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Monday, 30 December 2013

Battle for Valhalla Build Part 1 - Dindrenzi

Yesterday I managed to get a break from cooking, eating, drinking, playing games, watching TV and clearing up, and get some time to start on the Battle for Valhalla (from here, BfV) models. First step (as ever) was to give the resin a good scrub with luke-warm soapy water, a rinse in normal tap water and then a thorough drying. Relthoza and Aquan patrol fleets are also getting the treatment at the same time!

So my personal priority was to get the Praetorian built. The first part of this was to get the rather fragile-looking gunracks in place. The top one went in without too much of an issue, just needing careful alignment (though I don't know why the gap has to be so large around it?).

The smaller gunrack was a bit more of a challenge, however. Firstly, it didn't locate very well, making the fit a bit indistinct, and secondly it just seems too chunky for the space it's in.

I didn't like the way this looked, so decided to thin the part out, which was tricky as it is a pretty fragile bit to start with. I also didn't want to spend forever sanding the thing down (or risk a lot of resin dust inhalation), so I opted for the careful application of the trusty scalpel - made easier by Spartan's resin formulation, which is relatively soft and non-brittle. I was going for a reduction of just over half the thickness if I could - starting at the ends - here it is one turret into the rack, four to go!

This generated a lot of resin spoor, but not resin dust, which was fine.

A rub on a file to even out the job and take it down just a little further and it was ready.

Fitting this to the Praetorian I was much happier with how it looked on test fitting...

...and when finally fixed in place;

The rest of the Praetorian's construction is very straightforward, engine sections fitting without any drama, and engine ports likewise. Overall she is a very imposing vessel (I only placed the bridge on for the top photo - I'm leaving it off until after painting).

There was a bit of a casting spur on the rear (easily removed) and also an air bubble (on the right in the centre), but that will be easily filled.

Next up were the Secutor class cruisers, where I hit my first larger snag - one of the ship central hulls was twisted. Here you can see from the front end - the rear of the ship is vertical, the front rotated to the left a good few degrees;

 This is my most feared casting defect, as it's a devil to try to correct. I did attempt to use hot water and correct, but I wasn't very successful;

Although the front is more or less aligned, I'm left with a "wobble" in the mid section - this is what I mean by this sort of thing being hard to correct. As it's a matter of the ship being taken out of the mould before completely cured, it's deep-seated and almost half the ship is involved - difficult to "twist" the whole length different amounts at the same time to get it back. This one will be an email to SG customer support, I'm afraid.

Still, the other two hulls were perfect, and construction could crack on with them. I think one of the reasons this defect was present in the hull was this central section being separate from the engines, which is necessary to support the different engine arrangements between the Secutor and Murmillo. If you examine the rear hull, you can see how it's made to receive different pattern drive sections;

Here you can see the Secutor drive added, but a clear depression for a Murmillo section instead. It's not a bad idea at all, and doesn't detract from the ship design. You can also clearly see the casting spur at the rear on this example too.

Now aligning the drive sections on the Secutor can be quite challenging as there's quite a bit of scope for variation, and even a fraction of a millimetre misalignment between the two sections will make the ship look odd, so make sure you test fit everything before you start adding glue. You'll also want to ensure that the bottoms are flush with the central section as this is where the flight peg inserts also fit.

This insert I'm not so sure about either - there's a lot of uncertainty as to where it actually goes (flush fore or aft) and it can be difficult to ensure it's straight port-starboard too, making it a bit of a mare considering you want to get it right as it's where your ship gets held on the board by!

Still, not TOO bad, and when finished you're left with a very handsome ship;

I did get some further casting bubbles at the rear of one of my Secutor's, though nothing irreparable, just annoying.

The Thraex is the last ship for the Dindrenzi, and of course requiring nothing in terms of construction at all, so I'll just show you some nice close-ups;

Again, a few casting bubbles at the rear, but minor things compared to the detail level on the hulls.

Lastly for the Dindrenzi are the SRS tokens, again needing nothing more from me than a little light cleanup and scrubbing. The Dindrenzi SRS units aren't exactly pretty in terms of ship design, but they are excellently rendered and detailed.

So that's the Dindrenzi force (mostly) ready for priming and painting. I'll need to contact SG for that Secutor hull, which is disappointing, but these things happen. It won't be a show-stopper for me as I've other ships I can play with, but had it been my intro into FSA it would have been a bigger issue.

The ships are very well detailed and beautifully cast, and all the other small issues of casting bubbles were at the rear of the ships where easily dealt with. What I really felt whilst building these ships, however, is that a basic instruction set of how they go together would have been really valuable, and a bit of a missed opportunity given they could have easily been added as a page or two in the Valhalla scenario book.

The Secutor in particular is problematic, as it has pretty wide tolerances on the fit of its parts but mis- or ill-alignment is going to make the ship look very odd. I also think that a more positive location of the Dindrenzi flight stands would be a good think, together on basic instructions as to which way they go around! Although you can find this information on the web, it's not obvious from the box set itself.

These few points score the Dindrenzi ships down when you look at the BfV as a 2-player boxed starter set, which is a pity, as it's excellent in most other ways. Having got Oscar a Dropzone Commander 2-player starter set for Christmas as well, it's easy to make direct comparisons across the two (the subject of another post, I feel!) Maybe without the pressing deadline for a pre-Christmas release these little points could have been addressed, maybe not.

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