Star Rovers Aphid Platoon for Combat Patrol (TM)!

As readers of this blog know, I have been collecting figures from the now-defunct Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line.  The figures from this line were made in the late 1970’s, and my goal is to get them collected and adapt them for use with Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol card-based rules.

There was a lot of work on this project  – so please enjoy the photos!

They show up from time to time on eBay, and my experience showed that the ones I found were more or less 25mm in scale.  However, the Aphids I am going to describe here were a surprise as far as size goes as you will see.  You have to be careful in acquiring these – there are a number of really bad recasters of these figures (and others) out there – selling them at exorbitant prices.  I have been sure to be diligent before deciding to buy them.

One listing is below.  I had seen it several times from the Noble Knight Games store on eBay, but I was initially unimpressed.  It looked like a hodge-podge of painted and unpainted figures and bases, and I could not tell what was there at first glance.

ebay-photo
The Aphids listing picture from eBay
On a phone call to catch up, I had a discussion with Buck about the Star Rovers line, and he pointed this listing out to me, so I gave it another look.  I compared this with Lost Minis Wiki Star Rovers page and saw that there were several figures that I did not have.  They appeared to be different Aphids types, including Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycles, Aphid Infantry, Aphid Officers, Aphid Mortar Crews, and a couple of robots.  Archive had two different numbers for the same miniatures, and Lost Minis Wiki does not explain why – perhaps Archive changed the numbers with later production?  In any case, they looked to be original, and I bought them.  This set included the following miniatures (I list both catalog numbers here for completeness but I am sure that they are from the older group due to the robots being included):

  • 11 examples of Archive #2060/2314 Aphid Scout on Grav-Cycle (11 riders and 11 grav-cycles plus bases).
  • 18 examples of Archive #2061/2315 Aphid Infantry.
  • 4 examples of Archive #2061/2316 Aphid Officer.  The 2061 listing included 5 Aphid Infantry and 1 Officer while the 2316 was just the officer.
  • 3 examples of Archive #2062/2317 Aphid Mortar Team (two figures per crew for 6 figures).
  • 2 examples of Archive #2011A (no later listing) Robot Group.  There were 3 robots originally in the set of different types.

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Archive Miniatures Catalog detail showing the Aphids with the newer catalog numbers
I will refer to the older numbers for the most part in this article as I think mine are older.

The figures were in good shape except for one scout rider who was missing a right leg and foot.  Surprisingly, they were small – really small – maybe 12mm.  The detail on them was appropriate for the time period – but as you can see from the eBay photo they were not greatly detailed.  To me, this was a challenge to let the brush bring out the potential of the figures.  Also, I thought that this acquisition presented me with an opportunity to field an entire platoon of Aphids for Combat Patrol™ games!

My first step was to strip all of them down of any residual paint – which I accomplished with a long (2 week) soak in Simple Green®.  I prefer the blue type as it seems to work better (and smells nicer).  This time I used some rifle cleaning tools (bore brushes) with plastic bristles in addition to tooth brushes to remove the old paint which was pretty thick.

 

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The Aphid Scouts as received – just stacked together here

 

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Aphid Scout base detail showing #2060
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Aphid Infantry as received
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Aphid Infantry Officers as received
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Aphid Mortar Crews as received
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Close up of Aphid Mortar Crew as received – this shows their size and how the previous owner had painted them

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The two robots – look like self-propelled guns – in the form of a steam boiler!
I decided that I should first work on the Aphids on Grav-Cycles as they would be the most difficult due to the needed assembly.  There were 11 Aphids and 11 Grav-Cycles with bases.  More research showed me that these originally  came with piano wire to mount them – similar to the image below from Lost Minis Wiki:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Lost Minis Wiki
I did not have the piano wire and this did not seem to me to be a sturdy way of mounting the grav-cycles.  I wanted a more permanent solution, but one that was cool as well.  The cycles themselves seemed to had the wire in them at some point in the past, but nothing remained.  The bases still had the holes.  While shopping at Michael’s it hit me – I could use clear plastic push pins as mounting platforms.

To make this work, I needed a plan as I did not want to varnish the clear plastic and take away from the visual effect of flight that I was going to try to achieve.  I mounted the bases on two stacked and centered ¾” steel washers using wood glue and let the combination dry overnight.  I cleaned off the flash from the bases, filed them, and primed them with Krylon “Ultra-Flat” matte spray paint.  After that I flocked them with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” using white glue.  Once that glue was dry, I applied two coats of Testors “Dull Coat” to the bases.  Using wire cutters, I trimmed off the pointed tips of the pins to be recessed in the washers when inserted into the bases.  I then flattened and narrowed the rounded push pin tops with an Exacto knife, and sized them up with the base of the grav-cycles.  This was to make a small flat mounting platform.  However, I wanted more stability than super glue alone would give me.   My pin vise was the needed tool to make this happen.  Using my smallest drill bit, I made a hole in the top center of each push pin.  Using E6000 epoxy, I affixed and mounted the push pins onto the bases.  Once that had set, I mixed some Aves® Apoxie® Sculpt, and filled the bottom of the washer wells where the push pin tip was.  This had the advantage of giving the structure more strength as well as some weight for stability on the gaming table. I cut some pieces of wire from a thin paper clip and glued them at a nearly vertical angle in the hole in the top of the push pin.  This worked well as the wire was deep enough to secure the grav-cycle to the platform.

 

6-aphids-bases-and-pins
How I used push pins – note the narrowed and flattened tops.  The paper clip wire was subsequently superglued into the holes in the pin tops
I then moved on to painting the riders and their grav-cycles.  This was more difficult as I could not mount these onto a suitable painting structure and paint them successfully – which took much longer.  I basically had to paint the Aphid Scouts and Grav-Cycles in my hand.

First I’ll discuss the cycles.  I painted the deep recesses of the bottom of the grav-cycles successively with Americana “Deep Burgundy”, followed by Citadel “Spiritstone Red”.  I wanted an “aviation” look to the cycles (which had flywheels and a big ray gun as part of the details!).  I gave them a heavy dry brush of Tamiya “Flat Aluminum”.

 

5-aphids-on-grav-cycles-base-coat
Grav-Cycles after dry brushing
For the details, I used Americana “Ebony” on the seat base and the center of the exhaust port.  FolkArt “Gunmetal Gray” was my choice for the front ray gun support and the flywheel bracket, while the flywheel got Tamiya “Chrome Silver”.  For the ray gun cowling, Martha Stewart Crafts “Pale Bronze” was my choice.  For the tip of the ray gun, I used Craftsmart “Festive Red” metallic.  For the exhaust port. I used a combination of Craftsmart “Bright Yellow”, Tamiya “Orange”, and “Festive Red” in a concentric circling pattern.  Once this dried, I gave the cycles a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”, and let that dry.  Using “Flat Aluminum”, I highlighted the cycles’ edges and reflective surfaces.  Lastly, I used two applications of the “Spiritstone Red” to bring out the ray gun tip even more.

 

6-grav-cars-painted-before-assembly
Grav-Cycles painted
Let’s discuss the riders and the other Aphids painting in general.  As I wanted them to look similar (all in the same platoon and the same insect species), I wrote down each step of painting and washing and highlighting.  That helps with reproducing the same effects.  There are a few differences among each type but I’ll note those as I go along.  The only special steps for the riders involved basically repairing the one missing leg on one figure.  I used my pin vise, and drilled out a hole in the figure’s leg stump.  I cut a piece of paper clip, and bent it at 90°, and superglued it in place.  I sculpted a suitable leg with Aves® Apoxie® Sculpt, and let it harden overnight.  It came out acceptably!

The painting of the Aphids followed the same basic pattern.  I wanted to smooth over any rough areas, so I gave the figures a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Green”.  I then base coated the bunch with my old 1984 Polly-S “Slime Green” using a dry brushing technique.

 

3-slime-green
Amazingly, this 32 year old paint is still good!
Each of the Aphids (all types) was equipped with a couple of tanks on their backs, which I interpreted as being a breathing apparatus.  For these, I used “Chrome Silver” on the tank bodies and Tamiya “Copper” on the valve sections.  After this dried, I gave each Aphid a wash with Citadel “Nuln Oil Glossy”.  I wanted glossy so as to bring out the small details that were recessed.  Then I highlighted the flat chitinous surfaces of the head and thorax (these are insects) with Craftsmart “Apple Green” satin.  To smooth out the colors, I applied yet another wash of “Green” to the Aphids’ shells and “Nuln Oil Glossy” to the ribs on the breathing tanks.  For varnishing, I wanted to dull down the glossy a bit so the Aphids got two coats of Testors “Dullcoat”.

 

6-aphids-painted-before-assembly
Riders painted and awaiting varnishing
7-aphids-and-grav-cars-painted-assembled-before-varnishing
After varnishing and awaiting mounting

 

Let me get specific about the Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycles, which were then ready for assembly.  I glued the riders to the cycles.  Then, I drilled a hole on the bottom of each cycle with my pin vise to fit the paper clip in the push pin with my smallest bit.  I needed to also use an Exacto knife to clear the hole of filings and another push pin to start the pin vise (pilot hole).  I had some of the riders come off during this process but was able to reglue them easily.

 

8-aphids-and-grav-cars-drill-hole
Hole drilled in bottom of cycle
These  were then finally assembled.  I used differently-colored flocking tufts from Army Painter to show their command and control relationships.  They are organized as one squad in the platoon – with one squad leader, and two team leaders each leading teams of 4 grav-cycles.  My thoughts initially are to treat the ray gun weapon as an automated analogue of a 37mm anti-tank gun and the vehicle as terrain-defying flying motorcycles.

 

 

9a-aphids-and-grav-cars-assembled-and-finished
Scouts out!  The Aphid Grav-Cycle Squad
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Close up of figure left side
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Right side of grav-cycle

 

12-aphids-and-grav-cars-close-up-front-side-2nd-squad
Coming at you!
The process of painting was the same for all of the Aphid Infantry, Aphid Officers, and Aphid Mortar Crews with some differences.  First, they are all mounted on two #8 steel washers that have been glued together with wood glue.  Second, the infantry is armed with tommy guns (I am assuming that Thompson submachine guns must have a thriving export market in the future!).  I used my 1987 Deka Lack “Braun” for the wooden parts of the guns, and “Gunmetal Gray” for the metal ones.

For the officers, three would be squad leaders and one would be the overall platoon leader.  The officers’ laser pistols got painted with “Chrome Silver” and the tips got the “Spiritstone Red” treatment on top of Citadel “Gehenna’s Gold”.  I chose “Flat Aluminum” for the squad leaders’ helmets, and  “Gehenna’s Gold/Spiritstone Red” for the platoon leader’s.  Once again, I used Army Painter tufts of different colors and locations to indicate command and control relationships.  The platoon leader has three mortar crews and the two robots reporting to him as well.  The only difference for the mortar crews was the mortar round and mortar tubes.  For the small mortar rounds, I used “Chrome Silver” on the body and “Spiritstone Red” for the fins.  The tubes got “Gunmetal Gray”.

 

2-aphid-infantry-base-coated-and-washed
Base coat on Aphid Infantry
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Base coat on Aphid Officers
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Base coat on Aphid Mortar Crews
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Painted and flocked, awaiting varnish and tufts
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Squad Leader with his Aphid Infantry Squad armed with Thompson SMG’s.  Tuft locations and color denote command relationships.
4-aphid-mortar-crew-example-finished
One completed mortar crew.  Each crew has its own tuft color, and reports to the platoon leader.
5-aphid-squad-leaders-2061-completed
Three completed squad leaders

4-aphid-platoon-leader-2061-completed
Completed Aphid Platoon Leader
To round out the platoon, there are the two Robot self-propelled guns.  These look almost steam-punk-like in design.  I went with a very metallic scheme for them.  First, I gave the figures a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”.  The top part/gun turret was painted with “Flat Aluminum”, while the bottom of the chassis was painted with “Copper” .  I painted the wheels and lower chassis with “Gunmetal Gray”.  I added Citadel ” Auric Armor Gold” to some of the chassis attachments.  For the radiator in the back (!) I used “Copper” framed with “Gunmetal Gray”.  The whole assembly got a wash again, and then I painted the robotic insect eyes with Craftsmart “Festive Red” metallic.  I highlighted the figure with the same paints again after the wash, and I was pretty happy with it.

 

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From Lost Minis Wiki – Robot Group – I got two of the models on the top

3-archive-robot-group-2-2011-completed
Completed Robot Self-propelled Guns
The platoon structure (41 fighting figures) is as follows in summary:

  • Aphid Platoon Leader (1)
    • Scout Squad Leader for Aphid Scouts on Grav-Cycle (1)
      • Team A Leader, Grav-Cycle (1)
        • 4 Aphids on Grav-Cycles
      • Team B Leader, Grav-Cycle (1)
        • 4 Aphids on Grav-Cycles
    • 1st Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • 2nd Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • 3rd Squad Leader for Aphid Infantry (1)
      • 6 Aphid Infantry with Thompson SMG
    • Mortar Section A (2)
    • Mortar Section B (2)
    • Mortar Section C (2)
    • Robot Assault Gun Section (2)

 

8-group-shot-best
The Aphid Platoon
I have to say that this was a very challenging project – the figures were smaller than I am used to painting, and they were much less detailed.  However, I am pretty proud of what I was able to do with it and look forward to seeing them in action in a game.  It’s fun to bring nearly 40-year old figures back to life – especially with many old paints as well.  I’m glad I got these, and am very happy with how they turned out.  I’m planning on chatting with Buck about assigning combat values to them soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Mark A. Morin

This site is where I will discuss stuff that I find interesting and that includes family, friends, golf, gaming, and Boston sports!

7 thoughts on “Star Rovers Aphid Platoon for Combat Patrol (TM)!”

  1. Awesome project, loved the read. Amazing job bringing those miniatures back to life. The grave-cycles are my obvious favourites, the push pin solution works very well. I’ll store that idea in my memory banks, it might come in handy sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated! These were very cool from the challenge of it all and wanting them to be really special. This was a project that I would go to bed thinking of how to solve the grav cycles mounting- and the push pin solution was something that popped into my head at a crafts store for no reason at all. Thanks very much for reading and the feedback!

      Like

      1. It shows that it was a labour of love restoring them. Hope they’ll see many a combat patrol in future after nearly ending up as a pile of lead rot after 40 years.

        Like

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