Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sarissa Explorer Pod Interior WIP

I really like the look of the new Sarrissa laser cut pods, but I felt the interior was too Spartan.  Wha’ts the fun of having a building interior if it’s bare?  I decided to see what I could do to jazz up the interior of the small “explorer” pod.  I’m going to create sleeping quarters for an expedition crew with bunks and lockers. 

My first step was to assemble the floor end and lower walls.  I left off the upper wall sections for now as it will make it easier to work and paint the interior of the pod.  Next I removed both doors.

The first modification I made was to add a door jam around the inside of one door, this was made of four pieces of styrene #206 “C” Channel from Evergreen models.  This does a couple of things.  First it creates a small lip so that the door can’t be pushed into the pod and it adds a little detail to an otherwise blank wall. 

Next I cut a back wall out of .04” sheet styrene to cover up the rear door.  I felt that the smaller pod would only need one door.

On the side of the pod opposite the door I added two benches for bunks.  The benches are just .04” sheet styrene gut in an “L” shape. 

In between the benches I built a styrene box and glued two wall lockers to the front.  The lockers are cast hydrostone pieces from Hirst Arts Mold #303 “Med Lab Accessories”.   I then put two bunk mattresses on the benches.  Again, these are cast pieces from the same Hirst Arts mold.  At this point the pieces aren’t glued in.  I wanted to just test the fit and get everything in before painting.

Next I added a third bunk and more lockers to the other side of the pod.  Because the door is offset towards a wall I couldn’t fit in a fourth bunk.

Next, to liven up the floor I cut a piece of Evergreen ½” grid sheet styrene.  Unfortunately I didn’t make my measurements properly so there are a few gaps here and there.

Last up I wanted to add some greebles to the back wall, a control panel by the door and some overhead lights over the bunks.  These are cast pieces again from Hirst Arts and are a mix from mold #326 “Industrial Accessory Mold” and #327 “Machinery Builder Mold”.  I also added a bit of sheet styrene to the back of the door to cover up the line from the window.  Like the other details, I’ll go ahead and paint them first and then glue everything together.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review of the Sarrissa Precision Explorer Habitation Pod

Today it’s a twofer!

Yes, like many others in this hobby, here I am plowing through a project and making progress when something shiny and new comes along to steal my focus.  This time it’s laser-cut terrain from Sarissa Precision.

I love good looking terrain almost as much as I like good quality miniatures.  Gaming with half-assed terrain just isn’t my style, so I’m always on the lookout for good looking, quality, reasonably priced terrain.  For fantasy and modern day there’s plenty of 28mm/30mm terrain out there, but when you get to sci-fi, things have always been more sparse.  GW did great things with their city fight plastic kits a few years ago, but if you don’t like your buildings with gothic arches and a more skulls per inch than a graveyard, they’re of limited appeal.  I’ve built CNC cut terrain from CNC Workshop out of Australia, but this is my first toe into the water with laser-cut terrain.
I can’t say that I’d heard of Sarissa before they announced they’re new “Infinity” system (they use the mathematical infinity symbol, but no I’m not going to spend the next five minutes to figure out how to type it) on Tabletop gaming news.  I had been checking out at least four different companies taking the plunge into laser- cut designs but the only one that had stuck out to me was Micro-Art Studios with they’re gantry system and building.  I was tempted, but the design scheme seemed overly busy with lots of shapes and layers.  Following the news announcement for Sarissa I almost passed as the Sarissa website only had up 3D render drawings of their new line instead of actual product shots.  This is always a turn off to me, but I gave them another chance and followed  a link to the Frontline Gamer Blog who has reviewed free samples of all of their stuff:

The Frontline blog posts had a satisfying quantity of pictures and I ordered three pods (Explorer, Settler and Wearhouse).  The order came to $80.50 (with free shipping and a free set of interior walls).  The order came all the way across the pond in about 11 days well packed in a nice flat box.  So far I’ve only looked at the small explorer pod and here is my take on it:

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - The kit comes packed in a small bag with a one page set of instructions.  One thing I’d read from a couple of other reviews is the strong smell of burnt wood when you open the bag and it is actually pretty strong.  It definitely took me back a few decades to those boy scout wood burning projects of my youth.  I was a little surprised that the kit comes as just parts without any sprues or carriers.  As they offer free shipping this is probably to save on weight and space and it doesn’t take anything away from the kit.  Mine was packed tightly enough that nothing could rattle around and break.  You get 20 parts in the kit.  Be carefull taking them out of the bag as there is one small part for the hatch that can get lost easily.  The instructions are one letter sized sheet front and back using an exploded 3D render of the kit noting what goes where.

CONSTRUCTION (DRY FIT ONLY) – I first punched out all of the little bits that are left in some of the holes for the mounting tabs.  At first I used a hobby knife to cut around the plugs to make sure there wasn’t any tear out, but soon found it wasn’t necessary.  The best method I found was to use a blunt tool (I used the end of a scuplpting tool), hold your finger over the back side, and punch the plug partway out.  Then turn the piece over and punch it out the front.  I got through all of the plugs in a few minutes and only had one spot with any tear out, which is more due to my carelessness.  The next step was to remove a little fuzz here and there from  laser cuts that hadn’t gone all the way through.  This was most apparent on the struts.  A little 150 grit sandpaper cleared up these areas in just a few strokes.  After that it I did a dry fit of all of the parts.  It went very quickly.  From the point of laying out the parts to the point in the pics below it only took 15 minutes.  If I was planning to use these out of the box, I would have glued them at this point, but I’m going to be adding some interior details.  The assembly process was pretty self explanatory and about the only thing you might need the instructions for would be the hatch.  Two of the reviews flirt with the idea of leaving the parts unglued and relying on the dry fit.  While I find the dry fit is nice and tight, I wouldn’t rely on it myself.  The doors are almost fully cut, with just tiny tabs left over so that you can either leave them in or punch them out as you like.  This is one area that I would recommend going over with the hobby knife before punching the doors out as the corners seem to give a greater chance for tear out. The windows on the sides can also be left in or punched out as you see fit.  Unfortunately, the hole in the roof is pre-punched, not leaving you the option of not using the hatch.

1.        It’s reasonably priced at $18 U.S. (depending on the exchange rate on any given day)
2.       It goes together very easily with almost no tools or special skills needed.  
3.       The fit and design of the kit are top notch with no obvious gaps or problems.
4.       Great generic science fiction aesthetics.  This basic shape could work for anything from a backwater off planet colony to a refugee slum or an Antarctic base on earth.
5.       Modular compatibility.  This isn’t apparent from my work, but if you look through the Frontline pictures, you can see how you can mix and stack the various kits to make great themed tables.
1.        No Backside Detail - The laser cutting process is limited to cutting only one side of the sheet, so you don’t get any detail on the backside.  This isn’t a problem if you’re going to keep the pod sealed up, but if you want to use the interior, you’ll have to add your own details.
2.       Sarissa did not etch the floor piece, similar but different to the point above.  They cut the holes for attaching the walls and struts, but not any floor details.  Laser time costs money and I imagine the time saved not etching the floor is worked into the low price of the kit, but I would have preferred to see the etching on the roof mirrored on the floor.
3.       Separate roof hatch – The circular hole in the roof is fully cut out, unlike the doors and the windows.  I would have liked to see this left with tabs so you could have the option of not using the roof hatch.    
4.       Gaps at the side corners – To clarify, I don’t mean gaps in between the parts as the fit is excellent, but the fact that all the laser cuts are at 90 degrees, the angled corners on the side leave a 45 degree gap on the outside that I don’t really like and isn’t easily covered up.  Again it’s a limit of the nature of the process not design, but I think I’ll have a go at filling in the gap with putty.
5.       I think the struts between the floor and the base need horizontal cross braces.  They are designed so that you can take the pod off of the base and stack it on top of another pod.  That’s great in concept, but without some bracing between the struts, it will be a pain to transfer them between the base and other locations.
BOTTOM LINE – This is just my initial impressions, so I’ll need to play around with these kits much more, but at this stage I’m in love with this system.   I think I can knock together some interior details without a problem, which is my biggest issue, so I should be able to get some great results with out much additional effort.  These have my ideas flowing as the utilitarian design of the pods lends them to work for just about any human sci-fi setting I have contemplated over the last few years.  They work for AT-43, Dust, Gears of War, Star Wars CMG, 5150, Halo, AVP, 40K (although I’ll need to add a bunch of skulls J).  They could even be linked together and made into a spaceship (think the space ship levels from Mass Effect).  These kits really have my imagination working overtime.  Now it's off to work on some interior details.

Glacial progress on Necron Terrain

Well another long absence between posts is over and I’m back with a little hobby progress.  It’s usually only when I see the time gap between updates that I truly get a sense how far my hobby has slipped on my overall priority list.  Oh, well, another year and my youngest will be in pre-school and maybe I can put a little more time into things.

Anyhow, moping aside over Christmas I did manage to move my Necron terrain ahead.  First, I’ve been experimenting with color schemes.  I originally wanted to go with a black base and yellow lettering from the Dawn of War Dark Crusade PC game, but I had to abandon this for a couple of reasons.  First, it was terribly time consuming to color in all of the glyphs with paint.  I tried pens, but the rough texture of the blocks was chewing up pens too fast.  I had to use a traditional paint brush, which just wasn’t fun.  It felt too much like a chore.  As much of a problem though was the look.  The blocks are weathered like stone and the black look wasn’t very complimentarily.   The DOW green on black seems to look like some sort of alien metal, not stone, and it just wasn’t working for me on the weathered blocks.  Here’s a pic of one of the black side on my test Stele before I ran out of patience.  The outside row of glyphs only has one coat of green, the inside has two.

Moving on I defaulted back to tomb kings with a traditional sandstone paint job and a brown wash.  On the up side this is easy as cake (It took less than 20 minutes to do the other side versus an hour to do the black side) and looks good for tabletop quality.  On the down side it doesn’t fit my armies color scheme or any of my other exiting terrain.  Another problem is that the wash really highlights the differences between the Hirst blocks and my blocks.  Dang it.  I’ll try one more with a dark grey base,  a black wash in the letters and grey highlighting and see how that goes.  Here’s a pic of the sandstone side.

In the mean time, I’ve been casting away at a larger project.  This is a modification of the temple design from the Hirstart’s website.  I’ve scaled it down a little and replaced the entire hieroglyphic block with the Necron Glyphs.  The other big change is to ditch the fluted molding detail at the tops of the slopes.  I got a comment from a forum that they made the structures look too “human”.  After a while I think I agree.  Maybe it’s not too human, but certainly Egyptian than I wanted.  So I dropped them in favor of some weathered flat tiles.  These don’t quite match the blocks but they’re close enough to work for this piece.  Once I’ve settled on a color scheme she’s ready for a paint job.  The temple is built in five sections for front, back, sides and the floor for easier storage. 

I learned going full scale that the glyph blocks still aren’t right.  I need to do some heavier weathering with cracks, and flaking so that they more closely match the Hirstart blocks.  I’ve done some test carving and it’s too delicate to do with the sand blaster, so I need to take a small hobby knife to the work which is slow and time consuming.  I’m hoping to have the set ready for one final mold by the middle or end of the month.