunships rounded it out, whilst the Aquans have a full starter fleet, Manta battle-carrier and escorts. The Aquans had to deploy from fold-space using a long-range sensor scan of the area (a photo of the gaming table deployment with blurring on the ships & installations), but was then allowed to move D3+1 squadrons up to 6" on seeing the table. This kept the suspense up from Oscar's side, and allowed what was on the table to be a complete surprise. He was suitably impressed, which is always nice to see! All my ships had "cut engines", so my first activations were a series of hasty start-ups and retaliatory fire, and two of my RSN frigates bought it almost immediately, though they took an Aquan frigate with them...a full battle report will follow in due course....

Friday, 23 March 2012

WiP - Mawloc conversion

So with the new Tyranid releases I've got back to our Tyranid swarm and been doing a bit of "updating". This has included painting up a Venomthrope and Pyrovore, and today has been updating a Mawloc conversion we first put together over a year ago. This was put together from some of the Mawloc parts left over from Oscar's Trygon kit, but I was never happy with its old-style scything talon legs. With the spare fleshborer hive legs from the Tyrannofex, however (which look quite spade-like), I thought it would look better. New chest and carapace pieces from GS also make it fit the theme of the current tyranids better, and I sculpted the interiro of the awesome maw with GS to blend the elements in and put the tongue (a classic style Hive Tyrant tail) in. Stuck in a home-made crater and with its base-coats on, you can judge for youselves...

Obviously we need to finish painting, and the crater needs rubble adding to complete the look of the Mawloc bursting from underground, but overall we're pretty happy with the effect - the massive fleshborer hive arms look substantial enough to propel it through the earth and haul it out when it bursts from underneath ready to devour all ahead of it.

The Venomthrope is a slight departure from our normal Tyranid scheme, basically just a green-washed and white-dry brushed version to give a paler, more sickly and toxic-looking creature. again, fairly happy with progress so far (though I wish I'd filled the joins in the rear before painting!).

The Pyrovore, on the other hand, is fairly standard. Tubes were washed in yellow and sacs, mouth, edges of tubes etc in red to create a look of acidic and noxious fluids irritating even the resistant tissues of the host tyranid organism. Tubes and mouth areas are also glazed to give a slick appearance, though this doesn't come out that well on the pics.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Games Workshop New Paint Range

Well I received a "sneak preview" video in my inbox from Games Workshop yesterday, which I think is intended to generate some awareness of their 145 new paints in the "all-new" range that's been heavily leaked already. Apart from the sneak peak being pretty obscure (you'd really have needed to know that they were about to release a new paint range to know that's what it's about), I must say I'm very underwhelmed by the prospect of a load of new paints. Having got used to the properties of Citadel paints over the past years, and having a large stock of them, I'm not about to chuck them all in the bin and buy a new range. If I did go for a new range, I'd probably move away from Citadel and the Games Workshop franchise for reasons of quality and price. Unless the new ranges turn me into an instant artist, I'll be greeting them with a hearty "meh".

Now, I'm not against improvement, but a wholesale change of something as fundamental as the paints is something different. Think of the tens of thousands of paints out there already, and those in GW more than 2 GBP (about $4) each, I'm thinking that the reason GW want a new paint range is more about economics and profit than painting. I welcomed the washes they brought out, and even went for the foundation paints (not 100% convinced, though I do use them), but I'd have thought this was also the way to bring out further additions to the range (and apparently their are other "types"), whihc would have had more "buy-in" from their customer base. I'm afraid it really smacks of GW not actually caring what their install base thinks, just what new custom they can buy. This has been an underlying theme in their rules changes and codexes, where whole rafts of (expensive) models suddenly become redundant (thinks Necrons and Pariahs, for example).

As a businessman, I'm afraid I find this approach just a tad too cynical for my liking. It's not like their aren't other games companies out there, and they have very different attitudes than the leviathan that GW has become. Oscar and I have been getting into Firestorm Armada from Spartan Games, where a complete starter fleet will set you back the same as a single carnifex from GW. So for 40GBP each you and a friend can buy a complete fleet, rulebook and cardset and be playing deep-space battles. In fact, you can spend 15GBP and do the same as they provide downloadable cut-out fleets so you can try before you buy the models, so you can even get a feel for how they play before you commit to them. That's pretty good. Granted, the rulebook does have less gloss, background and integration than some GW publications, but it's also less than half the price and, in terms of gameplay (which is what really counts, after all!), works extremely well.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Received my order from Total Wargamer today - Tervigon/Tyrannofex and Hive Tyrant/Swarm Lord kits...Oscar and I did unboxing videos, the first of which is on YouTube already.

As for the kits...well, the Tyrannofex/Tervigon model is HUGE. I think it's pretty good value when you compare it to other kits, like the Carnifex for example (or the HT/Swarmlord, as discussed below!). It's cleverly designed and builds very nicely, and I love the weapon options. The Tervigon is nicely done too, though of course GW have designed it so you can't build it in a way that you could make it versatile. I think GW "attitude" (if a company can have such a thing, being ephemeral at best) is pretty poor here, and rather cynical. How much would it have really impacted sales if they'd made a more versatile kit that clever gamers could field as a Tervigon or Tyrannofex with the aid of a few magnets? Most people probably have a preference, and some might be running multiple Tervigons or Tyrannofexes, so multiple purchases would ensue anyway. Many wouldn't want to go to the bother of magnetising anyway, so how much would it hurt it to show it's thinking of its customers, rather than its profit line (which is pretty large anyway)? Even if this wasn't the intention (which I doubt), it doesn't create a good "feel"  -someting I've noticed increasingly on forums.

I've also something of an issue with the Hive Tyrant/Swarmlord kit, too. Coming at the same time as the Tyrannofex/Tervigon kit, you naturally put them side-by-side and think, "hang on a minute, this only cost 2 pounds less than the Tervigon". It's a nice kit, and much more convenient for conversions etc, and the wings are nice, but still. The Swarmlord parts really only consist of a very slightly different head and four arms - I was hoping for maybe some different legs (to make it taller and more imposing on the battlefield) and the forked tail from the artwork at least. The head just looks like a Hive Tyrant variant and the bone sabres are also disappointing, being weedier than a standard HT bonesword. You could change them, but then you just paid 33GBP for this!!!

The Hive Tyrant flying parts are nice - the wings and huge-clawe legs with flying tail shows some thought and design put in - which again makes you think why did they put so little effort into the Swarmlord - one of the Tyranids only "named" characters? The way the torso is split means they could have made some additional parts to provide a beefier section for it - but they didn't.It all fits together well, but it just shows a bit of a lack of imagination really, I feel.

Overall then, whilst being great kits and models, GW new Tyranid releases have got me thinking more about getting out of 40K and looking at another games that is a bit "nicer" (for want of a better term). My recent experiences with FSA have only strengthened this, and in the current economic climate I think GWs insensitivity is massive. Now they just need to release 6th Edition 40K with loads of rules changes that completely alter the way armies play, to finally torpedo my enthusiasm for their franchises.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

WiP - FSA Relthoza Fleet

So Oscar has his Aquans, I have my minions of evil...the first fleet of which I bought were the Relthoza. I like the idea of these arachnid creatures with their vertically-designed ships, scurrying about up and down their architecture. As I think their back-story makes them quite sinister, I wanted the ships to be quite dark and menacing - I also really dislike the way Spartan have them painted on their boxes! I still wanted them to be distinctive, however, so I went with a dark red scheme picked out with lighter reds and contrasted with black. The way they ended up reminds me somewhat of beetle carapaces, which is a good place to end up I think!

Here are the cruisers;

Not a great photo, I'll get a better one taken at some up is the Brood-class battleship

This is an awesome ship, I've not lost her yet in a battle - she can deal out a lot of punishment with those broadsides...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Spartan Games Customer Support

Just thought I'd put a quick "Thank You" and ringing endorsement to Spartan Games for providing excellent customer support, which in the current climate really sets it apart from many companies out there...(one will not be mentioned!).

I had a Sorylian frigate in my starter fleet box received a week or so ago from an on-line trader which was slightly mis-cast, not majorly but enough that it couldn't be easily fixed (it looked like the resin at the rear hadn't cured when it had been taken out of the mould, and so had extruded/lengthened at the end, plus being slightly banana-shaped), and so the metal end-piece wouldn't fit on. Even if it had, it would have looked wrong. It was the only mis-cast in the box, but I got in touch with Spartan via email anyway as I'd heard they had good after-sales service from their forums.

Within 10 minutes I got a reply saying they'd replace it, and I received it today. No fuss, no quibbles, just a request for the colour of a packing dot so they could trace internally for QC (I couldn't find this, so just sent them photos of the box so they could see it if I'd missed it!).

10/10 Spartan for your customer service - I was already a fan, but this has further cemented my opinion.Seems they have guaranteed further spending on their products for the future!

On the painting bench - Hive Tyrant

Well, today I thought I'd deviate from prior posts (which have all focussed on FSA), and go back to 40K. With the recent "second wave" releases of Tyranids, and reading the latest White Dwarf, I've had a kick to my enthusiam about the Great Destroyer, and opted to get some monstrous creatures painted up.

First is a Hive Tyrant, complete with bone sword, lash whip, scything talons and adrenal gland. It had previously got to the stage of being base-coat sprayed and washed, with a bit of the carapace also being painted. Big, unattractive white primer areas still existed on the bone sword, so time to get him done. This is the old metal kit (I, like many others, am not a fan of Citadel's so-called "Finecast"), so limited in posability but still an imposing model.

Taking photos of minis with flash always changes how they look, but you can see the basics on this - basecoat on carapace now done, adrenal gland base done, added eyes to bonesword and lashwhip, main coat on body done. Next up is the parts on the sides of the vents, then the carapace wash and detailing, adrenal gland and "wet" areas (mouth, eyes etc). Some wash around the veins too...

Monday, 12 March 2012

WiP - District 9 Themed Dindrenzi

So thought I should post some work in progress shots of my District 9 themed Dindrenzi fleet. I love the film, the colours and imagery of the alien hardware is very striking, and the blocky, angular look of the Dindrenzi fleet ships seems to lend itself to it nicely. Of course, this could be just me, but thought I'd share some of where it's up to. Of course, I have limited time (don't we all), plus a million other things to spend it on, and hence progress is slow. I'm terrible for starting things, getting enthused by something new, then quickly being distracted by something else. Hopefully my FSA fleets are small enough that they can get at least some level of completion (and Oscar is good at spurring me on, especially as he's fielding a fully painted fleet himself!).

Here's the "concept prototype" - a Fury-class cruiser;

Others in process...a Hammer class Frigate

Conqueror class Battleship
Gladius Gunship

Victory class

anyway, you get the idea....

So, these are all very early WiPs, I'll update the post as I progress on them. Next I need to add a similar post for my Relthoza...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Oscars Aquans

So Oscar has been bugging me to upload pictures of his Aquan fleet ships, and as the Spartan Games Forum has been down for over a week now, and the Blog is up, here they are...

First, his Aquan Battleship, the Serene Ocean

Next, a cruiser

His Heavy Cruiser

and a diminuative frigate

He painted these completely by himself, starting with a Shadow Grey base, followed by a wash of blue, then a drybrush of 50/50 Shadow Grey:Skull White and finished with a drybrush of Skull White. Details were picked out in red/orange/yellow for the command bulges, Hawk Turquoise plus white for the engine power crystal arrays
He's very proud of them, and rightly so!

Quick update, 15/3/12: Oscar received and painted his Escorts up - here they are;

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Post Number One

So, finally gave into the tempation to start a blog...essentially because it was easier to set up than a website!

I used to have a website on my modelling activities "way back in the day" before I was married and the dot com bubble had burst, but as the hosting service I used packed in, and more of my time was taken up with work followed firstly by marriage and then children, it got lost in the dust of the web.

I still spend quite a bit of my "free" time doing various model-related things, most recently gaming with my son, Oscar. As he's now getting into using the web as a platform for telling others what we're up to, I thought it a good excuse to get back into this medium.

Oscar and I have been playing 40K together for about 5 years now. Last year we tried a bit of WWII wargaming and since January, we've also started playing Firestorm Armada (FSA for short). This last one is a game of starship battles in the far future, and is a great starting point for any gamer as it requires a minimal outlay, is easy to get into yet has some depth too. It's not perfect, but it is playable and fun! We're currently in the middle of a ~1,000 point game which started last week, and we get 40-60 minutes on every couple of days. In the FSA universe I currently play "the bad guys" - The Dindrenzi Federation (a splinter group of humans) and the Relthoza (arachnids in space - think Starship Troopers with technology), whilst my son plays The Terran Alliance (the original, nice, humans) and Aquans (fish people)...more on them in future blogs.