“Attack of the Warbots” at September Mass Pikemen Gaming Session

We had a good showing on Saturday at the September Mass Pikemen Gaming Club session.  We played an “Attack of the Warbots” scenario using the Combat Patrol™ system.

The biological Alliance (Star Ducks, Space Dwarves, Frinx, and Aphids) have captured a Warbot Mark 1 Sphere tank and are attempting to repair and convert it to their use. The Warbots have landed a large force and aim to deny their enemy this loss of technology. Can the Warbots be stopped? 

This one, like all of the games that I run, was modified for playability based on experience and the number of available players.  This time I also got to add some new terrain and my new Wastelands gaming mat (which I described here and here).  I did not take as many pictures as I had wanted to – but what I have is below.

The game went well with a victory for the biological alliance of Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx (with glyptodon cavalry), Space DwarvesAphids, and RT22 (and his Robo Sentry guns).    The Mark III Warbots were supported by Roberker and two Mark 1 Sphere tanks – and the Robot Peacekeepers.  Most are all old Archive figures from the 1970’s.

The Aphids held up the Warbot attack and were almost wiped out by the Warbots.  However, they did delay them enough to achieve a victory, however, the tide of battle was about to turn so it could have ended differently.  Time just ran out on the Warbots.

The photos below are the set up and a bit of initial play.

1 set up defender side
The set up from the defenders’ side.

2 set up attacking side

Set up from the attackers side.  Reinforcements await deployment on the table’s edge.

3 PSG Juggerbot blows up from Aphid critical hit
Aphid casualties pile up as the Warbots move forward.  The Aphids, defending the middle crater, were able to get a very lucky critical hit on the Warbots’ platoon sergeant, causing a catastrophic explosion of its power plant (the smoke plume in the center above).  This explosion also killed and wounded several Aphids, and dented a couple of nearby Warbots.
4 Mortar Rounds and Plasma Breaching
The Warbots move into the smoky crater that once held a squad of Aphids.  The Warbots used a plasma ball breacher to fry the bugs, hence the smoke plume.
5 wide view
Aphid and Star Duck mortars add to the chaos of the battlefield as the Warbots breach the initial wall defense and roast an unlucky Star Duck alive.  Biological Alliance reinforcements move up on the right.

This fun scenario, with some minor tweaks, will be coming to BARRAGE on 9/28/2018!

 

Casualty cards for Combat Patrol

I have been getting ready for Christmas, but I wanted to get at least a few things done hobby-wise before 2018 rings in.  Last month, we had a rousing sci-fi game using Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™ card-based rules (you can read about that game here).

We were able to use the new Japanese South Pacific decks for robot morale checks, and incorporated many of the rules from Greg Priebe’s superb Star Wars supplement.  We also used some of my rule additions for Mark III Warbot casualties, special weapons, and a few other nuances.

One of the issues came in the way of finding an easier way of denoting casualties on the table and making play a little easier.  As you can see below, we just tipped over the figures, and that became crowded!  I do like to see the casualties on the table as it gives a nice account of what occurred in the game, but perhaps there is a better way?  Also, given that the Warbots take many wounds, I also am making some play aids specifically for them and their weapons (and I will cover this work in a future blog entry).

8 Ma'kcon
Casualties litter the field/table last month

As for the casualties, Buck suggested that I could create some cards for the casualties that would take the place of the “dead” miniature on the table.  This would allow for showing the results of the battle, and enable an easier playing experience.

For this project, I bought a Fiskars® paper cutter from Michael’s.  I had a 40% off coupon so I got it pretty cheaply.  I used white 65-lb. card stock from Staples for the cards.

8 Star ducks card
Fiskars paper cutter

6 Star ducks card

I started out last week with the Aphid platoon.  My goal was to make the card sizes as close to the actual miniature sizes as possible.  The Aphids are really small, so their cards were small.  I experimented with Microsoft PowerPoint, using the grid lines tool, and comparing what I printed with the actual miniatures.  I ended up making the Aphids cards about ¾” – 3/8″ high by  ¾” wide.  I had a lot of variability as I got used to using the paper cutter.  The pictures that I inserted into PowerPoint had different aspect ratios, and I remedied this when I moved on to the Star Ducks.

I do recommend using the aspect ratio tool when cropping pictures for this type of work.  Additionally, the grid line tool in PowerPoint allowed me to make exact front and back cards by making sure that the sizes were the same and aligned.   The easiest way to do this is to import your photos first, and then copy that slide.  Then, you replace the photos on the second slide with the written cards.  By printing these on both sides of the paper (use regular paper first, not card stock to check), they will line up perfectly.  The only caveat I need to add is that you need to pay attention to the cards as you will need to reverse the text in the blocks so as to match the pictures – see below.

Aphid Dead Cards 1
My PowerPoint page of 39 Aphid photos – note the reversing of texts below on the text portion 
Aphid Dead Cards 2
The text section – I numbered these text box blocks and put up to the light to see which text went where – each is an individual text box

I printed these on card stock with a “thick paper” setting on my printer, and used two-side printing.  I then cut them out using the Fiskars tool.  There is a learning curve to the tool, and it worked out fine.  The Aphids on Grav-Cycles were not sized to the miniatures, but I wanted all of the Aphids cards in their deck to be the same size, so I can live with that discrepancy.  I did however want to improve for the next group of cards – which was for the Star Ducks.

Here, I needed to make bigger cards, and went with 1½” by 1½”.  I made a few important changes in my processes.  First, I used the “aspect ratio” function when I cropped the photos – in this case using the “square” aspect.  I also added a 2-point thick line on the pictures and the text boxes, which really made cutting easier.  Lastly, I colored the cards text-printed side with light orange hue, to match their bills!  I plan on having future unit casualty cards with different colors on the printed sides.

1 Star ducks card 1
Page 1 of my cards (photo side).  These when printed on a standard sheet of paper approximated the true sizes of the miniatures.
2 Star ducks card 2
The text block side of the PowerPoint, with adjustments so that the two-sided printing would line up properly.  These were then colored orange as below.
5 Star ducks card
The photo sides of the cards after cutting – they are 1.5″ square

 

3 Star ducks card 2
The printed sides of the cards with the orange backgrounds
4 Star ducks card 2
Close up of the cards

These were much better – and I feel confident that I can finish off cards for the Frinx and Mark III Warbots soon.  My goal is that when I next run a game that these aids will make play even easier than Combat Patrol already is!  These are not perfect, but are close enough and stiff enough to avoid becoming paper canoes!

7 Star ducks card
Casualty cards, Death cards, whats the difference!

Please let me know what you think in the comments section – thanks for looking!

 

Mark Con 2017 (aka Ma’k Con 2017)

I have been accused of having a Boston accent, but this is not really true – I have a Worcester accent, or properly a Worcester County accent.  Throughout my military and civilian career, my pronunciation of my name, Mark, sounds to others like Ma’k.  My good buddy Buck Surdu has often shortened it to “Ma’k” on his blog posts.  Last weekend (right before Thanksgiving) he and my other good buddy, Dave Wood, made the drive up from Maryland on a traffic-filled Friday afternoon for a Saturday full of gaming – and it was called “Ma’k Con”.  My wife Lynn really helped out as well with her keeping us well fed.  This blog post is about the gaming we crammed into that Saturday.

Buck and Dave got me into tabletop wargaming when we were back at West Point.  Since then, Buck has published a myriad of rules for gaming, and Dave has contributed to many of those rule sets.  The most recent rules that Buck published is a fantastically easy to play and streamlined card-based system for skirmish-level combat in WWII called Combat Patrol™.  It is truly flexible, and has had optional rules and supplements written to cover different possible scenarios, to include the South Pacific theater, the Winter War, the Falklands War, the Napoleonic era, and even the Star Wars universe.  These can be downloaded for free from his website, and the cards are available in the US from Drive Thru Cards and in the EU from Sally Forth. The rules are also available in book form from both On Military Matters and Sally Forth.

Buck recently added a new set of cards for the South Pacific, which have different morale results for Japanese troops.  Readers of this blog know that I have been collecting and assembling units from the old Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures, specifically Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx, Aphids, and Mark III Warbots.  Additionally, I have been supplementing these forces with Khang Robots, weapons, Robo-Sentry Guns from War Games Supply Dump, and my own sculpt of a sphere tank.  I also used some weapons from Bombshell Miniatures.

I decided that I would combine aspects from different Combat Patrol™ rules for a fun retro sci-fi game.  Specifically, I would use the new South Pacific deck for morale results for robots, the new vehicle-mounted flame thrower template for my sphere tanks’ death rays, and the Sith rules from the Star Wars supplement.  Also, I added in several rules from the optional rules.  Lastly, I added my own special rules for the Mark III Warbots and their leader, Juggerbot, to account for possible effects that weapons fire could cause on their behaviors and capabilities.

Upon arrival in Massachusetts, Buck surprised Dave and I with uniform t-shirts from West Point that we would have worn to gym or when we played sports.  It was called Gym-A (Gym-Alpha) and we wore it for Saturday’s game marathon.  Admittedly, both Buck and Dave wore it better than I did.  We were also joined by my daughter Ellen Morin and her fiancé Chris Smedile.

0 Ma'kcon
Buck Surdu, me, and Dave Wood (US version for you UK followers) in our Gym-A shirts

The scenario was one where the Star Ducks, Aphids, and Frinx were allied against the cybernetic horde of attacking robots.  The non-metallic forces had captured a robot Mark 1 Sphere tank.  The Frinx were attempting to repair it so it could be used against the robots, who were to have two Mark I Sphere tanks of their own in the assault.  The tanks have two side mounted laser cannons, and a Death Ray (think 1953 War of the Worlds movie).  Dave and Ellen had the robots, while Buck, Chris and I defended.

1 Ma'kcon
Dave and Ellen prepare to attack.  The Aphids are in the ruined building to the front, and there are the Robo-Sentry Guns acting as speed bumps to their front.

The Robo-Sentry guns slowed the attacking robots slightly, but allowed Aphid and Star Duck mortar fire to hit the Warbots near Juggerbot, damaging the robot leader, and causing some of his robots to go rogue, or blow up.  When they went rogue, they would attack the nearest figure.  Juggerbot ended up dealing with such a problem.

2 Ma'kcon
The battle begins with the Warbots clearing the Robo-Sentry gun defenses.

Normally, in Combat Patrol™ games, figures can take a certain number of hits, usually three wounds, before they die or are incapacitated.  In this game Frinx had 4 wounds (because of their power-armor), most line Star Ducks had 3, and Warbots had 6.  However, I allowed for critical hits as outlined below.  This had a nice balancing effect on the game.

Warbot critical hit
Warbot Critical Hit Chart – lots of 4’s and 5’s happened!

The Warbots also had some devastating energy weapons.  The opposing forces had two “Sith Lords” (Duck Wader from the Star Ducks and Lt. Ma’k from the Frinx) with special powers from the Star Wars supplement.  Early in the game, Buck moved Duck Wader up to engage the Warbots, only to get vaporized along with some Aphids by an arc weapon blast.

3 Ma'kcon
Duck Wader (center) near the corner where he was shortly vaporized thereafter
4 Ma'kcon
The Frinx AT section moves up – only to never make an impact

The other Sith, Lt. Ma’k, used his Force powers to fly into the middle of a group of 8 immobilized Warbots (they had drawn a “Hold until Death” morale result due to Frinx fire, but the robots could still fire).

Lt. Ma’k (a Frinx) then tried a Sith power – Force Blast – which damaged some robots’ weapons and caused them to explode.  Additionally, friendly mortar rounds landed there (Lt. Ma’k did not care) and eventually he succumbed, as did several Warbots. Simultaneously, Juggerbot finally was destroyed by Aphids on Grav-Cycles.  As he was the platoon leader, his destruction led to his unit becoming pinned – and only activating on black cards.  This really had the effect of reducing the entire robot platoon’s combat effectiveness.

5 Ma'kcon
Lt. Ma’k (by the purple die) makes his last stand.  Note the black die for the Warbot Green Team 2 due to a “Hold until Death” morale role.  Later the entire Warbot platoon would get black dice (“pinned”) when Juggerbot was destroyed.
6 Ma'kcon
The death (destruction) of Juggerbot
7 Ma'kcon
Aphids an Grav-Cycles make a desperate charge before dying to the last bug – but they sealed Juggerbot’s fate
8 Ma'kcon
Frinx on Glyptodon cavalry move up before being taking heavy fire and being routed

At this point, the carbon-based living got very lucky and fixed their captured Sphere tank earlier than would have been expected due to Chris pulling some great cards.  However, the robots got reinforcements in the form of two of their own Sphere tanks, a squad of Warbots, plus 2 self-propelled robot guns.   Chris and Buck were able to immobilize one tank with some very lucky shots.  The other annihilated a squad of Buck’s Star Ducks with a Death Ray Blast.

9 Ma'kcon
Buck’s Star Ducks are hit by Death Ray fire
10 Ma'kcon
Some of Buck’s Star Ducks jet pack onto the immobilized Mark I Sphere tank.  Their satchel charges (6) attacks all failed to destroy the tank.

By now it was dinnertime and pizza called, plus we wanted to move to the next game.  It looked like a slight victory for the living forces, but casualties were high!  The game turned out well and I may redo this scenario at Barrage in Maryland in January.  Buck’s account of the battle is the next entry in this blog.

11 Ma'kcon
Surveying the carnage
12 Ma'kcon
Great Game!

Then we moved onto a play test of Dave’s micro-armor game of “The Battle of Nikolayevka (Nikitowka)” using the Look Sarge No Charts rules.  This was a breakout of Italian forces on the Eastern Front in 1943 as part of the Battle of Stalingrad.  So we had Italians and some Germans attacking a small town held by the Russians.  The link above describes the historical battle well.

Buck attacked with a combined German/Italian force on the right half of the battlefield and I attacked along the left half.  Dave defended.  It was a tough slog, with the Russian artillery (they had no armor) making progress difficult.  Later in the game Dave had us command reinforcements in the form of the Italian stragglers from an earlier phase in the battle.  It was a good scenario, and interesting to see a primarily Italian versus Russian scenario.

13 Ma'kcon
Initial set up – Italians and Germans (on left) fight into the town to the right of the railway crossing (in light orange)
14 Ma'kcon
Another view showing the town in the upper right.  The attackers needed to get into the town so as not to freeze to death.
15 Ma'kcon
Assaulting the rail line defenses
16 Ma'kcon
Buck tries to get into the town

I think Dave will have a very good scenario for an upcoming convention!

The day flew by, and I am so appreciative that we West Point Old Grads had the chance to game together.  Thanks to Buck and Dave, and Chris and Ellen!  And of course, Lynn for her logistical support!!

Combat Patrol with Star Rovers and an X-Wing game

It’s been a bit busier on the gaming front.  Jared Burns (USAFA ’04) and I (USMA ’84) got together last Sunday afternoon in preparation for the launch of the Mass Pikemen Gaming Club .  We play-tested Combat Patrol™ with Star Rovers figures that I have previously posted about in this blog, as well as an X-Wing game.
The scenario was one where the Frinx and some Aphids were protecting RT22 in a bunker behind an old factory.  The Star Ducks, led by Duck Vader, were attacking to seize RT22, using their jet packs to quickly assault through the open ground which the Frinx had covered with anti-tank weapons.  I gave the Star Ducks 3 chances in the game to use their jet packs at 3 movement cards per try – and that worked well rules-wise.
Highlights of the battle!  There was a grenade-throwing fest in the center (one of my grenades scattered back into me adding to my losses) between one Star Duck team and a green Aphid team.  This resulted in multiple casualties, especially when one of my Aphid’s grenade attacks rebounded from a rock, but the Star Ducks had the better of that fight.
I gave Duck Vader the ability to deflect incoming direct fire, but I got lucky.  Duck Vader was in the open at short range and got lit up by two Frinx bazookas and the Frinx platoon sergeant with an automatic grenade launcher.  End even though I gave him a 5 endurance, his goose (or rather duck) was cooked with about 7 wounds.  His demise  then caused the entire Star Duck force to lose heart, effectively ending the game.
1 Ducks hit right flank
The Star Ducks effectively advance on the escarpment.  The purple bands indicate jet pack uses.

 

2 Frinx defend with AT
The Frinx guard the factory ruins with anti-tank weapons and an automatic grenade launcher.

 

3 hapless Aphids defending
A green (in terms of morale and literally!) Aphid Squad awaits its doom from a storm of grenades.

 

4 Ducks prepare to move out
Star Ducks deploy.

 

5 Hey, who shaot at us with Bazookas
The Star Ducks take multiple incoming rockets, wounding a team leader.

 

6 every body throw grenades
The Star Ducks put the hurt on the Aphids with a storm of grenades.

 

7 top of the hill while behind grenade hell
In the foreground, the Star Duck AT team prepares to rain doom on the Frinx.  In the upper left, the Aphids attempt to return grenade for grenade, only to bounce them back at themselves.

 

8 Duck Vader dies
In the upper center, the Star Ducks jet pack and prepare to flank the Frinx.  However, in the foreground, Duck Vader is mortally wounded. 

 

9 end game
The viewpoint of the Frinx who killed Duck Vader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then played X-Wing, and it was time for the USAF guy to beat (really thrash) the Army guy…ironic…he was the Empire so the day evened out.  It was a good playtest for our first game night on July 27th.  Jared did a nice job in teaching me the game – and then avenging the previous game.  He was the Empire, and I was the Rebels with two ships each.
10 xwing
I successfully pilot my X-Wing into an asteroid…and fail to hit the Empire’s ships.

 

11 xwing
With my X-Wing dispatched, the Empire finishes off my hapless B-Wing.

 

I really liked the game and the ease at which I learned the basics.  Thanks to Jared for a great day!

Slag Mounds, Bunkers, Barriers and more!

This month, in between other projects and recovery, I worked on several terrain pieces for use with my Star Rovers figures and the Combat Patrol™ gaming system.  Some I got earlier in the year from WorldWorks Games on Amazon, others I got on eBay that were from Armorcast Battlefield Scenery, others I made – and some I just don’t know who made them.  I’m hoping to use these at The Battle Standard in Auburn soon after coordinating with the owner, Jared Brodeur.

Normally I have more detail (how-to), but I lost most of the details of these terrain projects, as I had a few that I had to rework.  I think the pictures below are hopefully sufficient.  I was really happy to try new techniques with rust applications using a “pointillism” technique with a combination of Polly-S (“Rust”) and Vallejo (“Rust” 71.069 and 71.080) paints.  I mounted all of the terrain pieces on flat steel basing pieces.

The mostly Armorcast “set” I got on eBay were various refinery or industrial pieces that were airbrushed silver and gold, and that did not work for me.  I wanted the industrial ones to be more dirty and rusty.  I ended up painting some of them with various colors, and then using Army Painter Quickshade “Soft Tone” to shade.  I was not happy with most of these results, especially the Quickshade effects.  I repainted them, some with bright colors for the newer pieces of terrain, and with rust for the grittier ones, and then used spray varnish to seal.  Luckily, the Testors “Dullcoat” actually had a “crackling” chemical effect on one of the industrial tanks which worked well – (note – this was not an Armorcast piece and was likely homemade with some type of Styrofoam).  I was surprised as there was already a lot of paint and varnish on it at that point – but it was minimal and I liked it anyways.

1 terrain group start
The initial set of mostly Armorcast terrain I got on eBay, plus the slag mounds I made.  This is how I got them.  The triple tank is the homemade one that the varnish affected.

10 refinery stuff final
The pipeline/industrial terrain after repainting (and repainting).  Duck Vader and his Star Ducks confront Power-Armored Frinx led by their platoon leader.

9 refinery stuff final
Frontal view of the skirmish – light saber versus light cutlass!

12 wrecked pipeline final
Aphids on Grav-Cycles swing around a ruined overhead pipeline to swarm attack a Frinx Mark 1 Sphere tank

13 cryo unit and condensors and apu
Star Duck Bazookaducks ambush a Mark 1 in front of a large moisture condenser, a cryo unit, and a small power unit
The WorldWorks Games set consisted of a bunker, and three barricades.  They are for 28mm for sure.  The bunker was used, and difficult to assemble well with super glue.  I ended up using steel base material, popsicle sticks, wood glue, and cardboard to assist in the construction.  Here, I really liked my use of the rust pattern that I discussed earlier.

2 barrier unpainted
Assembled barrier before priming

3 defensive pit unpainted
Assembled bunker, front view, before priming

4 defensive pit unpainted, back
Assembled bunker, back view, with cardboard mounted on popsicle sticks mounted on steel bases

5 defensive pit unpainted, bottom
Bottom of the bunker – I needed to trim the steel bases and file off sharp edges

6 defensive pit and barriers primed
After priming with gray

7 defensive pit final
A Star Duck Mortarduck crew operates from the finished bunker

8 defensive walls final
Three Mark 1 Sphere tanks set up in defensive positions behind the barriers
Lastly, I had three slag mounds that I mounted on two old CD’s.  The slag was a byproduct of my casting projects.  For these, I had a “Red Planet” plan, and used Citadel “Martian Ironcrust” and “Martian Ironearth” to good effect, as well as different washes.

11 aphids in slag mounds final
An Aphid squad and their robot assault gun patrol the slag mounds
It’s a good start and I’m sure I could use some buildings and other things, but that I will get to in due time!

 

Retro Sci-Fi Sphere Tanks – from a Callaway Golf Ball!

I am happy to begin the 2017 blogging season with a very complicated project.  While I began work on this project in December, I had been thinking about it since last May.

So what happened in May 2016?  I was traveling for work, and sat down in a Cracker Barrel in Connecticut for breakfast (Uncle Herschel’s with a sweet tea of course).  For those of you who have never been to a Cracker Barrel, there are always old photos and curios all over the walls.  I looked to my left, and saw this on the wall:

1-popular-science-cover-july-1936-by-edgar-franklin
What started this journey

I was amazed at this and wanted to dig in more and learn the date of this issue of Popular Science magazine and see what the article said.  The article was just a paragraph with another picture – here is the link and a shot of the July 1936 article on page 37.

1a-popular-science-article-july-1936
The page 37 article

The concept of the “tumbleweed tank” tank was one of two outer shell halves rotating independently on rollers over a solid stationary sphere.  More or less, the outer halves acted as the vehicle’s treads.  I do not believe that anyone ever tried to build this as a combat vehicle, but I still found the concept fascinating and worthy of a project.

During the intervening months, I conceived of an idea that I could make a model of the tank, build a mold,  and cast it for tabletop wargaming.  As I have been building units of Star Rovers figures for sci-fi Combat Patrol™, my first thought was to make a retro-sci-fi tank, probably for the Frinx.  I was not enthusiastic about the weapons design as shown in the magazine – machine guns alone would make this a very boring retro sci-fi tank.  I also considered making it modular – so that I could adapt different weapons for it.

While thinking about it, I wanted to have a great sphere – and my sculpting experience is at best weak to nonexistent.  I have seen a few blogs that I follow where folks are sculpting their own figures, and that helped to inspire me.  As I also cast – this was a chance to go from beginning to end with the project.  But what to use?

The answer came easily to me as a golfer – a golf ball!  That would be an easy thing to work with and would afford me a chance to see what works.  I had an idea that I wanted it to be armed with ray guns in the side sponsons.  I had not decided on the main weapon, when I had a brainstorm – 1953’s War of the Worlds Martian Heat Rays!

3-movie-poster-46e79e5484b555331466b0e71f4029aa
1953 movie poster
4-war-of-the-worlds-1953-martians-attack-humans
The Martian ship

So with this plan, I went forward to try to create my new Mark 1’s (what else to call them!).  I thought that I could learn from the project (and I have).  I used a “Line ’em Up” golf accessory to create lines on a used Callaway golf ball, and drilled a ½” hole in the side of the ball on two sides.  I like the Callaway for this as it has hexagonal dimples.

 

 

5-first-cut-on-ball
First drill hole into the Callaway

 

After this, I used a Plastruct 2mm x 4.8mm styrene strip to size up the gap between the ball halves.  I used my Dremel to cut the outer surface of the ball – it ended up being messy and needed a lot of Exacto knife work.  The Dremel cutting blade tends to melt the outer ball cover – another lesson learned

 

6-ball-ring
After cutting the chassis ridge with my Dremel

 

I then needed to create the tread ridges.  I used an Exacto knife to carve small channels along the lines for the treads.  This took a lot of cutting!  Using some old plastic membership cards, I cut out each tread, sized them to the holes, and glued them in with super glue.

 

7-ball-ring-treads
Tread ridges cut from plastic membership cards

 

I then drilled a ¼” hole for the attachment of a main weapon –  which I would cast separately with the sponsons in a single mold.  To build a base for the model, I used three 1¼” washers, and glued them together with wood glue.  I then covered them with Apoxie Sculpt, leaving a hole to mount the ball to the base with a wood screw through the washer.  This ended up being a base that I feel in the end was a little too tall, but usable, and castable.

 

8-ball-ring-treads-installed
A Callaway golf ball converted into the tank chassis 

 

I originally was going to use Milliput or Apoxie Sculpt for the sponsons – when I discovered these ½” Button Plugs from Lara’s Crafts – which were the right shape and fit perfectly into the holes on the sides (got lucky here).  I bought a set of Niji woodcarving knives (which I wish I had when I was carving the treads and the middle gap!) and used them to make the sponson shells.  After trial and error (where I learned the hard way that I needed to wear a cutting glove with these very sharp knives), I carved two sponsons and sanded down the middle slots.

 

10-sponson-start
Making the button plugs into sponsons

 

I initially thought that I needed to smooth out the golf ball dimples and the tread cuts, so I first tried with Apoxie Sculpt, with poor results.  My next attempt was with Citadel “Liquid Green Stuff”, which was better, but I think was an unneeded step.

 

11-sponson-fitting
The master figure and sponsons mid-project

 

I drilled a 1/8″ hole in the sponson shell, and mounted a short piece of Evergreen Scale Models strip styrene 1/8″ tube.  For the ray guns, I turned to the use of model airplane parts.  I used two Dubro products – a 2mm socket head cap screw with three 2 mm flat washers superglued to it.  To line up the washers evenly, I found that using toothpicks on both sides and underneath to define the gaps and make the washers relatively parallel worked well.   I inserted the guns into the ends of the styrene, after coring out the ends of the styrene rods for a better fit.  Eventually, I primed the sponsons black with Citadel “Imperium Primer”, as I wanted there to be less tackiness to the Quick-Sil from the wood.

 

12-sponson-with-ray-gun
Nice view of the ray guns in the sponsons

 

 

13-sponsons-with-ray-gun
Another view of the ray gun sponson

 

I then moved onto the main weapon, the heat ray.  In the 1953 movie, the heat ray was rectangular, leading to the distinctive head.  I eyeballed the length, and designed the head.  I sculpted it in two stages, with the “eye” section being attached to the neck, which itself was on the Plastruct strip styrene.

 

15-main-gun-sketches
Designing the heat ray – this worked!

 

 

17-main-gun-phase-1
Initial heat ray sculpt on styrene strip

 

I cut the styrene strip to size, and used more Apoxie Sculpt to make a mount that would fit into the main weapon recess.  After it hardened, I saw that I would have to bend it in my mold, or otherwise I would have a very turtle-like appearance.  As the styrene is flexible, this was not a problem.  I made two two-piece molds with Castaldo Quick-Sil – one for the chassis and one for the weapons.  I also tried some new innovations with venting with the use of some more model airplane parts – in this case flexible fuel lines that I cut for venting.  As you can see below, I bent the heat ray in the mold to my desired shape.

 

19-first-mold-half-weapons-mold-mark-1
Weapons mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

20-first-mold-half-weapons-mold-mark-1
After first half molded

 

 

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Chassis mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

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Chassis mold after first half molded

 

In the end, the mold for the weapons worked very well, needing little work on the finished weapons.  However, the chassis mold had a few issues.  First, I knew as a golfer that golf balls compress when struck.  What I did not realize was that there would be a strong interaction of the flattish sponson holes and the pressure exerted by the curing Quick-Sil on them at 90° angles.  As a result, the cast ball would be visibly compressed somewhat.  Additionally, the flow was not perfect – leading to my needing to add Apoxie Sculpt to the finished models’ chassis.  Lastly, because the mold for the chassis was thick, and the casting was large, it took a long time to cool, and used a lot of metal (see phots for weight below in the blog).  Unfortunately I discovered this when I opened the mold once and the metal flowed out!  I will incorporate these lessons learned into the Mark 2’s.

 

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The master and the molds

 

 

23-mark-1-chassis-cast-and-master
Shrinkage!  Was he in the pool? (Apologies to George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld)

I managed to successfully cast two chassis, and decided to use the master as well as I already had the mold.  So I cast three sets of weapons, and assembled three tanks in total.  I used some Apoxie Sculpt to fill in the gaps in the back where flow was less than ideal -and this worked fine.  Next, I mounted the assembled tanks to a 1 5/8″ steel washer for magnetic storage in my gaming boxes.

 

 

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Assembled tanks

I then primed the tanks with  Citadel “Imperium Primer” – I must say I like this as a brush primer – it’s a nice product.

 

 

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Primed tanks

 

After priming, I moved on to painting them.  Painting these proved to be challenging, especially the fully-cast models, due to the weight of the models.  The metal ones weighed about 14 ounces, while the master weighed in at 4 ounces!

I used Citadel “XV-88” on the base and the chassis gaps.  For the chassis and the heat ray, I based with Tamiya “Gun Metal”.  I used several light coats and had a shiny finish to deal with – but a smooth one.  The trick with Tamiya is a wet brush and a lot of shaking and shaking again.  I then used another Tamiya metallic, “Chrome Silver” to paint the sponsons, the tread ridges, and the business end of the heat rays.  I painted the tips pf the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray with “XV-88” and Citadel “Gehenna’s Gold” in anticipation of future colors.  The base I gave an application of Americana “Ebony”.

 

27-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating
After base coat

 

I then used my new Citadel Technical paints.  Remember that the Martian craft had orbs that were glowing green.  To recreate that feel, I applied two coats of Citadel “Waystone Green”  to the sponson tops and bottoms, the tread ridges, the chassis gaps, and the main portion of the heat ray.  I also painted the first and last rings of the ray guns with this technical paint.   I wanted the slot of the sponson to be a bit darker – and Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash” helped me to achieve that look.  For the tips of the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray, Citadel “Spiritstone Red” gave a nice focal character to the weapons.

 

28-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating-and-mid-highlighting
After highlights

 

To accent the green, I shaded areas around the “Waystone Green” with Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSSY”.  As I was going to dull down the overall shiny paint job, I thought this would work better – and I think it did.  I drybrushed the bases with Citadel “Mechanicus Standard Gray”, and then applied a light flocking with Army Painter “Ash Grey” on the washer alone.

 

29-mark-1-tanks-before-varnish
Ready for varnish!

 

I was now ready to varnish, and for the first time I used Army Painter’s “Anti-Shine” matte varnish.  This is an aqueous varnish.  I liked it, and am excited as varnishing in New England in the winter is always a logistical challenge.  I uses 2 parts varnish to 1 part water, and applied with a fan brush lightly.  It came out nice and smooth.  After it dried, I sprayed the models with Testors “Dullcoat” is my cellar bulkhead after I got it warm enough.  This enabled venting of the fumes outside after I was done and kept my wife from killing me when she got home!

To finish the models, I needed to deal with the elevated bases.  Using a lot of Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” applied with white glue, I was able to create an image of the tanks plowing through grass.  They are heavy though, but sturdy.

 

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This is a heavy model!!!  In English and metric units!

 

 

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The master weighs a lot less!

 

Here are some close up photos of the final product.

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Run!

 

 

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Convoy!

 

 

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Nice group shot

 

I am very happy with how these came out.  If I get enough interest, I may offer some for sale as kits.  Certainly, these are my first real creations from conception to creating to molding to casting to painting.  I learned a lot, and I am sure that my next iterations will be better.

They will be an  excellent part of my Frinx forces for Combat Patrol™!

 

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A bad day for these Aphids!!!

 

 

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”.

 

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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”.

 

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Riders painted and awaiting varnishing
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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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

 

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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”.

 

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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.
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One completed mortar crew.  Each crew has its own tuft color, and reports to the platoon leader.
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Three completed squad leaders

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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

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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)

 

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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.