Model Review: 1:288 (6mm) Eastern Express Antonov AN-71 “Madcap” AWACS

Summary:
The EE Antonov AN-71 is a fun, quick little build that will look fine as a gaming piece. Probably not the best overall choice for a “serious” micro-mini modeler, who will be screaming and flinging it out the window within minutes. 1:288/6mm scale makes it compatible with quite a few wargames, including Micro Armor, Fistful of TOWs, Battletech, and Robotech RPG Tactics. The limited historical deployment of this particular aircraft will hurt its utility for historical gamers, but other models in the series would likely serve them much better.
For Robotech Tactics modelers, the AN-71 is also an excellent base for an alternate version of the ES-11D “Cat’s Eye” recon – one of the guys on the Robotech Tactics Facebook group did up a conversion you can see here if you’re a group member.

Background:
First off – a little history. In 1984-ish, the Antonov company put together a bid for a new AWACS version of the AN-72 light transport airframe (NATO callsign “COALER”). It was intended to vector in ground-attack forces at the tactical level (taking the load off of the larger “MAINSTAY” and “MOSS”, which were busy handling strategic responses and combat air patrol), while taking advantage of the AN-72 airframe’s ability to make use of short, poor-quality runways and improvised airfields. While loosely equivalent to the role of an E2-C Hawkeye in USN service, the AN-71 was supposed to be a land-based design (the naval role was supposed to be taken by the Yakolev YAK-44, which never surfaced).  NATO assigned the bird the reporting name “MADCAP” after its first flight in 1985. Unfortunately, the USSR only ever made three AN-71 airframes before the economic collapses of 1986-88 killed the program. One of those three prototypes was shipped off to the Ukraine for their new Air and Space museum while they were in the process of seceding from the SSSR, which is why this particular model was originally Ukraininan.The Eastern Express company put out a series of models based on the Museum’s holdings, all nominally in 1:288 scale. Toko seems to have put out a version of the series as well, and you can find a box in the US from Imex (I got mine on the ‘bay for $4, so always check your supplier..)

The AN-71 herself is pretty unique – a STOL design that uses engine exhaust to increase lift over the wings. Unfortunately this design, while efficient, tends to be damned noisy for the poor saps inside the cargo bay, but hey. Whatcha gonna do? *(cancel it if you’re Boeing, of course. Keep using it for fifty-plus years if you’re a Russkie..)

Surviving AN-71 on display in the Ukraine

The Good: Simple, clean instructions. Good decals, although I have no need for them. Generally decent fit and polish on the kit.
The Bad: Lots and lots of flash on frame “A”. It cleaned up well after a quick pass with an emery board. Some gates on detail elements distorted the radome and tail. Shallow detail cuts had to be sharpened.
The Ugly: Does not include any parts to make closed landing gear bays. The engine mounting surfaces were poorly-designed, and the wing overall required a lot of work to mount.
Full model build/review under the cut. My apologies for the poor quality of a couple of the images -I plead being sick as hell and having a shit phone.

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More TNT house rules and weapons [This is Not a Test]

I’ve spent most of the day caring for an ailing wife and a brain-pulverizing migraine, but I did get some converting done this afternoon. More on  that shortly.
Meanwhile, here’s a second installment of some house rules I’ve been toying with these last couple of weeks. As always, these are house rules and in no way official.

New Weapon and Relic attribute:
Janky
Masterwork weapons are the best equipment in the waste. Janky gear, on the other hand, is the stuff even a Raider would think twice about picking up. Whether poorly-made, badly-maintained, or just old as Hell, the item breaks down more frequently than most. Still, it’s cheap.. and it might be easier to find a low-end relic.
Relics and Ranged Weapons with the “Janky” attribute treat a roll of “2” as a Fumble when using or Activating them.
They provide a 25% BS rebate to Ranged weapons bought at any time, or Relics chosen at Warband creation (though Relics still count their full cost towards the Warband Strength). In the End-Game sequence, a player may select a Janky relic of one higher rarity level than the one they rolled.
The “Janky” rule may be bought off if the warband has a Gunsmith (weapons) or Maintainer (Relics) by spending 50% of the item’s nominal value.
Don’t buy Janky power armor. Trust me.

New weapons:
Carbine
Str: 6—Rng 18″—Rel 2—Two-Hand—Cost: 10 BS
Modern Weapon
Special rules/notes: Hail of Lead
Carbines were far and away the most popular civilian weapon in America before the End War, and held that distinction for centuries. They combine a short, handy profile with a deep magazine of lower-caliber ammo (either pistol cartridges or light rifle rounds), and boast a fast action. The most common types are lever-action “ranch rifles” or scaled-down versions of Assault Rifles converted to semi-automatic fire, though some companies manufactured beefed-up SMGs and stocked, long-barreled pistols before the Fall as well. The Carbine’s low recoil and deep magazine make it easy to lay down covering fire, even if the weapon can’t quite match the volume of shots or accuracy of an SMG or AR firing full-auto.  They’re popular among Wastelanders who prefer to fire on the move, or with anyone who wants to get a little extra range but doesn’t want to buy (or scrounge) more expensive high-powered rifle rounds.
Note: A Bayonet may be mounted on a High-Caliber Carbine.
So, basically this is a huge-ass hole in the TNT armory. As noted above, these really are the most popular guns in America – from the AR-15 and Mini-14 to the .357 and .44 Magnum Winchesters.
With
Hail of Lead, the guns work best as suppressing-fire weapons on the move, but you can also pull off a Concentrated single shot. It also leaves the SMG and AR with their niches – massive emplaced fire. I bumped up the cost a little over the SMG because otherwise there’s really no reason to take the latter (but see below), and kept the poorer reliability to balance the volume of fire. I was torn between bumping the range up to 20″, but 18″ just seemed easier to work with.

Sawed-off Shotgun
Str 6—Rng 9″—Rel 1—One-hand—Cost: 7 BS
Modern Weapon
Special Rules/Notes: Close Range (3″), Pistol
Short-ranged and brutal, cut-down shotguns are the close-combat weapon of choice for anyone who can take the wrist-breaking recoil and doesn’t feel like learning to use a knife or bat. They also make an excellent last-ditch weapon to stop Rad Zombies or other, nastier wasteland creatures. Though most are more-manageable 16 and 20-gauge guns, larger bores are not unheard-of; before the End War, combat entry teams would sometimes use pistol-sized shotguns as “12-gauge lockpicks”. Raiders and Lawmen alike will occasionally continue the tradition in the post-apocalyptic era.
Come on, man. Mad Max has one. And don’t give me that “Large-Caliber pistol” crap, the Close Range rule is the whole point of a shotty. Plus the range of Pistols feels a little too long.

SMG – test rule (jacked from the TiNaT Facebook group)
SMGs and machine pistols are not affected by the Movement penalty. All other rules remain the same.

Riot Gun (Automatic Shotgun)
Str 7—Rng 18″—Rel 3—Two-handed—Cost: 20
Support weapon
Special Rules/Notes: Close Range, Burst
Fully-automatic shotguns are terrifying (if rare) support weapons. Their popularity with police forces and urban combat teams before the End War earned them the nickname “Riot Gun”. They’re legendary for their brutal recoil and are notoriously unreliable, but offer unparalleled knockdown firepower at close range. Auto-shotties are temperamental, with very finicky ammunition requirements, so it is rare to find a warband with one that does not also manufacture its own shotshells. They chew through ammo too quickly for Pre-war stocks to be viable, and low-quality “scrounger” rounds will foul the action or simply fail to cycle it effectively. Most are built on modified AR actions, but some were built from the ground up as shotguns with drum or tube magazines; they might resemble an out-sized assault rifle or grenade launcher to untrained observers.

God I love the AA-12, and the SPAS-12 is too iconic to miss – especially since I have an Aussie bush hunter with a SPAS-12 and some velociraptors in my minis collection..
Also, these make a great representation for the Bolters, undersized light drum-fed GLs, or out-scale “heroic” SMGs and ARs you might have in your collection.
I left this as a Support weapon because of the enormous potential firepower and the specialized training needed to effectively handle one, plus as something of a balancing mechanism. Nobody needs to deal with one of these in the hands of an Omega Mutant. Pricing it higher than the current AR was a no-brainer, of course. But the LMG has vastly superior range even if it’s
Move-or-fire, and its lethality feels on-par with the Sniper Rifle or Grenade launcher, so 20 seemed about right.

LAW (One-shot anti-tank launchers)
Str 9 — Rng 30″—Rel 2—Two-handed—Cost: 10
Support Weapon
Special Rules: One-shot (Sporadic reload rarity), Move or Fire, Anti-Armor
The LAW and its ilk are single-shot, high-powered anti-tank weapons descended from the venerable Panzerfaust. They were designed to give troopers who didn’t expect to encounter enemy armor a cheap, rugged and lightweight last-ditch weapon that outranged (not to mention out-hit..) conventional grenades. Though they had long been replaced by the Plasma Rifle in front-line American units, National Guard armories still held huge numbers of the obsolete weapons when the End arrived. Some ancient, unfired units survive to this day in the Wastes; skilled weaponsmiths have even made their own cruder but no less-effective disposable rockets to reload or replace them.
LAWs are effectively an “insurance policy” in the modern Wastes. Noting says “Bugger off” quite so effectively to a claim-jumping Preserver than seeing one of their big ‘Bots or powered armors eat a rocket, and even Psychos tend to back off once a vehicle or two explodes.
Though vastly cheaper than other anti-armor weapons, they can be hard to replace or source. Once a LAW has been fired in a campaign, the Warband must roll a Sporadic or better on the Relic availability table to re-use it in the next match. Note that a LAW does not count as a Relic for any purposes.

This is primarily intended for letting me do WYSIWYG skirmishes with some modern troopers I have in my model inventory. The Reload Rarity rule was mostly to balance out the cost – I either had to make it so cheap to get one that no-one should be without (which is silly) and >really< make it disposable, or charge a more balanced price and let it be a campaign item, and it felt like a good way to emphasize the difficulty of replacing ammo without adding on more hassle buying bundles of the damned things. Plus, if a model has a bundle of 3+, you can always just give it an >actual< ML and hand-wave it.

The Device [Terrain-making]

Basically, I got tired of dealing with simulating all of my corrugated tin/steel with cardboard. It looks.. okay. But it’s not very sturdy, and it’s all fuzzy and shit. So, a while ago I realized I could use all the pop cans I had lying around the house if I could find a way of corrugating them. What did I have? Popsicle sticks. So I tried an alternating arrangement, which worked.. sort of. With a lot of work.

Version one

Version one

This one was, of course, hilariously unsafe. Something about rubbing small sticks right together vigorously next to a sharp-ass metal edge. I did use the test pieces to make that shack a couple weeks ago, though. In the ensuing weeks I’ve gone through a couple iterations, and finally put together something that requires about the same amount of work but far less filing. Or risk of severe finger injury.
Directions below the cut.
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Additional Wasteland Deck cards, and other This is Not a Test House Rules

The following cards are playtest house rules, and of course not endorsed by Joey. Unless he does later :b

———————
The first house rule is simple – instead of basing Agility tests on Mettle, I’m using MOV. It’s worked well in playtest games so far, and undoes the silly situations where a high-MET character in heavy combat armor is somehow dodging attacks and jumping gaps that an unarmored dog with a MV of 7 can’t. It also makes the choice between +1 MV/RNG a little harder, and reduces Mettle’s position as the game’s God stat.
———————
Second, (though this was one I cooked up before the latest rules update beefed them up a bit) Flamethrowers get the Poison Gas special ability to reflect the way they kill – with carbon monoxide, not by setting you on fire. I also was testing having them automatically catch you afire with a crit.
———————
Finally, I have a number of extra cards in my poker decks (as many do), and I figured “why not make use of them?”. I tried to keep in the spirit of the game, while also making some stats/items that the original Wasteland deck ignores available.

Advertisements (non-card-related)
The character sees something twinkling in the rubble just out of reach.
○ On a successful Survival (TN/10) test, the character finds some pretty, but worthless junk. Choose one: You may either gain the effects of the Barter skill for the next d3 games, or the warband gains 1d3 Shiny Objects for free
○ Failure: It was a trick of the light; the character finds nothing. They return from the wastelands discouraged with 1d6 BS in scrap.
○ Avoid: Fearing a trap, the character scavenges elsewhere, and finds a stash of old canned food worth 1d10 BS.

Advertisements (Card-related) –
A youngster on their own, impressed by your reputation, approaches the character seeking a mentor..
○ On a successful Mettle test (TN:10), a Rank-and-File model of your choice joins the band for free. If the searching character has the Fearful Reputation  general rule, they will automatically pass the test.
Note: Cannibal warbands may simply capture and eat the aspiring badass; treat as one captured enemy casualty for Upkeep purposes.
○ Failure: They were just a grifter – the character was rolled! The youngster steals one randomly-determined item from the character and disappears back into the wastes.
○ Avoid: You’ve heard that cannibals and muties use decoys as scouts or to lure the unwary into traps. Maybe someone should know about this. The character warns a passing caravan of their suspicions, and the grateful guards pass the hat. Gain 1d10 BS.

Rules cards (how to play poker, Old Maid, &c.):
Rooting through an overturned bookcase, the character finds a legible self-help book!
○ They may attempt to use it with a successful Int test (d10+MET/TN 10); if successful, roll 1d10 on the following table.
1: Mental Health and You – the character may either cure one psychological condition in your warband (Frenzied, Hatred, Dumb, Coward, etc.) that the model gained as the result of an injury, or the finding model gains the Brave skill for free.
2: Ballistic Calculations for Dummies – Gain Range Finder or Fast-Tracker skill for free; if the model has both, add +1 to the character’s RNG stat.
3: Recipes for Anarchistes – Choose one ordinary (non-Relic) grenade type, or an Aerosol Gun; the model gains it for free.
4: Tinkering with Firearms (Without Dying)Gunsmith or Field Strip skill (your choice). If the model has both, gain +1 RNG.
5: The Biscuit Scout’s Handbook – Gain the Survivalist or Trekker skill for free; if the model has both, increase its MOV by +1. If the model has the Soft-Bellied ability, remove it instead.
6: How to Win Friends and Influence Puppies  –  The model gains the Animal Handler special rule. If it already possesses the skill, pick one model in the warband with the animal  type; it gains +1 MET.
7: Kung Fu in Thirty Days or Less – Choose one: the model gains either the Flurry of Blows skill in melee when using fists or improvised weapons, the Spring-heeled skill, or +1MEL when using Fists and Improvised Weapons
8: You’re Awesome, I’m Awesome – Choose the Assertive or Confident skill; if the model has both, gain +1 MET.
9: Pump Yourself Up – Gain the Brute or Muscular skill for free, or +1 STR
10: Ladies’ Home Surgeon –  Gains the Medic General Ability for free, or you may cure one permanent physical injury on any model in the warband. If it gains the Medic ability, the model will cost one additional BS in all subsequent Upkeep phases (doctors are in high demand, after all..).

Note that this result may give the character skills or abilities outside their normal options, but it still cannot increase their skills above the normal limits. As with leveling, if none of the above options are usable the character may gain one allowable skill or a point in any stat (or advance in rank if they are at max stat points).

○ Failure: This looks like bullshit.. The book is a fraud, and the character sells it for 1d6 BS back in town.
○ Avoid: Reading is hard. The character sells the book for 3D10 BS to a more literate collector.

Making 28mm Asphalt Roads [Modern/Post-Apoc]

Following on from a post over at Tabletop-Terrain about making roads with self-adhesive floor-tiles, I swung by the Home Depot (gotta love that 10% veteran’s discount) and picked up a sample of this shit – TrafficMaster “light brown travertine” SA vinyl. Given that it’s running less than $1/square foot, and each square foot makes two 12″x6″ road sections, this is going to be a about half the price of my previous favorite option – Ikea “Avskild” cork placemats.

Before I break down the advantages of each, I figured I’d put up a quick shot to show you the texture of the vinyl tiles versus the cork.
• Ikea Cork sheeting, painted as concrete (from the Airbase Toblerone project).
IMG_20160605_213622_431
As you can see, it’s got a pretty fine texture, even on the smaller bunker. Good for concrete, but it’s not really my favorite on the asphalt front. The surface tearing is nice and chunky, and the edges wear pretty well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the commissioned road set I did a few years ago, but we’ll go over my experience with them below.

•Trafficmaster tile, inked and uncut (I just slapped some India ink on with a wet rag and took a photo here without cleaning the tile first: the pale spots appear to be greasy areas from previous handling..).

img_20161030_151202_887Here we’ve got a much more irregular surface, and it’s already very reminiscent of weathered asphalt even with the pale spots and brown undertone. It is, however, a thin sheet of plastic – less than .25mm – laid over a ~1.5mm rubber sheet. That may make larger areas of surface damage look less realistic unless I cut out the undersurface and hammer the surface plastic down into the “damage” pattern, or fill them with basing ballast.

So, what’s my take so far?

Cork sheeting

Advantages –
Realistic surface damage (for both asphalt and concrete). It’s easy to sink in some paper clip wire to simulate rebar on a broken section, or a small piece of low-gauge copper cable/plastic pipe for other conduits, which dresses up the edges nicely.

Multi-purpose. Crumbled scrap bits make great rubble. You can face a chunk of foamcore or stiff card with the cork and get a plastered concrete surface in minutes – one that’s also easy to trash and make look good.

Super-easy to work. Cutting, fitting, and weathering the cork bits for both of the pieces in the pic above took me about two minutes.

Cheap. Granted, both of the materials have that going for them, but it bears repeating; this stuff costs about 75c/ft^2.  In other formats, unfortunately, that’s not so true – a straight-up roll of cork from a craft or art store can be more along the lines of $5/ft^2.  And there’s a certain amount of wasted material because of the rounded edges of the Ikea stuff and the weird size.

Disadvantages –
Poor surface sealing coupled with moisture sensitivity. You have to paint PVA or another sealant onto cork, or it has a nasty tendency to swell. That flakes off paint. It also behaves oddly when painted unless you seal it – soaking in some colors, repelling others, and generally being a pain in the ass. Plus, again, it can swell or crumble without sealant while you’re painting it, screwing up your effects or damaging the piece.

Fragility – the same thing that makes it easy to work makes it hard to store. Cork works best as a facing on top of another material, like heavy card or styrofoam. In storage, dropping or bumping the container can shatter off a large chunk of cork, and the pieces frotting against each other in the box will not just wear the paint but tear chunks out. That means you need padded storage and rigid containment, which reduces the amount of stuff you can store in a given space. With roads it’s less of a problem – you can wrap them in cheap felt and glue a sheet of craft foam to the edges of the box – but storing a large building is a >massive< pain in the ass

It just doesn’t look like asphalt at larger scales. With a good paintjob, you can pass it off pretty well at 6-10mm, and I’ve seen some guys make 15mm look decent, but at 28+ it looks like shit unless you work it as concrete. How many cities or highways do you know of that use concrete for the roads? Yeah. It’s fine for sidewalks and warehouse floors, but not roads.

Vinyl Tile

Advantages –
Tough as hell. I did a few experiments with a painted chunk, slapping it edge-on against a desk and flapping the piece back and forth. Paint held well, and even the section I stripped the vinyl from seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately, rubbing the painted sides together did do some paint damage, so I’ll still need surface protection, but rubbing gently with stiff, sealed card didn’t do too much damage. I think I may be able to get away with just peeling and sticking the flooring sheets onto posterboard and using that as layer protection; for more on that, see “conclusions” below.

Great surface texture. I mean, look at that pic again. That’s literally a thirty-second swipe of india ink – not a damn lick of paint – and it already looks like a road.

The sheets are a better shape and size than the Ikea mats I’ve been using, which means there’s less waste. Basically with cork I got two 6″x16″ chunks of straight road, or two 12″x8″ sections. Lots of room for a shoulder, but the roads also wound up looking unrealistically wide compared to 1:43 or 1:48 cars (let alone the figs). Of course, I could trim off that extra couple inches on each side and use to make sidewalks and curbs or building parts, which was pretty cool. With the vinyl I get four 6″x12″ straights, nearly quadrupling the yield per dollar spent.

On that note, the sheets are even cheaper than cork, especially in bulk; I can get ten 1’x2′ sheets for under twenty bucks. So for the same $20 I can get either ten sections of road with sidewalks/shoulders, plus 2 intersections per road section I drop, or forty sections without sidewalks. Sections that require less reinforcement and storage area.

Properly painted, it also looks like facing stones. With a little work, it’d be great for adding a “sandstone” texture to the lower floors of Foamcore ruins, which means I still have an outlet for scraps. Cork does have an advantage, though, in that crumbled bits of cork will look great just tossed on a rubble pile, where this will require trimmed and (roughly) squared sections of the scrap rather than “whatever’s left”

Disadvantages –
Heavier, by a substantial margin. Each sheet weighs about half again as much as one of the placemats, making it harder to transport on foot/bus.

Harder to weather and simulate surface damage – as I mentioned above, just picking the surface off reveals a chunk of rubber, which has a terrible texture. So you have to backfill the holes with basing ballast, or find some other way of getting an interesting texture instead of smooth cuts. That adds working time as well, which seems to be compensating for not needing to seal each individual piece.

Harder to work – This shit is dulling the HELL out of my boxcutter, and straight-up snapped a #11 Exacto blade within 5 cuts. It’s also tearing the shit out of my leatherworking swivel knife, which is why the boxcutter is getting an outing. I also can’t slap it up on the deck of my paper-cutter to just slice off straight sections, which means breaking out the rulers, square, and compass.

Floppy – A disadvantage both share, but the higher weight of the sheeting makes it more noticeable. I’m gonna need to give these a stiffer backing to keep the paint on, even if it held reasonably well in the basic tests.

Surprise contestant:
EVA (Craft) Foam
Advantages:
Easy to work, soft, multi-purpose.

Disadvantages:
Poor surface texture, floppy, fragile, and more expensive than either. Worse, it’s sensitive to heat and to spraypaint, so it’ll need sealing.

ConclusionsI’ll definitely keep using cork for my own street/postapoc projects, but I’m about to add a lot more vinyl to my toolbox. Given the properties of both, I’m thinking of using an 8″ wide strip of black posterboard, with the vinyl laid on top (using its own adhesive) as a road bed and either cork sidewalks or ballast to simulate gravel shoulders. I could also take strips of foamcore and cut out roadbeds from the center ( just leaving the bottom layer of card), and mark up curbs/sidewalks onto the raised edge sections. The foamcore method is almost certainly going to be the way to go if I’m making bridges/overpasses, unless I can convince that guy in the Makerspace to let me use his laser cutter on some MDF or hork up for the Hirst Arts bridge mold..

Quick, Cheap Skirmish Horde Basing; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hole Saw.

So, one of the problems you’re inevitably going to face as a wargamer is simple – you’re gonna run out of bases one day. A lot of companies sell their minis with “integral” display bases that aren’t worth a damn. Especially the cheap shit – Wargames Factory, Reaper, lookin’ at you here. And of course, these aren’t cut to fit on GW’s patented slotted base. The hole’s easy to cover, but still more of a pain that you really want to deal with – not now that GW is charging in excess of a buck a base, anyway.

So I’ve started manufacturing my own, at least for the “horde” models. I put together this tutorial to help you make your own quick, cheap bases in large quantities. Short version is, forty bases cost me ~$2.15 using existing tools (about $30 worth). It’s about the same price as mail-ordering MDF stuff, but you get it now and don’t have to pay shipping..
Tutorial below the cut.
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Reversing the Apocalypse: “Un-ruining” the Mantic 28mm Brick terrain set

I picked up the Mars Attacks! brick ruin terrain boxed set a year or so ago, while I was on my last Fallout kick. The sci-fi kits they put out were pretty cool, and I liked the way those fit together, so I snagged a couple of the MA! ruins boxes on sale from the LGS, hoping they’d fit the good old zeerusty Fallout aesthetic. They were.. not the most impressive. A couple of connectors snapped off while I was doing test fitting, and there were a huge number of “samey” pieces of ruin. That tends to make everything look a little too planned for a crumbling town (in particular, the three identical un-shattered glass doors, and all the identically-busted windows). The clip-together system also leaves huge unsightly gaps between pieces, and glaring holes in the models’ texture that would require filling. Plus they were a garish salmon-orange-pink. So I knew that if I put these together I’d either hate them or have to give up on the modularity that was supposed to be the kit’s selling point.

Instead of doing either, I got annoyed with it in the planning stage and stashed it in the back of my closet with the rest of my unloved but usable gaming crap.

Today I’ve been inspired by the work of the gent over on Tabletop Terrain to give my 20th-C brick a second look (he’s got a couple of really cool posts through that link showing his own work on it). He fixed the gapping problems and the clip-holes quite handily. As I said, however, the biggest thing that bugged me personally was the uniformity of the busted bits, along with how small most of the pieces are. Some are barely big enough to make a blasted corner sticking up out of the rubble, and only have 1-2 clip holes. That makes building walls and linear terrain much harder. Plus, I want a couple of vaguely intact buildings to fuck about in. The best part about Necromunda and Mordheim was always the massive, multi-level terrainscape; I want to get some of that feel with my own This is Not a Test tables. I know Mantic offers actual un-ruined sets, but most of them don’t actually give me anything over what I already have. In particular, the roof tiles look shit and they have no models with plain, open windows – everything’s a thin layer of tough, orange plastic I’d have to saw out anyway. I might pick up their Convenience Store for the windows, but really their setup is pretty janky and this is more about salvaging and getting the most out of what I have. Kinda appropriate for a post-apocalyptic project, if you think about it..

So I set about restoring what bits I have and planning out new ones – the roofs are going to have to wait for a bit.

One of the first things I noticed was that the “Accessories” sprue has some pretty cool bits on it that aren’t actually on any of the buildings Mantic offers – a different dustbin, beer kegs, a better-looking paneled door – so I plan to might wind up separating a few of those off and repairing/recasting them for scatter terrain. That door is >definitely< going under rubber, although I’m going to have to make it as a “face” mold since the other side is covered by crates and reinforcements.

accessories-linear-terrain-annotated

Annotated to show some of the nifty salvageable bits here

accessories-cool-door-in-barricade

Almost the same size, and you can’t tell me this isn’t cooler…

The park benches are too difficult to cast, and I can make my own, better-looking ones more quickly and cheaply with coffee stirrers and wire anyway, but the road signs and 50s-style lamps are badass.

I also did a basic repair on the main panel.

I had the sneaking suspicion that one of the smaller “ruin” pieces would match up fairly closely to the missing chunks of the largest panel. None of them did exactly, but a couple were pretty close. This was the best fit.
main-panel-tracing
I traced the outline of the larger wall on it with a sharpie and got to work with the ol’ razor saw (this stuff is a little too stiff to cut with the X-acto, although my heavy boxcutter is decent for trimming), and an emery board.
main-panel-traced

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they're wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they’re wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

Anyway, I sanded until the model hit a decent temporary fit, then clamped it into a pair of other walls as an alignment jig and sanded until it fit cleanly and without real effort before I glued it. I also lightly sanded the surface of the piece – like a lot of these hard-plastic wargaming models, it warped slightly while cooling and I want the recasts to be as clean as possible.

main-panel-fit-and-glueNext up is making a quick-and-dirty epoxy mold to transfer and repair the brick texture from the other side and replace the two bricks in the middle.

After that I have a couple of ideas, but given how shitty this plastic is to work with I think I may just cast up quick-and-shitty molds of the main unique wall sections instead of building off of what I have.

Said larger bits of ruin

Said larger bits of ruin

One of the cooler things is that the door piece aligns in a couple of different ways with the window-walls. With proper castings and a little elbow grease these ought to break up a lot of the monotony of the set.

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with the paneled door

Side alignment with the paneled door

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

The bay window will be kind of a bitch, but at least I can get my brownstone on in a reasonably attractive manner. Floors will be super easy, just joisted coffee stirrers with a little filler on top, and I think can get away with using the floor separators as a frame to hold on upper levels since I’m not going to be using the Mantic clips to hold the structures together.  Given my ongoing mold hold-out rates, this ought to give me enough casts for a couple reasonably-sized buildings to play in and beat the shit out of in a slightly less-regular manner than they probably intended.

Pirate conversions, and more Black Widow work (TotBWC, Battletech)

So, I’ve been much more productive these last couple of months than usual. Part of it’s getting on the right meds for a change, part of it’s completing the better part of a year’s worth of therapy for my ADHD. Now I’ve got time to work on something other than fixing my headspace, I’ve been working my ass off on my project backlogs. It hasn’t really made it onto the blog, since a lot of my projects have just been aimed at unfucking my house or otherwise not hobby-related, and I haven’t been in the mood to write for a while either. But now it’s too hot for carpentry, so back to the keyboard we go.

Right now I’m working on my massive post queue; I kept starting posts and then abandoning them to the ether after twenty minutes over the last year or so, and now I’m going back and finishing them – or adding on the stuff that I quit writing to do and never got done.

This is one of those posts – a selection of the ‘Mechs I converted/prepped/repaired in the course of three days back in June. I had to pull a couple back for QC (like the Bounty Hunter), but it was a lot of fun.

Overall production

Left to right, front to back:
Front row: SHD-2D “Vang” custom Shadow Hawk (This one is a little surprise for the mission “Leave No Survivors“; check below the break for the tech readout. It’s a beast), Stinger, Crusader, converted GRF-1S “Steiner”.
Second Row: Stinger, converted Wasp (left-handed, with a Recon Camera, two Vehicular Grenade Launchers, and a Small Laser replacing the missile system), an ICE Thunderbolt (modified from Steve’s design in 3063, see below the cut), a dressed-up Griffin with a Dougram Bushmaster’s linear gun, and a stock WHM-6R for the Santander Killers.
Third Row: two stock Wolverines, plus a Shadow Hawk converted to a Wolverine standard. See below for the parts breakdown. After that there’s another upgunned Griffin and a reposed and cut-down Stalker for the pirates (I’m using the stats for the lightened 80-tonner with it).

IMG_20160605_213303_957Detail pics:
Here’s some slightly better shots of the four who do me proudest.
SHD-2D “Vang”: Added another Dougram light Linear gun (the ML on the Shadow Hawk) from my gashapon collection, and put on a light SRM from the same source. The over-the-shoulder gun is the Large Laser I took from the Thunderbolt, mounted on a small part from a MW Clix mini. I recarved the area next to the head to remove the original grenade pack and plugged the SRM holes in its “collarbone”.

SHD-2 “NISE* Wolverine”: So, I’ve always disliked the way the Wolverine looks (heresy, I know. Shut up.). I scored a 3e plastic Shad on Ebay for $1 since the backpack gun was damaged and the laser had broken off. And I figured “Why the hell not? Someone’s gotta get a Command ‘Mech out of this, and pirates seem like the folks to do it”. First I rebarreled the arm laser with a bit of wire and some Green Stuff, then added a spare Command Destroid pack to the back in place of the AC. I mated the AC receiver to a barrel cut from scrap from a WH40 Basilisk fighting platform railing and a short magazine made from plasticard, then mounted it under the fore-arm. It’s hard to see, but there’s a small finger guard attached to the hand-grip. The missile rack is a carefully re-cut pair of SRMs from a JES-1 carrier. I also filed off the VGL mount on this one, but left the gap clear for the backpack SRM to shoot through.
This is going to be the leader for Recce lance of 2 Coy, Santander’s Killers.
*From the Gundam fandom. Refers to a “mocked up” or faked version of a ‘Mech using another’s chassis; the original NISE Gundam used a GM chassis.

TDR-6FX1: I like diesel Thuds. You like Diesel Thuds. We all like ’em. So this was an easy rebuild choice for another E-Bay rescue Thud. The shoulder mount is a pair of Dougram Linear guns, cut down and reinforced, with a Locust-like arm pod made from plasticard and a plastic rod. The arm got a Wolverine hand-gun from a WVR-6M conversion I did ages ago for a buyer, plus a shield from an MS-06F Zaku II that I had converted to a Zaku I. The smokestacks are made from sprues, and I sculpted a simple engine and heat sink into the back (as well as the laser pack space in the front). Given that these things are supposed to be like forty years old by the late Jihad, I busted her up a little bit too.

GRF-1S: This is a simple up-gunning, using components from a Roundfacer “Korchima Special” as well as a RRPGT Defender radome and some cord.First I cut away the shitter guns that come with the vinyl 3e minis, then carefully sawed in the detail on the legs and re-carved/sculpted the shoulder and side of the head. I added a small “reactor pack” on the back using a casting taken from a AAA battery, and wired it up to a recast Roundfacer gun. I tried a couple different components to dress up the other side of the pack, but the radome just seemed to fit so well. On the other side, I’ve mounted a smaller missile launcher, taken from a Dougram gashapon. Oddly, given how much time and effort I sunk into the others this one is still my favorite-looking.

 

The Future:

Painting to come once I finish allocating to the various forces in the book, though I already have homes for the Stalker, “NISE” Wolverine (both to the Killers), Thud (Canopian militia), Stingers, Vang’s SHD (Draconis March Militia), and Griffins (One each to the Donegal Guards, Killers, and Black Widows). On the shelf I’ve got some converted Archers, Pixies, the Bounty Hunter (3015), a few Valks, and the Dougram gashapon to fiddle with, plus a fuckton of vees.

Record sheets:
Below the cut, with some quick commentary on the design process and ideas behind them.
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Airbase Toblerone: Part one (Battletech, Robotech Tactics)

As promised (two weeks ago -_-;;) here’s some WiP shots of the terrain I’ve been working on. I got a fire lit back under me while working in the local makerspace with one of the guys on some really basic foam-cork stuff, and started back up on one of my long-term stalled projects; a fully-fleshed out 6mm Drop Port and/or HPG station for Battletech and Robotech Tactics. The wall and command bunker entrance here come from that session.

Ha Shi Dao complex front

“But what’s the ‘Mech, Doc?” Come back tomorrow for more..

IMG_20160605_213655_604 They’re loosely based on the Hai Shi Dao defense emplacements from Steel Battalion (Christ I love that game), and depicted as shelled and partially knocked-out. The intact emplacement on the left in the bottom pic is going to be getting a twin-AC/10 emplacement later. I really wanted to get a kind of “churned and barraged” feel, so I referenced a couple paintings of WWI battlefields for the ground colors on the main emplacement. You can also see a partly-overgrown crater with bits of a tree in the foreground of the piece.

Airbase step 2

For the main buildings, I rooted out one of my old ERTL Space Shuttle kits for the EuroLab components and the  GPS satellite payloads (I’m converting the Shuttles themselves into mini-Leopards, but that’s another post) to make the Quonset huts and barracks. The Command Center is a fighting deck from a Warhammer 40k Basilisk that I’d converted to a direct-fire SP gun, along with a few resin scrap components and a Cardassian comm screen from an old Star Trek figure. All are mounted on 1/8″ foamcore. The beveling was done roughly with a sharp hobby knife.
The gate towers are each made from half a Toblerone package (which I’ve been wanting to do for ages), scrap from the “Storage Units” that I got from the Burn In Designs kickstarter as ‘Mech hangars, and bits from a trashed Mechwarrior DA figure I used for parts on an N-scale kitbash. The bay windows are simply cut from mini blisters. These are still waiting on internal floors for the third deck and some catwalks against the back wall, as well as armament for the towers. I’m focusing on the plastic buildings at the moment, so I can get as much as possible put away before doing any more heavy conversion lifting.

Airbase progress 10 Aug 2016Current status after base-coating.
I sealed the foamcore with PVA glue, then added sand and flocking with another couple coats of glue before spray-coating. No melting, so I must have done it well enough..
You may remember the turrets here from my casting tutorials (link to first post here). I’ve since converted a few of them to laser and missile turrets, as well as a massive mini-missile rack and a “mechaturm” based on the old German Panzerturms. The turret torso is from one of my own “Shortbow” custom FrankenMechs. The readout below is just for the “factory” option, since making a Franken proper is a massive pain in the ass.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit. Enough sinks to fight, ammo for days, and no armor to speak of. It’s perfect!

 

Remaining for this project: Doll up the Burn In Designs modules and the Toblerone Towers, prep the power center and fuel farm (I have the parts, just haven’t put them together) and make a blast shield for droppers.

Quick Robotech Tactics update

Palladium finally put up the paper minis they’ve been promising for literally over a year on Drivethru RPG.

There are still problems with the assembly instructions, but those are also now up for every unit in the game instead of just a couple.  I’m hoping to find the time to print a few up and see how they look in a few, but right now I’m more interested in another project. More on that in a bit.

General update (BT, LotFP, RL)

Been away for a while, and while I’ve been getting a lot done in meatspace I just haven’t had the right kind of energy or focus for extensive writing these last few moons (I’ve still posted a bit on tumblr and the LotFP G+ groups, just not enough material/fucks to hack at the KB here for a while) . Not to mention, I haven’t been getting much if any table time in (although that’s changing), so there really hasn’t been much to write about.
Oh, and my fourth wedding anniversary is tomorrow.
So.. general update time.

 

On the blog front:
Went back and fixed some broken links as well as doing minor edits to a couple of posts as playtesting shakes out. Notably, Camo Specs Online (the BT color reference site) went down and had to completely restructure, so I had to fix all those links. I bumped all my drafts to the top of the queue to see what’s salvageable.
I’m also going to be revising the sidebar links and adding a few new cool people to the list, as well as removing dead sites. If you happen to see something let me know.

Kickstarter updates:
Got my copies of World of the Lost, Towers Two, and England Upturn’d. All are amusing in their own ways. Reviews as can be arsed.

Robotech RPG Tactics continues to be a mass clusterfucking event, with Palladium now weeping crocodile tears about how hard it is to make new sprue layouts while promising us the same shit they have been since Wayne stopped talking last year. Kevin got hit by a truck and people were celebrating in the comments because at least the header on the Pallladium updates changed for a week. I need to get a few more items before continuing work on the build reviews for the Archer/Spartan, Warhammer/Tomahawk, and Longbow/Phalanx.

The Skyway Project buildings are fucking awesome.

Gameplay updates:
Got my friend A. into BattleTech, and we’ve done a couple of training fights now as well as dicking around watching ’70s and ’80s Real Robot anime. Much fun was had, and BATTLETECH occurred

Ran a picaresque game with Scenic Dunnsmouth for my folks on the 4th, using the characters from the Thanksgiving game as well as a couple new rolls. It got cut off right after a Big Reveal ™, but at a place that allows adding or subtracting characters as necessary. Play report shortly, along with house rules in use.

Meatspace projects: (project logs in line for several of these)
I’ve successfully sorted nearly 20 years’ worth of loose papers – including DM notes, half-finished projects, dead campaigns, and reference files. All of my gaming books are likewise sorted. I built new display shelves for my desk out of a deceased bookcase, and I’ve cut the panels for a chemical and paint storage rack as well.

One of my friends bought a folk-banjo at an artist’s garage sale, and I’m pretty sure I can do one. So I’ve salvaged most of the materials and gotten some tools together; just need strings and elements for the neck. I’ll be blogging my progress as it goes.

Finished one large piece of 6mm terrain. It’s a busted wall based on the shore defenses in Ha Shih Dao in the first missions of Steel Battalion. I also mounted and prepped a half-dozen California Base Turrets, along with a surprise FrankenMech Mechaturm, a massive wall, an assortment of bunkered buildings based on the ERTL Space Shuttle labs and sattelites, and some Quonset huts.

Painted and/or prepped a huge number of models for the Black Widow project. Photos coming this afternoon.

Bought a hardcopy of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and soft-copies of various BT books (IntOps, CampOps, RS:Industrials, CM:Mercs).

I’ve built up some post-apoc minis for This is Not a Test, and grabbed an assortment of terrain. I also organized and repaired/re-stored all my modular terrain systems. I have a shitload of terrain.

Finished another few props for the local theater folks, including a Kodak Brownie 1880’s model and a couple of books.

Joined the local makerspace, and I’m likely going to be teaching a class on scratch-making half-timbred buildings for Mordheim and the like. Watch this space for deets.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

End of an Era (40k, Sisters of Battle)

I don’t talk much about Warhammer on here, simply because I don’t play it any more, but I used to be an avid – even tournament-level – player. I have almost a full maniple of Space Marines with armor and scout support, a very large cultist/IG force based around Necromunda Eschers and converted IG, some Inquisitorial forces, and various uncompleted vehicles, even an entire unfinished army of Dark Eldar and AdMech. But they’re not really what this is about.

Last year, I sold my Ulthwe’ Eldar to a friend. Then again, that army never really got off the ground as far as I was concerned. I had a couple of cool conversions in the force, but I really made it (back in the halcyon days of 3rd edition) to prove a short, extremely violent point to a local metagame that had been obsessed with Swordwind armies. Nobody in the area had ever played against an Eldar swarm with shitloads of cover saves, and it ended hilariously – especially the deathball of 40 WS5 I6 Storm Guardians massed around an Avatar of Khaine. Part of that force was a converted Jetbike warlock of whom I was particularly fond, as well as a massive Seer Council – I actually owned all but one of the Farseer and Warlock models that GW had produced up until 6th edition, with over a dozen minor custom jobs. Anyway, when I sold them, I documented a couple of my conversions for my own archives. IMG_20140404_241747_286 IMG_20140404_241802_233 IMG_20140404_241813_972 IMG_20140404_241840_036Now, though.. another friend of mine has offered to buy my Sisters of Battle.
Sisters are what got me into WH40k, specifically the infamous image of the Palatine crushing a skull under her boot as she advances from the cover of the 2e Sisters ‘dex. They were my first and last love in the game, and they kept me playing through a decade and four editions. I have hundreds of painted sisters and over a dozen vehicles (all based on the old Rhino chassis). At the same time, I’m never going to wind up playing again. It just feels insulting to the Girls to leave them in a box for the rest of forever, especially since they’ve won me many tournaments and dozens of friendly games (not to mention, of course, dying hilariously in dozens more).

Those desultory photos I took for my Eldar just won’t do it for the girls. So over the next week or so I plan to photograph my models, share some memories, and talk a little bit about my games with them and my experiences as a Sisters player over the years. I’m heading off to set up the lightbox later tonight, and we’ll go over the squads and my notable conversions  as I post them.

For the Archive: Solaris Stable Tag Match (Battletech)

I was reminded of an old game mode I used to run years ago by a stray comment in /btg/ – Anon wanted to know what BV levels we preferred, and it came back in a flash.

The Stable Tag Match works best as a mid-season exhibition match or a semi-finals match if you’re doing a full-on AccountantTech Solaris season (and really, there’s no reason not to). It’s sort of a modified Grinder, but flashier, and it makes for a fun demo game. It’s also very much a make-or-break event for the smaller stables, where you have a chance to deal – or receive – crippling economic harm against the competition. I recommend playing it as a double-elimination tournament over a couple of weeks, but with small stables you can sometimes get away with running it as a full-day event.
There are also some other rules in here that I’ve used for most of my Solaris seasons, like the “Face/Heel” bonus purses (see Crowd Support).

Resources:
First things first: you’ll need the April Fool’s joke product XTRO: Royal Fantasy. It reprints all the necessary material from the old Solaris VII boxed set for free, including the map-sheets. You can even print them off in double-size if you want to use Dark Age clix minis, which I’ve done in the past to kick up visual interest in the game. Alternately, you can try to hunt up the Solaris map pack, but that’s been out of print for a good while. The scenario was initially designed for the Steiner Coliseum, but I’ve also used it in the Reaches, the Jungle, and the Factory to good effect.

You’ll also need at least four tag-out markers. I’ve used bottlecaps (good beer makes for good Battletech), Blip markers, repainted Krazy Glue bottle protectors with an LED in the tip, and cardboard hex markers with the word “TAG” on them in large friendly letters.  You can also add 2-hex-wide doors, one per player (I used Space Hulk bulkheads) to the edges of the map, representing the entrances at the edges of the arena.

Hiring Duncan Fisher is advisable but probably prohibitively expensive.

Force Selection:
Matches may be ‘Mech-only, or mixed, at the option of the organizers. The points limit is the total fieldable BV of the smallest stable in the Season, or an arbitrary value between 2,000 and 5,000 BV.  If playing with Stables during a season, the smallest stable(s) use their entire available force. The other stables must field ‘Mechs or other combatants, to the nearest 250 points (NOTE: You can go over, but only if you don’t have any units with a BV lower than the overrun. This is to keep you from winding up 500+ points behind because you can’t quite squeeze in a Light).
For single matches, the forces chosen must all be under the points limit.

Special Rules:
Tagging Out: If a ‘Mech successfully lands a physical attack on one of the “TAG” markers, the ‘Mech is swapped out with another unit from the owning player’s stable at the beginning of the next turn. Vehicles, infantry, and battle armor need simply remain in the same hex through the physical phase. The new unit is swapped directly on the tabletop with the old one, being placed in the same hex but with any facing the player prefers.
Tag Markers count as one vehicle for stacking purposes. They may be inset into one of the walls in a cramped arena, such as Ishiyama, at which point non-Mech units need only spend the physical attacks phase adjacent to the marker to tag out in this case.

No Tag-backs: If the player has more than two usable units, a unit may not tag-out with the most recently-used unit.

Forced Withdrawal: A unit that has been subjected to Forced Withdrawal must retreat to a Tag Point; they may not retreat to their stable doors.

Destroyed and Surrendered Units: If a unit is destroyed, or surrenders on the field, the killing player gets one free Movement Phase. The player who lost the unit may then move its replacement onto the map from their Stable Door in the Movement Phase of the next turn.

Crowd Support: The usual rules for Crowd Support are in effect; players may not agree to ignore them for tag matches. In addition, track each player’s highest total support rating in each match. At the end of the tournament, the player who achieved the highest total score in any of the matches gets the “Viewer’s Choice” purse of 25,000 Cb per match in the tournament. You can also award Viewer’s Choice after each round in the tournament.
At the management’s option, in tournaments with more than two players you may also include a “Heel” award of 5-10,000 Cb for the player with the lowest Support Rating after each round or tournament.
Note that tagging out is NOT considered surrendering; in fact, the Crowd Support rating is increased by +1 on a successful tag, representing the crowd’s excitement to see a fresh warrior enter the battle.

Example: Emily has just finished a match in the Factory. Over the course of twenty turns, she scored mostly sixes and eights, but after a particularly spectacular kill in the twelfth round her total support rating went up to 14, before falling once again to average numbers. The GM notes down “Support: 14” next to her win on the ladder chart; this places her ahead of Mike, who got a 12 in a Jungle match in the previous round of the Tournament. Her lowest rating, a 5, doesn’t come close to Dennis’s low water mark of -3 (bad rolls, cockpit hits, and away crowds are unforgiving at times), so she’s still not in contention for the “heel” award. 

Optional Rule: If players successfully execute a “flashy” physical attack (DFA, Charge, pushing an opponent off the fourth floor of the Factory or cliff) they gain +2 Crowd Support instead of the usual +1.
 
Set Up:
The organizer places the Tag markers before the match begins. At least one should be in a concealed but difficult-to-reach location and one in a highly-visible spot; try to keep them roughly equidistant from each other. In the Steiner arena, you can also roll a d6 at the beginning of a round to see the squares in which Tag Points have popped up; there is a Tag Point on each of the related black numbers for the rest of the round. If combining this with pylons, rolling doubles means there are no tag points available, only pylons.
Place each of the Stable Door markers into two adjacent hexes on the edge of the map, spacing them out as far as possible. The Coliseum already has two stable doors; for three and four player matches, simply add two more on the far side of the map.

Each player writes down their chosen unit on a slip of paper, and then rolls initiative for the first turn. The chosen unit must enter the battlefield from the player’s Stable Doors. Play then proceeds as normal.
Stables have the option to surrender at any time after having one ‘Mech or vehicle destroyed, and must surrender if all their available units are currently subject to Forced Withdrawal. A Stable surrender is considered a loss for the round.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part III (It’s Destroid Time, With Your Friend, the Defender)

Finally, we get into the home stretch of my Wave I reviews. The Destroids are the models I bought the most of, for various battletech reasons.

Edit: Palladium Books has released updated assembly instructions for the Defender (and other units), which you can find on DrivethruRPG (here) for free.
Previous Posts: Part I, Part II
Next Posts:
I started a great photo-set with my sprues of Defenders months ago. I just burned out on dealing with the damned things when I started my first Phalanx. Wound up throwing the entire mess of Destroids into a box for a couple of months in sheer frustration. To be frank, I was getting pissed just looking at the models. That’s a very bad place to be as a reviewer, and a worse one as a hobbyist. So, yeah.

That’s really about half the review right there.
`
Generally speaking, the Destroid models are more poseable than the Valkyries or Glaug. There’s also no less Procrustean modeling, so you aren’t specifically forced to keep half the weapons in a fixed position. The joint layout makes magnetizing the arms and weapons very easy, which means you can even repose during a game if you want.
Unfortunately, they’ve also got insanely high part counts, with unsightly seams everywhere on most of the models. And, though the feet on the Defender, Tomahawk, and Phalanx are essentially identical, each sprue uses a slightly different and incompatible connection method for the ankle joint, reducing your posing options.

We’ll start off with the Defenders, because I actually have a full photoshoot prepped and ready to go (and I don’t want to keep this series on hold for the week (good Lord I was naive there) or more that prepping the other three will take)


Defender:


 

Defender Sprue obverse

Click to embiggen for assembly notes

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Issues:
Three of the four legs are missing at least one detail. Only one is complete. In addition, two of the legs have gates on top of surface detail. You’d think, with the amount of copy-pasting going on elsewhere, that the legs would at least be identical..

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four. Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four.
Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

The body is a five-part model. It has several ugly, prominent seams that must be cleaned or filled, and leave noticeable gaps in the finished model. The searchlights on my models were also miscast, with mold lines and underflow on all four side torsos.

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms. Torso searchlight miscasts.

The guns have extremely thin barrels, making extracting them without damage very difficult. Cut the bases of the gun first with clippers, then slowly cut off the barrels with a very sharp knife or saw. Preferably, add some padding behind them.
The connecting peg on the hips is wider than the hole in the torso, and must be carefully filed down to allow the model to mate properly.
The hip joint mounts on the legs force them into very specific angles, but can be easily (if carefully) modified to allow other positions.
There is no mounting point for a Command Destroid modification on the Defender, and the only position in which it “fits” interferes with both the arm placement and the radar sail. I have a functioning conversion that involves cutting down the piece into three parts and re-mounting them in the radar sail area.

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Once the parts are cut, you can mount the search radar on the side of one of the ammo bins, or up over the shoulder/gun area. I cut off the top of the right-hand bin and hard-mounted it to the torso, however, and I think it came out pretty well.
Flip around the comms package, and cut it to fit the normal radar sail mount. It won’t take too much effort, and it looks pretty good up there.

The finished product

The finished product

Good Points:
The hard, flexible plastic makes the slender guns and radar blade surprisingly resilient once they’re off the sprue. The Defender’s posing is much more flexible than most of the other models in the line. There are points of articulation at the arms, legs, radar, and torso angle – all tweakable with minimum effort.

Number of Components
:

Twenty. Body is six parts alone, the legs and arms are three each, and the hips are two-parters.

Assembly Time:
Prep cutting took 15 minutes, not counting the time required to pin and re-glue an o.7mm gun barrel. Torso and hips took about 8 minutes to green-stuff and align, including filing and prefits. Overall, the two models took about 40 minutes to assemble, plus 8 hours of Green Stuff drying time. With a sharp, very slender pair of diagonal cutters the pair would probably take ~30 minutes.

 

Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

International Tabletop Day BattleTech BatRep

Events at Sakuracon prevented the BT game I was hoping to get in last Saturday night. To compensate, we managed to get in a game at the last minute this Saturday for ITTD at Gabi’s in the new upstairs section. As a bonus, I managed to paint this Victor in a little over half an hour, while my opponent was stuck in traffic.

Yes, it's a Koffing. I'll finish the base tomorrow and get him sealed up to go with the rest of my pirates..

HE”S A PIRATE!

Deets below the break.

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Transports for Star Trek: Attack Wing (WiP)

So, Attack Wing is one of the better games Star Trek has ever gotten. It’s far from the best simulation, but it certainly scratches the fleet maneuvers itch in a way that ACTA and FASA don’t. Plus it has all-canon ships, post TNG season 1 (where FASA stops) and Animated Series (where ACTA/SFB stop). Yes, its action economy is fucked, and yes, Secondary Weapons are broken. It’s still fun to play, unlike Star Fleet Battles, if you have more than one ship. And let’s be honest, FASA’s non-canon designs are by and large complete shit.
Update: now with 200% more pictures, so you can see what the fuck I’m talking about.

FASA Ambassador top

The FASA Ambassador, designed in the middle of the second season of TNG.

Hey, that doesn’t look so..

FASA Ambassador sideOh Lord. Kill it with fire.
But today’s post isn’t about FASA, nor ADB’s “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” approach to game design. It’s about expanding Attack Wing a little.

Almost all of the STAW scenarios and OP events are based on episodes or movies. This is great if you’re a Federation player, but it eliminates many of the “classic” naval wargame scenarios. We only see a freighter in use a handful of times, for example, and a full-scale convoy attack is basically Right Out. Unless Worf needs to suffer, anyway..
One of the first problems you run up against while making freighters is the maneuver dial. Usually ships are either fast or extremely maneuverable, with Red maneuvers serving as a sort of half-assed choke on your Battleships turning like light cruisers. Freighters, on the other hand, are usually utter pigs. I realized a few days ago that the Mini-Clix dials I talked about in my Proxy Dials post would actually handle them fairly well, since they only have 12 slots.

My current test dial

My current test dial

This puts freighters at a nice, predictable 6″ average move. To put it another way, it’ll take about 5 turns of play (given a standard-sized board and set-up zones) to get a freighter off the other side of the map – or about 3 turns if you start in the middle. So, we’ve got their general piggishness and a basic parameter for the game length set out.

Cargo and Upgrades:
Thematically, Attack Wing is all about the upgrades. With that in mind, transports have a new Upgrade type: <cargo>. Some Cargo is free, others cost SP to field. If the ship successfully disengages as noted in the scenario, you gain extra Victory Points as noted on the card. If your opponent destroys or captures the ship, he gains the VP instead. The Convoy Attack scenario gives the Defender bonus points which must be spent on Transports or Cargo Upgrades (other Upgrades, if available, are paid out of your regular points allowance)

Captains with [Elite Talent] slots may not be assigned to a freighter. Nor may they be assigned any Admirals or Resource cards. Sorry, guys, they know as well as I do that’s a bad idea.

Current tentative cargoes:
Contraband – prevents attack cancelling, high VP award.
Grain – Tribbles are hilariously dangerous. Low VP.
Medical Supplies – “good guy” powers will leave you alone sometimes. Dice roll or Action? Average VP
.
Arms shipment – put a secondary weapon face-down under the card. Discard both during any Attack Step to attack with the weapon at Range 1-2, regardless of the Range printed on the card. Enemy gets the VP if you use it, High VP.
Q-Ship – Moderate SP cost. Adds AD and a shield.  No VP.
Bulk Goods – can discard to ignore a hit or crit, but the enemy gets VP for it. Low VP
Troop Ship – Add a “Boarding Party” to your ship for free, regardless of  the ship’s Upgrade limits. Instead of Discarding the Boarding Party, you Disable it instead. Average VP

===Ships===
All ships have a 90 degree forward arc unless otherwise specified. Most are in the “Light Cruiser” weight range, which means 1-2 Agility and ~3 Hull.

Federation:
Bradford-class tug. 15 SP. 1A/1D/3H/2S; [cargo] x3. “Evasive Action” and “Battle Stations” actions. AKA “Ptolemy”-class. You may notice that this is basically a demilitarized Miranda-class. This is entirely deliberate.

The original, unfinished shooting minature of the Bradford

The original, unfinished shooting miniature of the Bradford

Antares-class drone freighter. 10SP. 0A/2D/2H/2S; [cargo]x1. “Evasive Action”. Special: This card can be used without a Captain, with an effective Skill of 1. Flip over any Critical Damage cards that reference injury to the Captain or crew, and ignore their effects. This ship always ejects the Warp Core in the case of a Warp Core Breach effect.

Ortho shot of the original Antares (there's also a Miranda-class variant of the same name)

Ortho shot of the original Antares (there’s also a Miranda-class variant of the same name)

Klingon:
Heavy Freighter: 22 SP. 2A/0D/3H/3S. [cargo] x2. “Cloak”, “Sensor Echo”, “Target Lock”, “Evasive Action”. 180* Forward arc, no rear. The White 2-Left Turn and 2-Right Turn maneuvers become a Red 3-Left and 3-Right  This is almost a warship. Almost.

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Independent:
Tuffli-Class Transport: 18 SP. 2/1/4/2; [cargo] x3. “Evasive Action”.

Not a Klink heavy frieghter

Not a Klink heavy frieghter. Totally. It’s, like, way bigger you guys.

“Hammerhead” Deep Space Frieghter: 10 SP. 0A/2D/1H/1S. [cargo] x1. “Evasive Action”. (this is Batris’ ship from TSFS).

Christopher Lloyd said blowing this sucker up was one of his favorite parts of his favorite role

Christopher Lloyd said blowing this sucker up was one of his favorite parts of his favorite role

Ferengi:
For 5 SP, you can exchange any of the original Upgrade slots on a Marauder for a [cargo] slot.

Bajoran:
Bajoran Medium Freighter. 15 SP. 1/1/2/3; [cargo] x2. “Evasive Action”.

Shot of the troop transport filming model courtesy of Drex and Greg Jein (used w/o permission and all that)

Shot of the troop transport filming model courtesy of Drex and Greg Jein (used w/o permission and all that)

You may notice that Wizkids  fucked up, and labeled the transport as a fighter. The Bajoran  fighter looks like this:

same source as above

same source as above

Dominion (Cardassian):
The Dominion can use the Tuffli-class, or the Bajoran Transport, without Faction Penalties.

Still working on a Romulan option.
I’m open to comments or suggestions, so let me know whatcha think.

Images used without permission for the Fair Use purpose of education and review.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part II (Problematic Models and their assembly, and Component Quality)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series
#1: Compatibility and Scaling
#3: Destroid Defender

In addition, Palladium addressed some of the concerns expressed in this post, including making some of the excluded cards and assembly instructions available on-line (though they’re still partially incorrect)
See the post here.

By way of preface, this was supposed to be a fluff post, and take maybe a couple hours to write while I worked up test models for the game, took pics of the sprues, and noted down the hard spots for a new modeller.

It’s been a sodding week, and I’m only covering the worst offenders so far; the Destroids are on hold until I can get some magnets.

The mini quality has been, hands-down, the most controversial part of the entire game to date. Is everything shit? No, not by any means.
But all three armies (Zentraedi, Malcontent, and UEDF) get the shaft on something. The Quel-Regult is by far the worst offender, with multiple parts that don’t fit, and a missing component (see below). The UEDF player, meanwhile, gets a bit screwed by having even more models to build than the Zen player – models which take almost three times as long to build out, and have significant problems of their own. The Malcontents? The boxed set doesn’t even contain any legal units for them.
And while some of the models are a bargain, the Zentraedi get hosed on a critical component of their army.

Full breakdown after the jump.
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Review: Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave 1 Part I (Compatibility, Scaling)

This is the first post in a multi-part series
#2: Valks and Zentradi
#3: The Destroid Defender

So, I’ve mentioned my kickstarting in the past. The Robotech RPG Tactics (neé Robotech Tactics..) kickstarter was one of my first. I’ve been following this glorious clusterfuck since it was a guy on BlogSpot with a dream and a good sculpting hand. Well, a year and a half after funding (and almost three years since it’s inception) I have my models. Was it worth the wait?
The Short version:
The Good: Holy shit the detail on the models. Extra Valkyrie parts galore. A well-polished book with a tight and portable rules system I’ve already been hacking for a few months.
The Bad: The model sprues are un-labeled, and there are warped parts and missing assembly information. The partially-incomplete rulebook makes it difficult to build a force without shuffling through a massive brick of differently-sized cards, and several rules are ambiguous.
The Ugly: Deliberately bad poseability. Poorly thought-out gates on the sprues damage detail on some models, and require extremely careful prep work. Then there’s Palladium Books’ behavior.

This is the first part of a series; a quick preview, concerned with model scaling – since its the question I get most often, from every quarter. I’m also writing specific reviews of the rules and the model components; this will include build-ups of the Wave I mecha models, and a discussion of the quality and fit issues – of which I’m sure you’ve already heard.

The question everyone wants to know:
What’s that? “Doc, will the models work in [the major mecha game..]?”
Yes and no, it depends on what you want out of them. First:

The Bugs:
A properly built-up Super VF-1A or -1S will definitely pass as a PHX-1 or a Pixie LAM. Modding an extra gun-pod will make you a PHX-3-series, though it will require green-stuffing. A straight-up VF-1A or -1S without the FAST-pack will make a pretty good PHX-1K.  Based on the scale shots I’ve seen so far, Crusaders shouldn’t be an issue either once the Armored Valkyrie boxes come out sometime next year.
What they won’t do is get you the shorty Bugs – Wasps, Valkyries, or Stingers.

Family Tree

Clockwise from the top: Unseen Pewter CRD-3R, WizKids PHX-5L, 3e Plastic WSP-1A, 3e Plastic STG-3R, 3e Plastic PHX-1, and a RRPGT VF-1J in the center.

Hark - A Grognard

Gervalk VF-1J, with a dismasted Pixie. Arms taken from the Battloid-mode sprue. The pegs are mounted in different areas on each model, but can be used in either mode with a bit of time and green stuff.

The Heavies: (What everyone wanted anyway)
In general, the Destroids are more compact and detailed than the Unseen metals, and much better than the plastics. While mine are still on the sprues, CampaignAnon from /btg/ was kind enough to give me permission to post these pictures of his initial work. Phalanx and Spartan photos to follow once I’ve had the time for a build-up. I also have a lead Unseen Longbow coming in in a few weeks, which will help comparisons considerably. Notably, the Spartan box includes the parts necessary to make an ARC-3K (the variant with a pair of Large Lasers), while the Phalanx box has both the standard “Barrel” arms and the nuclear “Derringer” arms seen in the last few episodes of Macross/Robotech, perfect for representing an Arrow IV system – or Thunderbolts.

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

The Glaug is far too large for Z-scale. I’d call it a trifle small for N-scale, if WizKids had ever actually attempted anything like a consistent scale in their efforts. It almost fits in with that weird half-scale the HQ Loki and Thor from the 25th anniversary box had, but even then is in its own little niche. The Glaug sprue also contains a Quel-Regult (a scout/EWACS variant of the standard Battlepod) and a Quel-Gulnau (salvage/recovery unit), which means that the boxed set will be pointless for a BT player unless you want an N-Scale Ostscout for some reason.

"L-

The Breakdown
If you’re primarily interested in buying the models to represent otherwise un-obtainable units, the Destroid and Super Valkyrie “add-on” packs will likely be your best bet. The current MSRP is $33/box for either a box with 2 Defenders and 2 Tomahawks, or a box of 2 Spartans and 2 Phalanxes.
This is about half the price of the 3e Plastic Unseen on auction sites, and the added detail and friendlier material make them very much worth it – especially for the Phalanx/Longbow (which is very hard to find, and never saw a plastic release) and the Rifleman/Defender (the Plastech model is especially ugly and intractable). Before you cough up, however, I recommend reading the modelling review. These are still, effectively, 1:144 models shrunk to 1:285 scale, and require a great deal of effort and build time.

Legal note: all images and trademarks not owned by me are used without permission, for the Fair Use purposes of review and discussion. No challenge is intended by their use. I neither represent nor have personal ties to Harmony Gold, Palladium Books, FASA, or Catalyst Games, nor any other interested party. I am not a party to FASA vs. Harmony Gold. Thank you for your time.

Battle of Sector 001 (Attack Wing AAR)

Took part in another Attack Wing tournament, this time for the Battle of Sector 001. Brought a Klink swarm build, which was a bad idea in retrospect (all the winning builds were 90-point juggernaught setups). This time I pulled the Vorta Vor, which means no matter what I pull in two weeks I’ll finally have either a Gavroche or a Saber (since I know someone who’s trading the Gavroche off)

List:
Vor’ChA – class battlecruiser
-K’Nera (Disable crew on target or gain +1 attack dice)
– Photon Topedoes (Vor’ChA variant)
– Bu’kaH (Crew, discard to repair 2 damage)

K’T’ingA – class heavy cruiser
– Nu’daQ (Captain, converts a BS to a hit)

IKS Somraw – Raptor-class frigate
– Generic Captain
– Photon Torpedoes (Raptor variant)

IRW Vorta Vor
– Commander Charnavek (the one from “The Enterprise Incident”)
– Advanced Cloak (God I love this thing)
– Plasma Torpedoes

Counter-attack die (resource)

What I did Wrong
I assigned the wrong captains to the ships. I should have dropped K’Nera, and put a higher-skilled captain on the Raptor, or a Klink Advanced Weapon System on one of the cruisers. Swarm lists are just too vulnerable; I only need something that can survive three rounds of the hellfire the Borg drop.  Also, I dropped my 1-straight template while I was leaving the house.

What I did right
I didn’t foul any of my own ships, and did some amazing maneuvering. I even managed to tactically foul an enemy ship and then vaporize it with the Borg Cube (since it couldn’t use one of it’s bullshit “let’s stick Dominion, United Earth Space Service, Romulan, and Klingon cards on the same ship” combos). The Counter-attack die is amazing against the Borg cube once its adaptations start spiking, since they can’t defend the damage away. I managed to run down and kill a Borg Sphere, even if I lost that game by FIVE FUCKING POINTS (ahem). Incidentally, if your ships are worth less than 20 points, you actually gain Battle Points if they die and you can successfully kill the Cube or Sphere..
Bu’KaH saved my Vor’Cha twice in two games. More repair/shield repair cards, especially ones that act as a free action, could have kept me in the action and probably won the second game for me.
High-end fuckery with the Advanced Cloak made that little Warbird absolutely obscene.

What I’m doing Next Time
Really, this covers two different things. Next game will be Wolf 359 again..
Since the TO is no longer offering bonuses for making faction-pure fleets (the second prizes are now getting rolled for, which is bullshit but better than dealing with the drama “sportsmanship” prizes wind up causing), I think I’m going to put the Advanced Cloak on a Defiant for the next Battle of 001, and running a Defiant/Voyager build. As far as Wolf 359, however, the Klingon swarm actually ran quite well; I’m going to add a little more repair, and put Konmel (If ship is not cloaked, repair one shield) on the Raptor.

Although it’s damned tempting to take Superior Intellect and steal someone’s bullshit upgrades just to watch them burn. Once I have my Maquis fleet, my pretty..

What I did this Weekend (Fallout, Crimson Skies, Borderlands)

Re-installed Fallout and Fallout 2 again on Friday (from actual factual disks! Yes, kids, I’m that old..), and spent the weekend in a happy haze blasting mutants. I’m playing with a crapload of patches, of course – raw, the games are playable but lovably buggy (like everything else from Bethesda/Black Isle). You can pick up most of the patches here (link). I recommend the High-res pack, 1.02 official, and 1.03 fan-patch for Fallout, and the “Restoration” mod plus the official patch and the high-res patch for Fallout 2. The restoration patch in particular has made this a much more enjoyable experience for me, what with all the things I haven’t actually played through like 15 times before – although it did bugger up a bit; little girls have been replaced with Mr. Handies. That gave me a bit of a pause: strolling into Klamath Falls the first time, and seeing like six sentry droids running for me demanding candy and hugs. Damned near earned the Child-killer perk a mite early.

On that note, Fallout inflamed my post-apoc gun-fest itch, so I’ve done some more writing on the Guns Guns Guns! Vault-Hunter’s Brochure, finishing off the basic character generation chapter and adding in some more critters to blast. It’s still not ready for release, but another couple of days of work and it’ll be ready for playtesting.

As if I didn’t have enough on the plate, visiting brother #3 (who may be becoming a permanent roommate? Time will tell) has also reignited my raging boner for Crimson Skies. It looks like a perfect candidate for Fantasy Flight’s Flightpath system (read: X-Wing/Attack Wing). Yes, I know there’s already a tabletop system. Two, in fact, but Clix still sucks donkey balls, especially for dogfighting.

Not just for PC and XBox, folks!

Not just for PC and XBox, folks!

But I like the feel of Flightpath. The point-buy system would need slight modification, however, to accommodate the Crimson Skies Ace/Wingman unit structure. I’m thinking certain pilot cards need to be labelled as “wingman” rather than forcing all wingies to be generic. Wingies would give the flight additional abilities, even if they’re not necessarily great buys; “Brooklyn” Betty, for example, could grant an additional evade die to her flight (her constant radio chatter, her own admittedly good piloting skill) despite her abysmal gunnery skills. Nate Zachary (Flight Leader) might get bonuses as long as there’s a female pilot in the sky (lowered evade, boosted attack) because he’s a hot-rodding ladies’ man. So on, so forth. Needs a lot of hashing out, and I need to get ahold of a few more of the plastics (I only have half the plastic airframes available, need a few more to horse around with). Still, I can do a playtest with what I have right now, and it should turn out well.