Back in early 2016, I found an interesting miniature on eBay that I had never seen before. It was from the Archive Star Rovers line. It was a large bug-like creature with a large blaster and a huge sword on its back. It reminded me of a deadly grasshopper. Doing a little research, I learned that the figure was made around 1979-1981, and was designated as Archive #2318, “Hurraku Space Phraint”.
I immediately thought that a group of these figures would make a great platoon for a retro-sci-fi game of Combat Patrol™. However, like many Star Rovers figures they proved to be very scarce. Eventually I decided that I would need to cast my own to make such a unit (you can read about that effort here).
I made a mold, and recast a bunch of these, and shared some with my good friend Buck Surdu. Buck called them “Space Bugs” (which of course they are), and painted up a unit himself – you can see his work on these here. I really liked what Buck had done with his and his use of glitter paint. His work inspired me to seek a way to get a shine on mine without being, well, overly shiny. Meanwhile, my Space Phraints waited as other projects and personal stuff got in the way (as it always does!).
Over time I researched and dug deeper. I found that there is quite an interesting back story to these bugs. I discovered that Phraints were originally in the Arduin Grimoire RPG system, which was a contemporary competitor to TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons system in the mid-to-late 1970’s. It was written and marketed by David Hargrave and his company, Grimoire Games. Phraints played a major role in Arduin, and were prominently shown on their rules systems covers (see below). One of the main differences from D&D was that Arduin went from fantasy to futuristic sci-fi all in the same universe.
Apparently (and unsurprisingly) there were a series of lawsuits by TSR against Hargrave, and his company, alleging trademark infringement, etc. It’s history at this point, but truly a fascinating (and drama-filled) chapter in the early era of fantasy and sci-fi gaming. If you would like to learn more about that kerfuffle, here is a good link.
So where did Archive come in? Archive Miniatures had the license for the Arduin line. According to Archive founder Nevile Stocken, the original Phraint figure was a Steve Lortz sculpt in their Arduin figure line (#783). Nevile adapted the original Phraint figure and created the Hurraku Space Phraint. He did this by removing the hive the front foot was resting on, as well as the quiver on the back. This leaned the figure forward. The large sword on the front was removed and replaced the quiver on the back. The Hurraku was then given what Nevile described as a BFG (“big f’ing gun”). The Phraints are truly interesting, and this is another great link on their characteristics. I like that they are emotionless – and incapable of lying.
OK, enough Phraint back story (hope it was interesting anyways). Back to the platoon making!
Originally, I had 39 Space Phraints. It was time to clean and file the metal miniatures, which are large for the ranges 25mm scale (the Space Phraints are about 1¾” or 44 cm tall). Overall, I found it difficult at most times during the project to discern the difference between my recasts and the originals, except during this phase. However, upon better inspection, I found 3 figures out of 39 that were not of acceptable quality, so I went to 36 figures for the unit, with the unfortunate three going to the remelt pile.
I ended up with 36 Space Phraints (1 original, and 35 recasts), for the platoon. It would consist of 3 squads composed of 2 teams of 5, each led by a squad leader, making each squad having 11 figures. Additionally, there would be a Platoon Leader, a Platoon Sergeant, and a Sith Knight. The Sith Phraint would be great fun to game with when I use Greg Priebe’s Star Wars supplement for Combat Patrol™. I decided to make the figures look the same so as to reinforce the “hive” effect. In other words, they would look to unfortunate opponents as a swarm of huge humanoid insects. To us they all look alike, while to the Space Phraints, they do not.
Cleaning and filing of the figures took some time. I use a high tin content when I cast, so this was not quickly accomplished. I also needed to repair some swords that were too short, some blaster stocks that did not cast well, and some foot talons with green stuff (kneadatite). I’m not the greatest (or worst I imagine) with green stuff, but I think that it worked out well (you be the judge dear reader!). I also used a small pin vise bit to round out the blaster ends. The figures are very much in line with those of the era of the late 1970’s. This is not to say that they are not good, but they are much less crisp than today’s plastic and resin models. Plus, 35/36 were obviously my recasts, and some details are lost in that process. For me, all this meant was that I needed to really work with my painting to realize my vision for them.
I mounted the figures with gorilla glue to 1¼” steel washers, and the washers to specimen bottles with poster tack. Simultaneously, I also began to search for a suitable base color, and I wanted to have something green that was not too glossy – I wanted subtle iridescence. This would mimic the sheen you see on some grasshoppers as their chitin reflects the sunlight. As I have an airbrush and compressor now, I decided upon a novel approach (for me anyway). I would use a pearlized airbrush paint with Createx Airbrush Colors “Pearl Green”.
This airbrush paint is designed for model hot rods and muscle cars. I thought that this would work and that I could shade and highlight later as needed. So, I airbrush-primed all of the figures with Vallejo Gray Surface Primer, and let that harden for 24 -48 hours. Then I broke out the “Pearl Green”. I needed a higher pressure to use this paint (40 vs 20-25 psi for the primer). I also did thin it a bit, and I was able to get good coverage of the figures with my airbrush. The Createx line is made for airbrushing, which is a plus.
After that, I grabbed my regular brushes as I wanted to shade the figures for ease of painting, which I accomplished with Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSS”. The pearlized paints are very smooth, especially after airbrushing, and I found that the gloss version of Nuln Oil worked better on this base coat of green than the plain one. It really got into the nooks and crannies and stayed there.
For the antennae, I wanted something that would be closer to what a bug would have and not be like a bunny’s ear. For this I used Vallejo “Dark Blue” and washed it with Secret Weapons Washes “Purple”. The eyes, to me, needed to be special. I built up the eyes with serial light coats of Vallejo “Gloss Black”, followed by a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Mecha Color “Yellow Fluorescent” and “Green Fluorescent”. Lastly, I topped the eyes off with a small drop of “Yellow Fluorescent”. This approach really gave the eyes character, and gave the impression of a compound eye structure.
On the bandoleer, I went with Vallejo “Game Air Black”. I decided not to try to highlight them at all as I had too much variability among casts with regards to their details. I also thought that the contrast from the black would be greater with the green chitin which was what I wanted. For the blaster, I went with the last of my 1987 West German Deka Lack “Weiss”, followed by highlighting with Vallejo “Gloss White”.
Moving to the rear of the figures, I painted the swords’ pommels and hilts with Vallejo “Steel” and the grip with a mix of Vallejo “Gunmetal” and “Game Air Black”. Each sword’s scabbard had an inlay and a jewel. The inlay and jewel got Vallejo “Chrome”. After the “Chrome” had dried, I lightly applied Citadel “Waystone Green” on the jewel to achieve a crystalline appearance. For the scabbard and the straps, I stayed with “Game Air Black” to continue the contrasting effect with the chitinous green.
I then went to the front of the figure and dealt with the blaster. For a further contrast, I painted the bulb at the end gold with Citadel “Retributor Armor” . The blaster rings got a covering of “Chrome” followed by an application of Citadel “Soulstone Blue”. To highlight the lobster-like claw structures on the arms and calves and the mandibles, I used Vallejo “Yellow-Green”.
As I earlier said, the upside of the “Pearl Green” is its effect – and the downside is that for subsequent paint applications adhesion is less than other paints. To address the need for both shading and for paint protection on the tabletop, I brushed Army Painter “Quickshade-Soft Tone” over all of the models. I tried my best to sop up any extra pooling shade. I then let these dry and harden for 48 hours. A couple of figures picked up some paper towel fibers at some point, but that was remedied easily with a wet brush once everything was dry.
During this drying period, I sculpted placards for the bases out of Apoxie Sculpt. I wanted the Space Phraints to look the same, but for gaming purposes, there needs to be some differentiation for the players (especially those of a certain age). Apoxie Sculpt is much better than green stuff for this purpose. I mixed this two-piece material, and spread it thinly over my cutting board. Using rubber stamps, I made placards for each figure, and some more for future projects. These I allowed to dry and harden for 24 hours. At that point, I removed and trimmed them, and applied them to the bases with gorilla glue. I primed them with Citadel “Imperium Primer”. For a placard painting scheme, I brush painted:
- Vallejo “Signal Red” and “Retributor Armor” for the platoon leader (PL)
- Createx “Pearl Blue” and “Retributor Armor” for the platoon sergeant (PSG)
- Vallejo’s “Metallic Black” and “Red” for the Sith (SITH)
- Createx “Pearl Green” and “Retributor Armor” for the 1st squad leader (1)
- Createx “Pearl Green” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 1st squad team leaders (A and B)
- Createx “Pearl Green” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 1st squad troopers (A and B)
- Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and “Retributor Armor” for the 2nd squad leader (2)
- Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 2nd squad team leaders (A and B)
- Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 2nd squad troopers (A and B)
- Createx “Pearl Plum” and “Retributor Armor” for the 3rd squad leader (3)
- Createx “Pearl Plum” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 3rd squad team leaders (A and B)
- Createx “Pearl Plum” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 3rd squad troopers (A and B)
Once my shade had dried, I highlighted chitinous areas with the “Pearl Green” that may have been overly darkened. I also used Vallejo “Game Air Dead White” and “Retributor Armor” to highlight on the blasters as the Quickshade needed some adjustments here.
I then moved on to the bases, and used a combination of Citadel “Martian Ironcrust” and Army Painter “Black Battlefield” flocking to cover the bases. I learned at this point that I should have trimmed the poster tack from the edge of the bases at an earlier stage in the project. This would have made addressing the edges easier. As it was, I removed the edges, and used Citadel “Martian Ironearth” on the edges to cover any unpainted parts of the bases. I also dry brushed the Space Phraints’ feet with “Martian Ironearth” to replicate their walking on the red planet and catching its dust.
When using either “Martian Ironcrust” or “Martian Ironearth”, I always use a hand-held blow dryer after to dry and crack the paint for a better effect. Now it was time to apply a matte varnish and remove the shine from the models.
I applied two coats of Vallejo “Matte Varnish” with my airbrush, allowing for 4 hours between coats. I was really happy with the results – the iridescent effect that I wanted was achieved!
I detached the Space Phraints from the bottles, and retouched their bases, but finally they were done. I decided to take some formation shots and some action shots below. For Combat Patrol™ games, I plan to have them be able to climb walls without penalty, and to be able to use two cards for movement. Additionally, to replicate their emotional state, I will have them use the Japanese deck for morale results.
I am very proud of these – it was a very large and long project.
As always will appreciate any feedback in the comments section.
Thanks for looking and as promised, here are some more photos below – enjoy!