Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Steam, You Steam, We All Steam For Elephants

So over on his Steelonsand Blog, Steelonsand has been working on a project to create the airship of Jules Verne's Robur. It's a pretty cool project and has gotten me looking for the books (Robur the Conqueror, Master of the World). Until I did some research I'd forgotten I'd seen the movie with Vincent Price, which was a mishmash of the two books.

I've also been on a Edgar Rice Burroughs kick, specifically around the Mars/Barsoom and Venus books, a result of a month or so of puttering around on VSF stuff.

So last weekend I decided to hit a used bookstore near me that I knew had a Burroughs' crate in the back, mainly hoping to find the first book in each of the Mars and Venus series, I have a bunch of the rest but haven't started either series since I couldn't start at the beginning..

So I did score Princes of Mars, and some Tarzans (the lost city type ones), but I hit a nice motherlode of Verne as well. Michael Strogoff, Up the Niger Bend, and Master of the World (so I'm still stuck looking for the beginning of a series!). Also there were two books, Demon of Cawnpore and Tigers & Traitors, which more in-depth reading of the back blurbs revealed to be the two parts of one novel, The Steam House.

This is a long-winded way of getting to the point: I now have a book about a steam elephant! Not just a steam elephant though, I was planning on doing some of those as Contraptions for Land Ironclads anyways, in fact someone on the Wessex Games VSF mailing list has already statted some up.

This is a steam elephant pulling a caravan of "steam houses".

This is steam-nerd heaven to the nth degree. And I never knew. Now I need a proper land ironclad version, or two in miniature.

So while I just got into a few pages last night, the internet has proved useful, and I now have some initial musings to post.

This is the edition I have:
Kind of small, I'll try to get a scan or photo of my book, but it shows an elephant-like elephant pulling an Indian-esque palace on wheels. The howdah is circular and has a couple of old school bombards sticking out the side. I'm liking this direction.

But not this one:
This looks like Mecha Godzilla or Robo-Kong, a 1930's or 1950's Art Deco steam elephant. No sense of Victorian style. So I ain't doing this version.

I'm back on track with this, from Wikipedia:
Gives a bit more detail, still a round howdah, but no signs of cannon. The trunk with steam coming out is awesome, and I found a perfect 6mm model with Irregular's MP22 Successor Elephant (top picture in the link). The rein thingy will either get cut or turned into a steering cable.

I'm going with 6mm since I want it to look behemoth-like (in the book apparently the beast is called Behemoth), and bigger than the steam elephant contraptions I'll do with Irregular's 2mm elephants. A 6mm elephant should be about 11-12mm tall, or about 3-4 stories in 2mm scale.

This also helps, although I'm not sure what happened to the rest of the caravan...
Or why it's surrounded by elephants! Maybe they're in rut and got confused.

As a backup elephant I might get a couple of Irregular's African elephants with howdahs, and I'm thinking 6mm Hussite wagons may be a starting point for the rest of the caravan, with findings etc. as decoration. I have some coupons for next week to see what I can find. I may just end up scratch-building the caravans.

I don't think I'll mess around trying to make the howdah circular though, unless I find something that's an easy fit. I'll probably just file down the figures sticking out from the top, put on a minaret-style roof, file off one shield hanging from the side and turn the other one into a gun mantlet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Well since painting and prepping are continuing on without anything sexy to photograph, I thought I'd post a link to some fun stuff that's come out from the Too Fat Lardies gang - their own Youtube channel.

In three parts they describe the basics of Sharp Practice (Napoleonic skirmish) and play a few turns showing off the system. Beware the sound sometimes goes in and out when they switch camera viewpoints, so keep the volume dial handy during episode one, but they're working on this for their next videos.

While I have Sharp Practice, a lack of mini's for that period are keeping me from trying it. However, I was able to pick up the game's basics pretty quickly from one viewing. It may have helped already being familiar with TFL games, but I think this video will help anyone interested in the rules.

In other news, the painting table is again dominated by helicopters and their bleedin' canopies. I finished the US flesh and uniforms, so per my plan then switched to the copters.

The green-tinged top windows turned out nicely, only a few touch ups needed, but I really buggered up on the gray. I'm using gray for windows on open doors and blue for everything else, and for some reason I concluded I wanted dolphin gray, as I'd used that before on my UH-60's. What I wasn't paying attention to was that I'd used dolphin grey for THE FUSELAGE of a couple of UH-60's, and a darker gray for the windscreens. Idiot, idiot, idiot. Eventually I realized the windscreens looked kinda white and repainted what I'd done, but still.

This is when you have to remind yourself "punch pillows, not walls."

On the prepping front, I've started on the Microworld fantasy mini's - really nice stuff, I'd recommend them (and for all you non-continentals, worldwide shipping is only $4 US!).

I've also been on a real VSF funk and have prepped some aeronef and land ironclads, as well as gotten to work on the setting again (it helps avoid painting canopies!). My VSF is set after Victoria (1938) but still has a real Victorian feel, with all the steampunk changes not much has changed other than the Queen's in the ground. I actually don't remember why I went that route initially but I'm good with it.

I also spent my August money on Brigade Models' summer sale, picking up more stuff for three of the four VSF angles - aeronef, land ironclads, and aether ships. Only the navies got neglected.

Anyway, hopefully some helicopter pics soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Martian Rocket Test Launch

Last week I gave one of my new Shapeways arrivals a paint job to see how things turned out, volunteering the Martians' rocket (actually an Earth R-Rocket from Pat and Walt's Spaceship Emporium) as it was going to be a pretty simple colour scheme, and would let me test out some of my silver paint.

I applied the paint straight to the WSF (White, Strong, Flexible) surface, which is the default (and cheapest) material the Shapeways products come in. As mentioned in my previous post, it is a rougher surface than metal or resin, but should look ok from standard tabletop distances.

So here's a close-up of the result (prior to sealing):

And another:
I used two different silver paints, and one metallic gunmetal paint (darker rear portion). One silver was used for the body, wings, and nacelles, the other (cheaper) for the middle portion and nacelle fins. From close up things seem a bit "sparkly", rather than a polished metal, partly because I was using craft metallic acryllics, but also because of the bumpiness of the surface.

And then a long distance shot to see what the result is from a gaming distance:
I think things look ok from this distance. I have bought some better metallic paint to try on my next volunteer.

My main lesson was I'm going to prime these, not to help with the surface but to minimize bleeding at the edges, as the material (and all the Shapeways materials, according to reports) absorbs a lot and it is hard to get hard edges on the first or second coats. So letting the primer do the bleeding will save frustration later. At least that's my theory...

Other updates...the current batch of helicopters are done except for the bleeping canopies (and decals). The next batch of helicopters and ground support planes have been prepped and primed - 39 more! F-4B's, Dragonflies, Broncos, Mohawks, Chinooks, Choctaws, UH-1B's (inc. medivac), T-28's, and probably more that I've forgotten. The Chinooks and Choctaws are the bulk of them. Some will be done as the South Vietnamese Air Force, others Marines or US Army as appropriate.

In the meanwhile, I'm taking a break from the canopies ("issue avoidance") for a couple of days to get started on the US ground forces. Last night I finished painting the bases (dirt, fallen trees, shrubs) so I'll begin with faces and hands. My research turned up about a 9:1 ratio of white troops to African-American troops, so roughly 1 soldier per squad will be black. I'll vary it from 0 to 3 to keep things interesting. Then I'll get helmets and uniforms done, then return to the canopies (and get some UH-60 canopies finished that have been in purgatory for a year), then back to the infantry. There, I've said it publicly, so I have to do it.

I also based a bunch of civilian vehicles for 3mm, once I get some sand applied to a second round of LVTP-5's, I'll prime them this weekend if the humidity stays down. My other big prepping project has been a ton of WWI aircraft. So far a bunch have been cleaned, but need to be assembled and mounted.

Then to top things off, this month's splurge was on some 6mm fantasy troops from Microworld Games. I know, I know, what happened to my 2mm fantasy projects? While they're still good, and I'm continuing them, but for more traditional fantasy, where 6mm can do the job too, I've decided to go for the larger scale. I've never been a fan of Games Workshop's practices and sometimes too-gothic tendencies, but their fantasy setting is way cool and in particular the Gotrek and Felix novels are enjoyable (I've read 4 as of about 2a.m. today).

So I ordered some of Microworld's really nice Undead and Orc troops (check out the mammoth skeleton!), enough to get started on some armies. Another thing moving me in this direction is that my rules of choice (Advanced Legendary Battles) seems to have been designed as an alternative to GW, and the army lists are pretty WHFB-esque. So for a change I don't have to mess around with things.

I also picked up one pack of their dino-riding sci-fi line, the raptor-riders. I haven't figured out what to do with them, but they're so damn nice. Ideas for them include a 6mm sci-fi faction (Hammers' Slammers is due out in 6mm so it could fit in there), weird WWII, or VSF/Land Ironclads. Even though they're 6mm, I think if you bronzed up the weapons pods, they might work at 2mm (except of course the pack I ordered, which has riders that would obviously look out of scale...sometimes I don't think things through).