Thursday, December 8, 2011

Necron Terrain: Mold Making Failure & Success

Progress on my Necron blocks has been slow going over the past several weeks.  My wife lets me do some modeling in the house, but for all the really messy stuff (sand blasting, pouring silicone and plaster) I have to work out in my garage with just a tiny space heater.  Lately most days have been below freezing and my little heater just couldn’t get the garage over 45 degrees, which is too cold for either plaster or silicone.  I did manage to sand blast my second set of masters though.  I used a Badger 260 mini-sandblaster with 220 grit aluminum oxide abrasive.  The blocks came from the printer with a fairly grainy surface to start with, so I didn’t have to hammer the plaster copies too much with the sand blaster.  Mostly I went for just rounding the corners and pitting the surface.   I experimented with some really harsh sand blasting but it was hard to control and tended to eat away at the faces more than the corners, making the blocks look more like melted butter rather than sand blasted.  I sand blasted three full copies of the masters from the first mold and picked the best to make my final mold.
I had the blocks all prepped for molding for a week waiting for it to warm up.  It’s been super frustrating and when I finally did get a warm day to make a mold of my new blocks I rushed it and didn’t de-gas the silicone resulting in bubbles in the mold.  Bummer, there’s $20 of silicone down the drain.
So I had to wait a few more days for warm weather and re-poured the mold and got it right this time.  I took my time and de-gassed the silicone and got a great looking mold with good fidelity to the blocks.
I cast this a few times along with Hirst Arts mold #93 (Egyptian Tower) to make the first test piece shown below.  It’s tough to tell without paint and weathering, but the surface textures between the two molds are pretty close.  The proof will be once I get it painted and stained this weekend.  So far, the results have been better than I expected.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Progress on my Necron Terrain and Finecast Dissapointment

Happy Thanksgiving to those of the American persuasion.  I’ve got a a couple of updates before I head to my in-laws for a few days.
Progress on the Necron Glyphs
I managed to make the first mold of the 3D printed bricks.  It was mostly successful but it had a few flaws.  The blocks came from the printer with a very grainy texture.  I thought about clear coating the blocks to make them smoother, but I was in a hurry so I just made the mold with the masters as is.  The result is the silicon settled into the grainy surface and made the mold very hard to dislodge.  I ended up with a little tear out on the glyphs of the 1.5” long block.
I made a few plaster casts of the mold with hydrostone and now I have a good set of base blocks to start the sand blasting process on.  Unfortunately, I have to head up to my in-laws place in the mountains until Sunday, so sand-blasting will have to wait.
Here’s a few pictures of some of the casts.  Sorry for the poor quality, but the low color contrast of the blocks makes them hard to photograph.

Of Finecast and Dissapointment
Over last weekend I broke down and bought my first Games Workshop Finecast model.  I had been planning to make a plastic cryptek model, but still didn’t have all the bits, so just picked up the GW version.  I know I’m coming to the finecast debate six months or so late, but man was this disappointing.  The local shop had three blisters.  Two had staves with wonky bending.  The third had a pretty straight staff, but you really couldn’t tell much else about the model through the packaging.
Once I got it on the work bench and together the flaws really started to jump out.  There’s a ton of micro air bubbles in inconvenient places.  It’s hard to see, but the worst is on the end of the thumb of the left hand and you can see light coming through the tabard where there’s a bubble in the back.  The foot also had a bigger bubble at the toes, but I managed to hide that with some flock.

None of the flaws are enough that I’d try to return the model, but I certainly won’t be buying any more finecast models unless I can’t convert the model from plastic.  I think I can hide the rest of the flaws with some green stuff, but I really shouldn’t have to.  I’m not a loyalist to any one company and have bought resin figures for years from many different companies.  I can tell you for a fact that resin figures CAN be cast at a higher quality AND a lower price.  But you can’t do that when you have to pay out your profits to shareholders.  The companies that do it better and cheaper do it for the love of what they do while they pay the bills.  Grumble, grumble grumble.
On the plus side though, I've been making good progress with my plastic models.  I’ve got five new immortals ready to finish when I get home and an annihilation barge and squad of Triarch Praetorians about half way painted.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thinking About Building Necron Terrain

I’m still reading and absorbing the new Necron codex and I’ve started building some new models.  I’ve got an immortal squad and an annihilator barge that are just about done and a few more models in construction.  In the mean time I’ve been thinking about building some Necron terrain.
I’m one of those players who would rather loose badly with a well painted army on a table full of good looking terrain than win with a plastic grey army on a table full of felt circle “woods” and cardboard buildings.  To that end, I’m looking at creating some Necron themed terrain to go with my metal warriors.
I love Hirst Arts Molds(  Bruce Hirst sells a line of silicone molds that model builders can use to cast plaster blocks used to build all kinds of neat terrain.  I’ve got many of his gothic and sci-fi molds.  He also sells a line of Egyptian themed molds that I’d considered in the past for Necrons, but while Necrons have a certain Egyptian vibe, it wasn’t close enough for me to pull the trigger.  With the reboot of the Necrons to be more Tomb Kings In Space, the Egyptian theme is a closer fit.  But to tie the whole thing together I’m going to need some blocks with Necron glyphs on them.
After wondering at the marvels of 3D printing recently, I decided to produce my own 3D Necron glyphs to combine with Hirst Arts Egyptian molds to create some Necron terrain.
Unfortunately I’m an old fogey.  As a point of reference, when I learned drafting in college, they still taught it with a drafting board and a T-square.  Over the years I’ve learned 2D CAD, but haven’t made the leap into 3D modeling.  I ended up designing some blocks in 2D and commissioning a 3D artist to put them into a printable format.  After that I sent the file to ( for printing.

Two weeks later, there’s a package of nifty little blocks in the mail.  That is just too cool for words.  Here’s a pic of the finished blocks printed in plastic.

As a comparison, here’s one of the Hirst Arts blocks with hieroglyphics. 

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to build just yet.  As you can see above the HA blocks have a pocked and worn finish.  Now I’ve now got to make a mold of the printed blocks, cast them in dental plaster and then I have to sandblast the casts so that they match the sand blasted finish of the HA ones.  Then I can make one last mold of the sand blasted blocks and I’m in business!  Yes, obsession is a dangerous thing.
I've got a draft design of a simple stele I'll try out.  I've got  a good holiday break coming up.  Hopefully I can make some good headway on the army and get the blocks ready for molding.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Necron Codex Is Here

GW released the new Necron codex and the first wave of models last Saturday.  I picked up a copy of the codex and one of the new Command/Annihilation Barge kits.  I have spent the last few days puttering with the model and ensconced with the book. (Well, as ensconced as you can be with three boys under ten, work, an oil change and a busted water line to my fridge to fix).
Despite all of that I did get a good read through the codex and have started a more detailed analysis.  I have already formed some quick impressions:
Pro:  All of my current models are still usable.  Yeah!  With a new codex release you always have to worry that something’s going to get the boot.  It looks like the only unit that disappeared outright are the Pariahs, but I don’t own any.  However the models themselves can come back in as the new Lichguard for anyone that does have them.
Pro:  Just about every model I own now got cheaper (in terms of army points).  They’ve gotten on average 25% cheaper.  In the old codex, my model collection came in around a total of 2,800 points.  Under the new codex they should be around 2,000 plus or minus.
Con:  It looks like all of the models that stepped down in price also stepped down in terms of stats, warriors go from a 3+ to a 4+ save, the “Living Metal” rule for the Monolith is toned way down and destroyers lose their jetbike status, etc.  Especially hard hit were the C’Tan.  They’ve gone from star gods to mere shards (think the Eldar Avatar of Khaine), with a significant cost reduction and a great weakening of power.   One silver lining is that now you can pick your C’Tan powers ala carte as war gear so you can create your own now.
Pro:  Not all of the units with a cost reduction got hurt.  In fact Immortals and scarabs now seem to be even better than before and at a lower cost.
Neutral:  There are some shiny new plastic and resin kits out and it’s pretty clear that the codex was written to make those more attractive than the old models.  This isn’t surprising as it’s standard practice for a GW codex.   Essentially they figured out what legacy players had the most of (warriors, destroyers and Monolith) and then make sure that there was a new unit that could do what they do better (Immortals, Tomb Blades etc).  Again, it’s not ideal, but it is what I expected to happen.  At least the old models didn’t suffer the indignities that my Tyranid Carnifex did with their codex update.
Neutral:  Something like half of the new units have kits available in the first wave of models with a rumored second wave in the first quarter next year.  While that’s pretty good, I still have bad memories of the fabled Tyranid second wave that never came.  Here’s to hoping that the next Necron wave happens.
Annoying:  Overall the fluff quality is good.  However the author, trying to move the Necrons farther into the Egyptian theme decided that it would be a good idea to stick faux Egyptian titles on everything.  As an example scarab swarms are now Canoptek Scarab Swarms.  I get the shtick, but being lover of PBS historical documentaries, it gets old quick.
On the modeling front I cleared off a space on my workbench and dug in to the new barge kit.  This thing is a treat.  It’s a cool looking kit, but good golly Molly this thing is complex.  I haven’t bought a new kit since Tyranids and while they were nifty kits, they didn’t even come close to the level of complexity to this little wonder.  I’ve been modeling for over 20 years so I’ve got the experience to take something like this on, but I shudder to think of some kid getting into the hobby and this being their first kit.  Oh the horror.
For the actual build, I think I’m going to go the route of the Annihilation Barge.  This doesn’t have anything to do with army building, but primarily due to the fact that you can take the plastic parts for the lord model of the Command Barge option and put him on foot.  This is awesome.  He even has a 25mm base included in the box.  Nice.
I also finally dug out my old Necron models and they’re going to need to get cleaned up.  The infantry were packed in one of the GW hard sided cases, which must have had some free space because the models moved around and there are plenty of loose green rods and paint chips here and there.  My Monolith was stored in a hat box and will need one of the upper pylons glued back in place.
All in all I should be reading the codex for the rest of the week and maybe having an army list of the model’s I have ready for a possible game the week after next.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Necrons Are Back!

Wow, six months.  I knew it had been a while, but man that was a stretch.  It was a busy summer that slid right into a busy fall.  Kids, cub scouts, camping, vacations, home repairs, they all add up.  The next thing you know it’s down to the hobby or blogging about the hobby, so blogging time got the shaft.  Things have slowed down the last month or so, but I hadn’t found the gumption to get back on the horse.
I’ve spent the time since my last post chipping away at weird war two projects, Incursion and Dust Tactics.  I also spent time building up my zombie force for All Things Zombie.  But what you might ask finally got me to break the silence and get back on the site?  The Necrons are back baby!

A cynic might say that they obviously never went anywhere, but without an update since 2001, it’s fair to say that my interest in them fell away.  It was rumored for the past several months and finally announced last Friday that the Necrons from Warhammer 40K are going to get a new codex and a serious update to the model line.  Stored away down in the basement I’ve got around a hundred painted 3rd Edition Necron models that haven’t seen the light of day since probably 2007 or so.  I can’t recall why I stopped playing them exactly, but it probably had a lot to do with my AT-43 obsession at the time.
I haven’t played a game of 40K in over a year and truth be told, I’ve played less than ten games total of 5th Edition 40K.  Is a codex and model update really enough to get me excited again?  Yes, it is, but it’s complicated.  I like games based on a number of factors, but the most important are the minis, the rules, the background and the general gaming culture.  When you take the actions of Games Workshop the company and separate them from the game itself, I think it can take some of the emotion out of a volatile subject and paint a clearer picture.
40K strengths:
-          A very deep and engaging universe.  Yes it’s grim, dark and full of skulls, but that’s not always a bad thing.
-          Quality production plastic models.  I buy models from all sorts of companies and sources.  Again, taking out the emotional issues, GW puts out the best multipart plastic figure and vehicle kits on the market.  Yes, new companies like Mantic are catching up fast, but GW has a great head start.
-          Availability.  Face it you can always find a game of 40K at least once a week in just about any game store around.  With most of the other games I like, it’s really, really hard to find players.  There’s a game store a mile from my house where I can always find a 40K player, but if I want to play Dust, or heaven forbid a board game, I’m driving an hour down to Colorado Springs or forty five minutes up into Denver.
40K weaknesses:
-          Clunky rules.  Once I started to play other games I found out just how much baggage 40K carries around, from outdated concepts like IGOYGO to vaguely worded and contradictory rules.
-          Expensive Minis.  The flip side to great kits is that they’re pricey.  I’m not one to jump on the “GW is price gouging” bandwagon.  My perspective is about my perceived value and for the last several years, the price of 40K models doesn’t seem to equal the amount of fun I would get from them.

It’s also helpful to know what actually drove me out of 40K.  It was codex Tyranids.  Flash back to January 2010.  My interest in 40K was waning and 5th edition just wasn’t doing it for me.  Then came codex Tyranids.  The old bugs had been another favorite of mine for years and I had a full army painted and stored away.  I knew there would be new kits to by, that’s the nature of the beast.  But then you find out that the kits you need, the ones that the book was designed for aren’t going to be made.   Seriously?  They didn’t put out a kit for the spore pod?  No Tervigon kit?  
It took some shine off the project, but I plugged away at upgrading my army and learning the new codex.  Now here’s problem two, GW publishes the codex with vague and frankly contradictory language for some of the most engaging units.  How could they not see this would cause problems?
The last straw for me was the ludicrous FAQ that came out later that year.  What few cool rules that gave Tyranids a fun strategy were reversed in some very odd ways.  Now I’m not a super competitive player, but it became clear that Tyranids was now an army where you had to study up, take maximum advantage of every tool in the box and pick up the proverbial slack in every part of the force.  You had to try out some units, play a bunch of games, tweak the list and then repeat.  Or you had to go online to a whole slew of blogs and forums and pick eveyone’s brain for a good list.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time or energy for that kind of gaming.  If I can’t bring a reasonable sample of units in a codex and have an average chance of winning or losing a game, my interest fades.   So after six months or so, the Tyranids went back in the box.  It’s a shame too as I have an almost fully WYSIWYG and painted army now just sitting out the rest of 5th, hoping that something good will come along for the rumored 6th edition.
Now flash forward a year and a half to this summer when Necron rumors start to crank into high gear.  I don’t play 40K anymore, but I still keep tabs once a week or so just to see what’s coming down the line.  The leaks sound promising and now I’m interested.  Then the leaked pictures come out and that sealed the deal.  Those sweet looking kits may be expensive, but they defiantly caught my eye.

Am I signing myself up to get burned again?  Probably I am, but even if the new codex is total crap and I stop playing again, but even if I do, I have just as much fun building and painting models as I do with playing them, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that this isn’t a repeat of Tyranids.  One way or another I’ll know by Saturday when the local shop gets the pre-orders in.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In Box Review of The Incursion: SNAFU Boardgame Expansion

I’ve been a fan of miniature dungeon crawl board games going all the way back to my first miniatures game with Space Hulk back in 1990.  I’ve played many over the years including GW’s Warhammer Quest, Rackham’s Hybrid, and FFG’s Doom.  I love skirmish and mass battle games too, but board games with minis got me into this hobby and always has a place in my heart.
Up until last year I hadn’t played any weird WWII games.  Between fantasy, Sci-Fi and modern day zombies, I figured my plate was full.  That is until Grindhouse games threw out a great sale on their Incursion board game last fall.  For $150 I got the game, an extra board, and 28 metal figures.  Not too shabby considering the retail price.  They’re great figures and a fun game.
This month Grindhouse is now releasing the first expansion to Incursion titled SNAFU.  I picked up the pre-order set with the book and all the figures for $110 plus shipping.  That deal isn’t offered any longer, but it matches the new “Fat Stack” deal at $120 + shipping.
I went through the package and took some pictures for anyone that wanted some more information before they plunked down their money.  I haven’t had time to look at any of the new rules or character stats in depth, so this focuses on the physical components of the expansion.  Here’s what you get:

SNAFU BOOK – This book is a 64 page, full color, soft cover book that comes with the expansion.  It contains the background and stats of the new figures as well as the MI-13 stats that were previously available as a download only.  It has 13 two player missions, and 6 “cinematic” missions (for solo play), a zombie painting guide and an updated FAQ.  This book is gorgeous.  It’s well laid out, information is easy to find and there’s plenty of art and fluff pieces scattered throughout.  In my opinion it definitely surpasses the original Incursion rulebook.  For some perspective, the last two rulebooks I’ve bought have been from the ATZ range of Two Hour Wargames.  These are black and white, no art, 100+ page monster rulebooks for about the same price as the SNAFU book itself.  While my inner nerd loves to get lost in those dense rulebooks, I can also appreciate the fantastic looking, simplistic layout of SNAFU.

GAMING FIGURES – You get 12 metal figures with the set.  All packed in a plastic clamshell.  The figures all come with plastic slotted Privateer Press style “round lip” bases in 30mm, 40mm or 50mm.
You can find Color pictures of all of the new figures at the Grundhouse webstore:  Webstore Link

Bazooka APE – As the name says it’s an APE….with a Bazooka.  He is a four piece figure of the standard APE design with a realistic sized bazooka in ready position in his right hand and a bazooka round in the left powerfist.  It looks like it will fit in nicely with the rest of the APES.  I particularly like that the sculptor resisted the temptation to make a heroic sized bazooka.  One thing to watch out for are the fins on the bazooka round.  They are individually molded and will bend very easily.

Zip Kelly – This is the new Hero of the MI-13 faction.  He’s a single piece figure in a fighter pilot cap, greatcoat and sporting a pair of Mausers.  He has a dynamic pose leaping off his left leg.  He’s got a few mold lines down the right side but nothing serious.  Overall a nice looking “pulp” style figure.

Gracie – My favorite of the bunch this is a British walker for the MI-13 faction.  It’s a 12 Piece kit that just dry fitting looks to be over 60mm tall!  It is superbly cast with absolutely no flash or mold lines.  All the connections look to be peg and slot, so I don’t foresee having to pin anything.  Dry fitting the parts it looks like it’s a tight fit all around so there shouldn’t be any need to fill any gaps.  I don’t play SOTR but if I did, I could definitely see a squad of these guys.

Blitzhund II – Dubbed “Angry Blitzhund” on the forums after the teaser pic was posted, this is a second sculpt of an SWD werewolf.  This is a two piece figure with a separate tail.  It looks like the tail should be pinned to prevent a weak joint.  I’m very happy to get this guy.  The previous leaping blitzhund sculpt was great looking, and dynamic, but it wasn’t my ideal gaming miniature with a higher center of gravity and legs sticking so far over the base edges.

Drohne – The drohne stats came out with the MI-13 set and the concept art came out late last year if I remember rightly.  Now we finally get the miniature.  This is a hovering cyborg for the SWD faction.  It’s got a real pulp vibe with the brain in the jar and the flailing spindly arms.  It is also a fairly complex kit with five metal parts, a flying stand and a plastic tube for the brain jar.  If you look closely mine has a broken right arm.  It looks like a casting defect left the arm thin and it broke off during shipping.  I contacted Grindhouse and Jim offered to send a replacement, but I just went ahead and pinned the arm as I was too impatient to wait for a new one to arrive.  This one is another favorite of mine from the set.

Panzeraffe – The BIG one!  This figure is not only huge it’s very heavy.    The grid in the pictures is in inches.  Yes he’s that big.  He’s also an awesome sculpt with a dynamic pose and huge chain gun.  Oddly, one of the barrels is longer than the other two for some reason.  It’s a four part figure including an optional cap that fits with both bill forward or backwards.  Dry fitting the arms shows that there will be a noticeable seam, so I’ll probably use a little green stuff to blend the transition.  I have a love hate thing with this figure right now.  I’m not a fan of big metal gaming figures.  They require more care and attention than standard figures or they tend to get bumped around, loose limbs or chipped paint.  I would have loved to see this figure in resin.  I don’t know if it would be more or less expensive to produce, but a lighter figure would be worth it in my opinion.  Even with those concerns though this is one impressive gorilla.

Zombies! – Lastly you get six new Sturmzombie sculpts.  Although new might not be the right word.  If you look closely, the figures are a recombination of the parts from the original sturmzombies.  They took the head from one figure and put it on the body of another.  There are certainly new parts for arms, and hooks, but only one of the six figures is a totally new sculpt.  I’ve got mixed feelings here.  On one hand they will fit right in with the old zombies, on the other hand you start to get a repetition that isn’t really desireable.  I’m hoping that changing the paint scheme between the new and old zombies helps to create a little more definition as well.  These are all single piece figures.  Three of the six have some pretty strong mold lines in the lower legs and boots that will take a little bit of work to remove.  Overall they are a nice addition to the line, but I think Grindhouse could have done better.

Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about what’s not in the expansion.  If you’ve bought expansions for other games like this, they tend to follow a pattern with a box, usually a rules booklet, new board sections, new cards, new tokens and a couple of figures.  Grindhouse has taken a different direction with SNAFU.  They’ve sunk all of their resources into a beautiful book and a whole slew of figures, including two huge figures.  I don’t think of this as good or bad, but as a strategy that some people are going to love and some people, well, some people won’t like it at all.  Here are my opinions on how the typical expansion components not being included affects me (your mileage may vary).
New box –I keep my miniatures in foam trays, and I think I can get the new book to fit in the original game box, so no big deal for me here.
New tiles/board section – The new missions all take place on the original two sided board.  Will this still feel original or will it feel like I’ve done it all before?  My gut reaction is that I wanted a new board, but to be honest I don’t know.  That will have to wait until I can get on the table and start playing.
New Cards & Tokens – Each of the new figures get stat cards and there are new tokens for the MI-13 and things like ladders and other mission specific tokens needed for the expansion.  Instead of printing them for the set, Grindhouse has released them as a pdf here:  SNAFU Assets  This is my only real disappointment so far.  Jim Bailey was up front early on that he was going to do this to keep down costs so I knew this full well when I ordered, but it’s not the way I would have preferred it.  On the plus side, the PDF also has print out standups for  the figures if you don’t want to splurge on the metal figures.
Here’s my logic for wanting printed cards.  The six sturmzombies in the German Starter box weren’t enough to play the SWD to their full potential, so I’m sure most people did like I did and either bought more, or different zombies to fill in the gaps.  Because I have plenty of zombies now, combined with the recombination of old parts on the new zombie sculpts, I would have preferred Grindhouse to have dropped the zombies from the expansion deal and gotten some printed cards and tokens.  Or left the zombies in and charged more (however I can see that would not be popular either). 
Is it a big deal?  Not really.  I can still take the pdf to Kinkos or Office Max and get them to print them for a few bucks.  I guess it comes down to what you’re used to.  I still have my copies of Space Hulk:  Deathwing and Hybrid Nemesis where you got literally a stack of cards several inches tall.  In the end Grindhouse had to make compromises to make this work and this is the path they chose.
In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with what I have so far.  To really decide if the set was worth the money I’ll have to see how fun the new characters and missions are. 
Now on to building those lovely figures.  I’ve cleared off all my other projects for now.  The  first figures up will be the Drohne and Panzeraffe.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dust Models 1/48 Jagdluther Kit In Box Review

While Fantasy Flight Games handles all of the distribution for the actual Dust Tactics board game.  The original creators of the game (and the entire Dust universe) have created two models in the same scale as the board game models.  They are a German “Jadgluther” and the Russian “Fury of Ivan”.  Both models are offered as both kits and built/painted pieces.

Since these models were released by Dust Studios, FFG has announced that they are not “game legal”.  I decided to order one of the Jagdluther kits anyway simply because it looked like a cool model.  I chose the kit version over the painted version for two reasons.  First, I have a base copy of the game that I intend to paint in my own color scheme.  I want the Jagdluther to match.  Rather than pay the extra money for a paint job I am just going to cover up, I went with the kit.  Second, I like building model kits.  Years before I got into wargaming I spent many hours building and superdetailing WWII armor kits in 1/35 scale.  I feel like this kit will take me back towards my roots.

Before I start building, I thought that it would be helpful to some to give a short review of what you get in the box.  I’ll keep notes and do a separate buildup review after the model is complete.  After going through the contents of the box, here are my impressions:

As this is a special order kit from overseas, I was a little hesitant at first to place the order.  I do a lot of purchasing over the internet, but little overseas.  One thing that was frustrating is that the Dust website does not offer any discount for purchasing additional items.  The shipping cost for the kits was listed at $10.  However that’s $10 for each item.  I was considering purchasing the Fury of Ivan Kit as well, but as there wasn’t any discount on shipping I passed.

Shipping time was a little longer than listed as well.  They quoted two weeks at check out but the kit took about three and a half weeks to arrive.  However, considering the order was placed two weeks before Christmas, holiday volume probably factored into the delay.  I was also frustrated by the packing of the kit.  The kit comes in a cardboard box.  Instead of packing that in a shipping box, they just wrapped a single layer of brown paper around the kit box and shipped it.  When it arrived, the box was somewhat mangled and dented from the trip.  Thankfully nothing inside was damaged, but I think that has as much to do with luck as anything.

As I said, although the box was a little crushed, the contents were in good shape.  Here’s what you get in the box:
Instructions – A one page front and back, full color set of instructions.  There’s a full color picture of the Jagdluther art work on the front and exploded style assembly instructions on the back.  The instructions seem to be based around the digital model of the sculpt which is nice and clear, but I noticed that there are no part numbers listed.  Hopefully this won’t lead to problems finding the right parts.  Also, for some reason I received a second copy in the box.  Odd, but it’s better than getting none I suppose.

Dust Tactics 2010 Catalog – This is a little booklet that seems pretty cool.  It's a color, twelve page fold out booklet with what are hopefully more 1/48 kits that are in the pipeline.  It has info on the Mickey ARV, Axis Captured KV-47, Bergeluther, Jagdluther, Imperial Navy Heavy Robot, Fury of Ivan and the six squad boxes that have already been announced by FFG.  I'm assuming this was put together before Dust made the switch to FFG, but I still hope some of the other models make it into production.

Decal Sheet – This is a nice set of full color, waterslide decals.  They look crisp and well printed.  Also, it looks like this sheet has enough decals to do several different models, including the allies.  This will come in very handy for me as I intend to repaint the models from my base kit and was searching for decals.  These look to be the same as the “Axis/Allies 1/48” decals that have recently been put up for sale on the site.

Plastic Parts – There are three sprues of plastic parts, each sealed in its own bag along with a plastic base that matches the game box models.  One sprue has the parts for the hips and upper body, the other two sprues have the parts for the legs.  Here’s the odd thing.  The two leg sprues are identical and appear to have enough parts to make four legs.  I won’t know for sure until I start building, but I think I may have received an extra leg sprue.  The sprues themselves look good with no visible flash and very few, very small mold lines.  Also, looking at how the parts go together, it looks like all of the leg joints are movable, giving the ability to pose the model how you want versus the same fixed pose that both of the board game models have.

Resin parts – There are 18 resin parts that make up the changes to the type IV hull and the two cannons.  The resin is well cast with small pour plugs and no flash or air bubbles.  There does seem to be some warping to the long barrels of the cannons, but if the resin handles the way it should, I should be able to straighten them out with a little hot water.

It’s hard to judge the kit before I start building, but from what I’ve seen I’m pretty optimistic.  The whole kit seems professionally done with some minor packing inconsistencies.  I can’t wait to get going on the building process.  I'll hopefully start on the legs this week.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who Wants a Loth?

Last November I picked up a copy of the new Dust Tactics board game distributed Fantasy Flight Games and produced by Dust Studios.  It is a hybrid game with classic board game elements mixed with 30mm tabletop style miniatures.  It takes place in a Weird WWII setting created by Paolo Parente.  It has both infantry and large mecha/tank hybrids referred to as robots in the game.

In the fall of 2010, Dust Studios produced an exclusive robot called a “Loth”.  It was a modification of the “Luther” model from the game box.  Both robots are for the Axis Faction.  The game box Luther had a claw (kampfzange) on the right arm and a 5cm flak 43 on the left arm.  The exclusive Loth had a claw on both arms.  The Loth was handed out as prizes at Gencon and to certain local gaming stores.  
As with any exclusive model, it’s tough to find and expensive when you do.  There was a flurry of ones up for auction a couple of months ago, but now you’re lucky to see one every other week.  If that wasn’t enough, it was later announced by FFG that the Dust studio extra models like the Loth would not be “game legal”.  OK, now I had to have one.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like paying the prices that these things were fetching on ebay.  

Fast forward to Christmas and my wife buys me a second copy of the Dust game.  As I’m assembling the second copy of the Luther robot I notice that the joints on the arm pieces weren’t as solid as on the Luther from my original copy of the game.   After Messing around and fiddling with the parts, I figured I could make a shot at changing around the left and right arms one of the Luthers to create my own Loth.

Essentially, what you need to do is get the cover off of the upper arm joint and put it aside.  Then, you can remove the upper arm from the lower arm and turn it around.  Once you do, you can then put the cover piece right back into place.  Once you do that for both arms, you can get the claw on the left and the flack cannon back on the right.  You can’t even tell it was changed.

I printed off a copy of the stat card that someone had thankfully posted over on

Now I can either field two Luthers or a Loth.  If I ever get up the gumption to fire up photoshop, I might try to create some stats for a robot with two of the 5cm flack cannon .  I think I’ll keep with the “L” names and call it “Lothar”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Grindhouse Games Combot Review

My first project up is a review of a squad of “combot” robots I recently finished from Grindhouse games.

Grindhouse Games is a small company known for its Incursion board game.  Late in 2010, They announced a new project to be called “Junk”.  As of now, the game is still in the early development phase.  Not much has been set in stone.  Here is what we know.  The game is set in some sort of post-apocalyptic earth where humans are rare or nonexistent.  Robots have inherited the wasteland.  They band together to search out the rubble of humanity to find the parts and resources they need to survive.  It looks like it will be a small skirmish style game with less than 10 models per side.  The goal seems to be less of a competitive game and more of a narrative, “RPG Light” style in the same vane as some of the Two Hour Wargames rulesets.  From the Art and aesthetics shown so far, it looks like Grindhouse is aiming for something between a pulp style look and standard sci-fi.

I like the concept the owner and designer Jim Bailey has put forward so far.  On the company forum they are still soliciting input from the public on what direction to go with the game.  It’s early days yet, but I certainly see potential.

While the game itself is still a work in progress, Grindhouse has already released it’s first set of miniatures.  Called the Dogface squad, it is a group of five robots with a range of different weaponry.  I preordered a set in early November before the release.  Due to problems with the initial casting, they didn’t actually arrived until sometime in the first week of December.  At which time they sat on my desk for a few more weeks until I could clear a spot from other projects and get at them.  Here are my thoughts on the squad:

The first thing that hits you are that these things are pretty heavy for metal miniatures.  They have solid round bodies with a domed head.  At 26 grams they are over twice as heavy as most other infantry figures in my collection.  This had me concerned that the weight and the high center of gravity would be too much for the smaller 25mm round bases they were shipped with.  To keep the figures from becoming too prone to tipping over, I upsized the bases to some 30mm round lip style bases I had in the bits box.
The miniatures have a retro look that could look good with anything from 40’s era Weird War II to 30’s pulp.  I think these guys would look great with a theme from the Fallout video game series.

It should also be mentioned that when these models were first revealed, there was a little controversy as they look visually similar to robots drawn by artist Ashley Wood.  He has produced two graphic novel series, “World War Robot” and “Zombies VS Robots” with a robot called a Bertie that looks quite similar to the combots.  After this raged for a few days,  Jim Bailey claimed to have contacted Asley Wood and stated that there were no problems.  I haven’t seen any negative comments by Mr. Wood, so in my opinion it’s a dead matter.  They’re similar, but different enough that everyone can get along.  Here's a pic of an official Bertie model from A3 Toys.  You can be the judge:

In the confusing and often conflicting world of miniature scale, this can be a problem.  As I mentioned these robots are big.  At 40mm from bottom of foot to the top of head, these guys are going to tower over most smaller 28mm miniatures.  However they do fit in pretty well with bigger miniatures in the 32-35mm range.  Also, being imaginary robots, they really don't have to fit in exaclty with other models to still play well on the tabletop.  Here's a scale shot with an AT-43 model on the left and a Games Workshop 40K model on the right:

Here there was a slight disappointment for me.  I had previously bought at least 30 models from Groundhouse’s Incursion line and they were all crisply cast with almost no mold lines.  The combots were not quite so well done.  All of them had a prominent mold line across the body.  For three models it was easy to remove with just a light backs-crape of my hobby blade.  However for two, the robot with the assault rifle in one hand pointed forward and the robot with the rocket launcher, the mold line was very pronounced.  I tried my best to remove it, but you can still see it on the one with the assault rifle.

Also, the arm holding the RPG was badly misaligned.  In fact the head of the RPG was too bad to salvage.  If I had removed all of the material at the mold line, it would have made the warhead out of round.  In the end I just clipped off the whole RPG and replaced it with a left over part from a Games Workshop plastic Cadian Imperial Guard kit.  It’s considerably bigger than the original, but I think it still works.

I’d say that these guys are pretty typical from a constructability standpoint.  All of the bodies and legs are single part casts, so you only need to attach the weapons and arms.  All of the parts have a ball and socket arrangement that might hold by themselves, but to be on the safe side I pinned all of the joints with 1/16th inch brass rod.  I used a super glue gel to hold the parts together.  It gives you a little longer play time when getting parts in the right place and can also fill small gaps in the parts.  It probably took me longer to clean up the mold lines and replace the rocket launcher than it did to assemble everything else.  All told I probably had everything together in a total of about two hours.

After a good wash to remove any mold residue, fingerprints etc I primed the models with Army Painter Uniform Grey.  I then took one of the models and experimented with some test colors.  After playing around, I settled on German armor yellow for the base with green for the pouches and web gear.  I tried metalics, but just wasn’t satisfied with the effect.  To be completely honest, pics of the Ashley Wood Berties in yellow certainly helped my descionmaking. 

These are going to be playing miniatures, not showpieces, so I went with a quick three color and wash scheme.  I used Vallejo German Ochre as the base coat.  Games Workshop Catachan Green on the web gear and Games Workshop black/Boltgun Metal on the rifles.  I went back and painted the rocket Launcher and rockets Games Workshop Snot Green to make them stand out a little more.  Then everything was washed down with Games Workshop Gryphonne Sepia.

To give the base a little detail I threw on a little bit of gravel and some random junk from the bits box.  I finished it off with some grass tufts from Silfor.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with these models.  At $7.45 a piece (including shipping) they’re pretty pricy, but considering the size and weight of the miniatures, it’s not too much of a stretch for me.  Although there were some casting issues, for me they don’t present that much of a challenge to seasoned modelers.  These are some unique miniatures that I consider a good addition to my collection.

While I’m waiting to see what becomes of “Junk” I think I’ll use them to fight zombies.  One upside of the whole Ashley Wood controversy was to take a close look at his work.  His art style isn’t really my cup of tea, but the Robot VS Zombie comic sparked my imagination.  I’m a big fan of the All Things Zombie rule set from Two Hour Games.  This is a narrative gaming system set in a universe where a zombie outbreak brings humanity to its knees.  I think I can make a fun mod for the rule set where these combots go out to battle the zombies on humanities behalf.  Should be fun!

Here's some pics of the finished models: 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Post

Ok, so my blog is up and running!  As my regular job has given way to the status of independant contractor, I now have more time to pursue my passion for building and painting figures and models for tabletop wargaming.

I've been at this now for going on 15 years on and off, and while I share some of what I do, it's scattered over numerous forums across the web.  I've decided it's time to bring it all together with a blog.

Of course, nobody is going to read this as I won't have any viewers until the blog has some content, but hey, it's a start.

So, here it goes!