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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I then primed the tanks with Citadel “Imperium Primer” – I must say I like this as a brush primer – it’s a nice product.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some close up photos of the final product.
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™!
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.
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):
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.
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:
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
The platoon structure (41 fighting figures) is as follows in summary:
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.