Thursday, September 26, 2013

Plastic Figure Mash Ups

This post is for Colgar6.  Great minds must think alike I guess.  Like him I’ve also been working on some mash up figure conversions using various parts from my bits box covering a range of different kits and companies.  If you haven’t seen Colgar6's conversions, I recommend them as a good read and good inspiration.  (here and here)

 If you like plastic figures, it’s never been a better time to be in our hobby.  The number of companies producing kits and the continuing improvements in kit quality have never been better than they are today.  One of the few downsides of all of the new plastic kits is that to recoup the cost of cutting the molds, companies end up pushing a lot of sprues into a single box.  Studio miniatures packages their plastic zombies with 60 figures, the Wargames Factory zombie vixens come 30 to a box and so on.  The result, if you care about making as many unique figures as possible, is that you’re left with a bunch of figures you can’t use, at least not for their original purpose.  By now I have an entire office box stuffed with partially used plastic sprues. 
I need more projects like I need a hole in the head (I’ve got at least 50 figures still new in the box just waiting for their turn on the work bench), but this is one of those ideas that gets stuck in your head and just won’t go away until you give it a try.  So to use up some of those extra figures I've been trying out some parts swaps to create both survivors and zombies.
Get off my lawn!
Up first is a figure I actually have finished.  I put him together earlier this summer after the Wargames Factory male survivors came out.  The Studio Miniatures zombies only come with four unique bodies and I ran through most of the obvious combinations within the first twenty zeds.    With lots of sprues left over, using these bodies was my first priority.    Old Zeek has a body from Studio Miniatures zombies, arms and a scoped rifle from Wargames Factory Late WWII Americans, and a head from the Wargames Factory male survivors.   

Overall the figure turned out nicely, although the head is just a little too large for the body.  Thankfully the pose seems to hide this for the most part.  The arms fit so closely with the body that I did not even need  to fill the joints.

With the success of the first figure I moved on to another.  Here is another body from Studio Miniatures, this time with both the head and the arms from the WGF male survivor kit.  This one didn’t turn out quite so well.  This time, the oversized head is much more apparent and the arms are also a little oversized as well.  Overall the figure still works, but I figured I could do better.

Ned Rabinski was living in his remote
cabin writing anti-goverment tirades before
the apocalypse spoiled his seclusion.
For the next figure I used another SM zombie body this time I used a set of arms from the WGF female sprue, which are much better fitting.  In effort to solve the bobble head issue, I pulled out a head from an old kit.  To the best of my recollection this is a head from the WGF Celts sprue, but I can’t be sure.  The size of the head is a little closer, but I think I left the neck a little long.  Overall though, I still think the figure hangs together just fine.  With this figure I actually took the time to fill in the rips in the shirt.  Not a big deal but it helps differentiate him from the zeds with the same body.


Next up I wanted to raid the WGF Zombie Vixen sprues.  As with the SM figures, the bodies are fairly unique and I didn’t need three copies per box as zeds.  Here I’ve used a Vixen body and left arm with the brief case.  The head comes from the WGF female survivor kit.  For the right arm, I can’t remember if this was from the WGF male or female survivor kit.  Overall the figure works but the thickness of the survivor arm is substantially thicker than the zombie arm and the sleeve cuffs are different.  Hopefully the differences will fade somewhat with a coat of paint.

Last up for the survivors is another WFG vixen body, this time the one in the pant suit.  She has arms and an assault rifle from the WFG female survivors.  The head is also from the Vixen set and is just about the only head on the set without visible wounds.  She’s missing a high heel, so this will be a great instance to use one of the spare high heels from the WGF female survivor set.  Again, I think the figure came out well and should be even better painted.

I also wanted to reverse the process as well.  I have three copies of each survivor body from the WGF kits.  For most I probably won’t be building all three into live survivors.  I used some of the extra arms and a head from a Studio Miniatures zombie to come up with my first mash up zed.  I think the arms worked out well (with a copious amount of green stuff) but I thought the head wasn’t quite large enough.  On the whole though I think he came out ok.


For the next zed, I again used a WGF male survivor and SM zed arms.  But this time I went for a head from the Mantic zombie kit.  This head is just a little too large, but I think the more expressive sculpting more than make up for it.  The only downside of the mantic heads is that they come with no neck (it’s sculpted to the body) so I had to initially pin the head on a brass rod and then build up the neck with green stuff.  I really like the end of the result on this one, he's certainly no shuffler.

'Cause this is thriller, thriller night!

Next up I used parts from the same kit breakdown (WFG body, SM arms and Mantic head).  Although I think this head may have been from the ghoul set, not the zombies (it was a loose part in my bits box).   With the choice of body and the set of the shoulders, this zed didn’t turn out quite so well.  He looks more like an extra from Michael Jackson's Thriller rather than an actual threat.


I continued with the same breakdown for the last figure (body, SM arms and Mantic head) as well.  On this one I think the oversized head really stands out, but again I think the expressive sculpting make it work better than the smaller, but more boring SM heads.

Overall I ended up with a couple of duds but a few really good figures as well and they are certainly more unique than what I could make out of the box.  I haven’t even come close to mining all the possibilities by mixing and matching parts.  I still have plenty of zombies I should be able to put together from the WFG female survivors as well.  Hopefully they match up with the Vixen parts as well as the survivor figures I made.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review of the Wargame's Factory Apocalyptic Survivors: The Women

I’ve just finished painting my first batch of female survivors from the new Wargames Factory kit and I thought I would do up a review similar to the male set as the boxes have quite a bit of similarity and a certain amount of crossover possibilities.  The female survivor kit is very similar to the male set.  In fact they are near mirror images of one anther in many aspects, so I won't go into quite as much detail.  Here is a link to my review of the male set:  The Males

 I’ll hopefully follow shortly with a separate post showing some scale shots with survivor miniatures from other ranges.

The kit “Apocalyptic Survivors:  The Women”  follows the release earlier this spring of the male set and represents female civilians in modern dress ranging from lightly armed with melee weapons up to heavily armed with assault rifles and even an RPG.


Box photo courtesy of Wargames Factory

Even more so than the men, plastic female civilians have been tough to come by and for me this kit is a welcome addition to my collection of ATZ figures.  Also, if you are a fan of the Zombicide games and missed out on some of the promotional figures, you could put together some reasonable proxies from this kit as well.

Each kit comes with three frames containing ten sets of bodies, bases and arms.  There are also fifteen sets of heads as well as a couple of pouches and even a spare set of high heels. 
Sprue Photo Courtesy of WGF
The casting is generally good, however I did notice that on some of the bodies there is a distinct mold offset line that will need to be taken care of.  It’s not serious enough that you’ll lose detail, but given the large amounts of cloth and flesh,   I did need longer to clean the figures up than on the male set.   Be wary, there are numerous small parts such as the arrow, golf club, compound bow and finger tips that will need to be handled very carefully during cleanup lest they bend or break.  Also, I had a casting defect on the golf club shaft.  This would have been a delicate part regardless, but the way the plastic flowed through the mold, it met in the middle of the shaft and didn’t bond.  The part fell apart for me just cutting it from the frame.  I solved the problem by replacing the entire shaft with a straight pin which might have had to be done just for strength anyway.

Sprue Photo Courtesy of WGF

As with all recent kits the top and bottoms of the frame come with a set of pegs and holes so you can stack them with space in between.  This is nice as it prevents delicate parts from rubbing and potential breaking as you slide the frames in and out of the box.  Also, the frames match the dimensions of the male set so they can be stacked together.  The bases are the same 25mm, round bases with straight sides and the WGF logo on the bottom.  They are perfectly serviceable but I chose to go with 30mm round lip bases to match my other survivors.

There are no instructions, but the body and arm combinations are labeled.  Unlike the male set which had letters and numbers, the female parts are only labeled by letters.  That means for body “A” all of the arms are also lettered simply “A” as well.  There are at least four arms for most sets between the body sprue and the weapon sprue, so you will need to be careful and dry fit parts to make sure you still have the right combinations of left and right arms.


 There is a single weapons frame included that has a wonderful set of alternate arms for most of the figures as well as a large assortment of extra weapons and equipment.  There is still a distressing proportion of assault weapons to standard fire arms and a notable lack of enough improvised melee weapons, but there is enough variation that it is worthwhile.  Unfortunately, like the male set the artist had the same tendency to copy and paste the weapons designs.  As an example, there are five spare pistols on the frame, they are all copies of the colt 1911.  No revolvers or other types of semi-automatics included.



Once the clean up of the parts was complete, the figures went together well from the neck down. Once you get to the head, things got came to be a bit of a challenge.  I found that few of the neck joints lined up very well with the heads.  That coupled with the fact that many of the heads had hair below the collar line meant that you need to dry fit the heads before any gluing.  I would estimate that I had to either trim the collar or the hair on at least half of the heads.  Even then, I couldn’t get the joints to look quite right and there were gaps that needed filling.

You will also end up with gaps on the bare armed figures at the shoulder as well, so I had to come back and use green stuff on many of the shoulders and all of the neck joints.  Unfortunately the spaces are smaller than my sculpting tool and the shapes awkward so many of my neck joints look a little wonky even after filling.

With the male set I just dove into construction right away without any planning.   I ended up using a lot of the arms from the spare weapons sprue.  This ended up being a mistake as there is usually one or two copies of the arms on the weapons sprue versus three copies from the body sprue.  With my first set of male figures I ended up coming up with combinations I wanted to retry but didn’t have the arms.  For the females I played it safe and I started out my first batch of ten figures using just the arms off of the body sprue, so I can better plan out how to use the rarer arms from the weapons sprue on future figures.


Here are the first ten figures I’ve put together with some thoughts on each body:


 First up is an angry gal wearing slacks and a sweater vest, in a swinging pose.  The intended set of arms has a golf club and it’s a good sculpt of her teeing off.  As I mentioned above, the shaft of the club is abysmally thin and I ended up replacing it with a straight pin.  Unfortunately I didn’t measure well enough and the shaft is maybe one millimeter short, but at least I got it straight.  If you don’t like the golf club, there is also a truncheon or baseball bat you could use.  Just like the male figure swinging the cricket bat, there isn’t another good set of arms for this gal, so I don’t really see making all three of these bodies.  Unlike the males, I added a satchel with a water bottle to the figure.  Unfortunately, without a strap, it looks a little big and silly on her.  If I use the big satchel again I think I’ll add a green stuff strap.


The next figure is one of my favorite bodies in the kit.  She’s got cargo pants, combat boots and a loose jacket.  She’s got a nice neutral stance so almost all of the arms with sleeves will fit her.  For the first figure I used the M-16 and gave her a satchel of pipe bombs a canteen and a combat knife.  This gal looks like she’s ready to face the apocalypse.

This is the “kid” figure for the kit and represents a little girl in a frilly dress.  I would have preferred a more casual dress like the boy from the other set, but this is well sculpted for what it is.  The head in the Kevlar helmet is a nice touch, but it would have worked better if it was more obviously over sized.  This one looks like it fits too well.  The scoped revolver is a nice weapon and I will probably use the other copies as weapon swaps on other figures.  Also, I’ve dry fit the head on other bodies and it should work to make an adult as well.


This figure is another sports fan wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  This is the one figure where I cheated and used a part from anther kit.  The intended weapon was a tennis raquet.  I really didn’t like the look so I nipped a baseball bat I had left over from the male kit.  I gave her a head with a ball cap so she must have been at softball practice when the apocalypse came.   I’m not a big fan of the pose of the left arm as it makes it look like she’s fencing instead of whacking zombies though.  On the plus side, the figure is versatile enough to take most of the sleeved arms from the kit.


Now we get to the controversial bit.  This figure is obviously overweight and she looks a bit sloppy to boot with sagging shorts and visible butt crack.  I’m kind of late to this review, so I’ve seen a number of reactions to this figure ranging from some wishing for more figures that reflect “real world” people to one being truly offended by it (link), stating that it was an attack on overweight people. 
I suppose there was no “right” answer for this but WGF making nine “fit” figures and one token overweight one certainly highlighted the difference.  Interestingly I didn't read any such reaction pro or con from the overweight male figure.  From a practical matter though I don’t like it because there is really only one set of arms in the kit that fit the figure.  The large attachment point at the shoulder and wide shoulders mean that the RPG is the only set of arms that fit and I really don’t need three of these.  As a consolation though, the arms for the fat male figure fit well so I can give her an AK-47 (or pistol & machete) and give one of the RPGs to the one of the overweight male bodies.  At least she’s not wearing a muumuu.

Another issue for me is that while there are spare RPG’s on the weapon frame, there are no spare warheads or the carrying satchel, so this gal is now carrying a one shot weapon.   If I were less lazy I’d try to throw one together with some green stuff, but life is too full right now as it is, so I just let it go.  Also, in hindsight I should have given her a holstered weapon or a rifle slung over her shoulder, but that would have taken more effort and greenstuff than I had time for.

Another reaction I’ve found interesting is that a number of people have scoffed at the way the sculptor has chosen to show the figure holding the RPG.  Assuming the model is an RPG 7, this is indeed the wrong way to hold it, but the idea that anyone who has not used one before would intuitively know the correct way is overestimating the ergonomics of the weapon and underestimating the ability of people to get things wrong.  During a tour in Iraq with the US army I had the chance to both fire an RPG and train some Iraqi recruits in firing them.  During that mission I saw people holding and RPG just about every wrong way you can imagine, so the idea that a civilian with no experience could pick up and hold an RPG wrong is perfectly believable to me. 


Here’s a figure in a suit coat and short skirt.  She’s at least sporting a two handed grip on a pistol and might actually be able to hit something.  I gave her a head with sunglasses and painted her up in black.  I’ll team her up with the suit figure from the male set and they can be Mulder and Scully FBI types.  This body is also a little tough as the neck joint is a little wonky and as you can see that I’ve goofed up the joint a bit.  On the plus side this is another versatile figure that can take a number of different sleeved arm combinations.


This figure is an interesting juxtaposition.  You’ve got a girl in bustier and miniskirt sporting a fancy schmancy compound bow with all the bells and whistles.  She’s also bare foot, which is no way to face the end of the world as I imagine there will be plenty of broken glass.  Unfortunately, the bear shoulders and the stance don’t leave much in the way of other good arm options for her.


Here is another bear shouldered figure this time sporting double pistols.  I know that WGF needs to sculpt a certain amount cinematic flare to their figures, but I’m always bothered by the pose.  On top of that, she’s running too.  In fact this pose is the surest way to not hit anything more than five feet away.  The only other arm choice is a chain saw, which with the running pose is even sillier.  I tried out some of the smaller pouches on her and they work, but are a little too over sized to really work in my opinion.

Git along zombies!
Here’s another dual gun toting chic, this time it is a cowgirl type.  Yeeha!   She’s sporting a pair of Uzis, so she might have a better chance of hitting something than the last figure.  Another figure with bare arms, so swap options are limited.  I went with the smaller pouches on her back which looks more natural than the large satchel on the golfer.


Last up is another figure with lots of options.  The intended set is a semi-automatic shotgun, but again the neutral set of the shoulders means that most of the other sleeved arms will fit.  This is also another figure where the neck shape and high collar interfere with most of the heads, so the joint is a little off of what it should be.
As I said above, this set is almost a mirror image of the male set with mostly the genders changed up, so If you liked the male set, you'll most likely enjoy this set as well.  However, most of the flaws from the male set show up here as well including mono-pose bodies, limited options as to arms and weapons and too many copies of the same weapons on the accessory sprue.
That being said, the price is still right.  Assuming that you pay full retail price and only build ten of the figures, you are still only paying two dollars a figure and getting a ton of useful extras for other conversions.
Me, I like the set and think they'll make excellent additions to may growing hoard of survivors.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Reivew of the Heavy Multi-purpose Transport: HuMPT 1 Kit From CNC Workshop

Over the summer I purchased the Heavy Multi-Purpose Transport (HuMPT1) kit from CNC Workshop.   This is a laser, cut MDF model of a science fiction style transport vehicle.  I built up the kit and have written a review of the pros and cons of the kit. 

I started purchasing kits from Miniature Scenery back in 2006 when they were still milling MDF with a flatbed CNC machine.  The kits were innovative for their time, but the limitations of the cutting head (1/4”) greatly limited what they could do in terms of design.  Flash forward seven years and they have jumped into laser cutting MDF with both feet and are producing some ambitious kits that are pushing the design envelope for the medium.
The biggest drawback of many laser cut MDF kits is the fact that you can only make vertical cuts, leaving many kits looking flat and uninspiring.  The solution is to engrave detail into the surface and to build detail up in layers.  With the Heavy Multi-purpose Transport (HuMPT 1) kit, CNC Workshop is taking this idea to new levels by creating sub assemblies that build up into interesting three dimensional shapes.

I saw the announcement for the kit in early July, and even though I was on vacation, I ordered one right away.  I had to read the description several times to make sure that this really was an MDF kit.  I was intrigued and a little skeptical that you could get that kind of effect out of MDF.  CNC is an Australian producer and I’m an American consumer, so there was a bit of sticker shock with the shipping for the kit by itself.  I combined the order with a number of other kits to get a better shipping number and the end result was only $29 total for the kit which was definitely more palatable than ordering the kit by itself.  Shipping to the US took just under two weeks, which worked out just right for the end of my vacation.

The kit comes as a single 13” x 9” sheet of MDF.  There are no printed instructions, but CNC has posted them on their website (Link to instruction PDF).  The instructions are a fourteen page PDF.  There are no part call out numbers, so you will want to read the steps carefully and dry fit pieces before gluing them.  Some of the parts, especially the axels and engine block have similar but different sizes.   The electronic instructions were fine for me as I just set my laptop up on the workbench and followed along.


As far as tools are concerned, you won’t need much.  A good hobby knife, 320 grit sand paper and glue were all I needed.  I ended up using  two hobby knives.  The parts are attached to the frame with small bits that will have to be cut through and then there are a fair amount of burs on the back side of parts that will need to be cleaned up.   Cutting through the attachment on the frame tended to dull my blade fairly quickly, so I used one blade for cutting and kept a sharp blade handy to clean up the burs.   If you try to clean up burs with a dull blade you can end up tearing or delaminating the MDF.

The cutting laser leaves a slightly rounded edge on the top of the cut but a sharp edge at the bottom.  For parts where you see that bottom of the cut such as the rear view mirror bar you want to spend a minute or two rounding over the bottom of the part with sand paper to match the top.


After reading through the instructions, I was a little hesitant to jump right into the frame, so I started off with the wheels to get a better feel for the material.  This is when I first noticed issues with the actual laser cutting.  The quality of the cutting is a little lower than I am used to on laser cut kits.  This manifests itself in three ways:

1.       When the laser starts a cut, it has a small amount of “over-burn”.  The beam must stay still for a fraction of a second too long because it will burn a dimple that is larger than the rest of the line. 
2.       Next, the cut lines themselves are a little imprecise on tight curves with a radius under about a quarter of an inch.

3.       Last, the cutting depth of the laser is imprecise as well.  In parts such as the tires, this leads to spots where the laser hasn’t cut all the way through, leaving many burs that need to be cut and cleaned up.  On some of the detail engraving parts like the foot pedals, the laser cuts too far and there are numerous small burn holes in the back of the part.

None of these issues was a big problem in and of themselves, but put together, they were a little disappointing, especially compared with some other laser cutting examples I’ve built from Sarissa Precession and Micro Arts Studio.

This is a picture of a different CNC kit (background) versus a door from
a Sarissa Precission hab kit (in front).  The laser cutting on the Sarissa
part is significantly finer and more preciese.

 On this kit I’m not too concerned.  The HuMPT1 kit represents a rough and ready utility vehicle that I can imagine making deliveries in some third world slum or hauling slag on some frontier mining colony.  I can imagine that the frame was hand cut by someone with a plasma torch.  In that perspective the laser quality still works.  My big worry is that this will look shabby on a kit that is not intended to look “rough”.

I started the assembly with water based wood glue, which worked fine on the wheels and parts with a larger surface area.  However when I got to parts with a smaller surface area like the hubs I switched to a cyanoacrylate glue (Instacure Plus).  I used a 5 second gel that wouldn’t run everywhere but still gave me a few seconds to get the part positioned correctly before it started to bond.  I found that for the smaller parts, the wood glue just didn’t give a sufficient bond.

I built and painted the sub-assemblies as I went.  I started with a black spray primer.  The cut edges can absorb the spray medium before it dries, leaving a dusty feel, so it’s best to follow up with a brush on primer to get everything covered and sealed.  I then went for a rusted and weathered blue paint scheme on the body and rims and a black frame. 

Next I moved on to the rear and front bogies.  The rear bogies are pretty straight forward, but the front bogies require paying close attention to the instructions.  Assuming theses are large pistons, the outer “casing” is made of five stacked rings.  Be careful as the order and facing is very important in this step.  For the pistons I switched back to the wood glue which gave me more time to get the stacked disks lined up correctly.  The center post running through the part isn’t very tight, so you can’t really use it as a guide to keep everything lined up straight.  Even with taking care I didn’t get them lined up exactly right and there is a little offset on the steps up to the cab.

I now moved on to the frame, bed and cab.  I concluded that attempting to paint the inside of the cab after assembly was going to be a royal pain and decided to toss out the instructions and work in sub assemblies.  The bed and frame were simple and went together per the instructions.  For the cab, I decided to assemble it off the frame and in two parts.  From dry fitting, I figured out that I could assemble the two halves to the frame after painting.  I assembled the cab and glued all the left and side of the parts and left the right hand free.  After the glue had set up I could pull out the right hand side of the frame for painting.  I left off detail bits like the grill and rear axle for assembly later.  The cab halves were a little fragile, but as long as I was delicate with my dry brushing nothing popped off.

One issue to be careful with are some very fragile detail bits.  This includes there bogie springs, rear view mirror bar, control panel, foot pedals and cab steps.  I think the CNC got over ambitious with the design and left the walls of these parts just too thin.  The instructions warn you about this (in red letters no less), but  I can’t stress enough how fragile these parts are.  Even being careful I damaged several parts such as the foot pedals just cutting them from the frame.  If you crack one of the part walls but don’t knock it all the way off you can repair it with a little super glue applied with a needle point, but once it’s off, it’s gone.

If the walls had been about twice as thick I think they still would have looked good while being strong enough to at least make it on to the model in one piece.

After painting and weathering were complete I very carefully put together all the sub-assemblies. 

Be warned that the final model is a little on the fragile side.  It should stand up to tabletop use if you’re careful not to pick it up by the delicate parts like the rear view mirrors, but a trip from the table to the floor and your HUMPT 1 is going to have a really bad day.


Unfortunately, the model is quite a bit bigger than anticipated.  While there is no listed scale, at 3 1/4 inches tall I suspect the kit falls closer to 1/43 die cast cars than it does the 1/50-ish scale of 28mm miniatures.  It is still usable but will look a bit out of place next to infinity or Warhammer 40,000 figures.  Even with my larger figures (Wizkids Heroclix) it looks big.  It also dwarfs my other sci-fi vehicles from Old Crow.
Scale Shot with (from Left to Right):
Wizkids Halo Actionclix, GW 40K, Rackham AT-43

Scale Shot with a "Provider Transport"
from Old Crow Miniatures


OK, if you skipped all the boring stuff and just want to know the bottom line, here is what I think you should know before you buy:

Overall this is a neat kit that can deliver a unique looking cargo truck that should be a good looking addition to any near-future or hard sci-fi tabletop.

This is a complicated kit and I would recommend it only for modelers with a moderate or better amount of experience.

The completed model is somewhat fragile and won’t stand up to abuse like plastic or die-cast metal vehicles.  I’d put it slightly better than resin though.

The completed model is a little on the large side if you are picky about scale.

The laser quality is a little sub-par in my opinion and while it isn’t a deal breaker for me it might be for some.