Sunday, 26 February 2017

USS Matakishi: Away Team

Introduction

Many of my recent posts have been about "classic" Pulp miniatures: 1930s aircraft, archaeologists, Nazi agents and the like.  However, I've always had a hankering to do some space opera as well.  In this genre, Star Trek is probably my favoured setting (although Flash Gordon, Retro Raygun or similar has considerable appeal as well).

For quite some time, I've been quietly collecting miniatures that are suitable to represent a ship's crew or an away team.  My Klingons come from Space Vixens from Mars; it's not a huge range, but still very useful.  Other aliens are harder to come by, but I'll keep trying...


Of course, for a human-centric story, it is necessary to have Federation figures as well.  I'm aware of just a few current sources of these (excluding legacy stuff from FASA and the not-yet-released Star Trek Adventures game from Modiphius):
  • Victory Force Miniatures has a large range of "Spacefarers".  I have a number of these still in their original packaging.  One day, I'll get round to painting them...
  • Matakishi's Tea House has a small collection of what are essentially 25mm crew figures, but with a more recent 28mm Captain/Admiral sculpt.
  • There are small numbers of pre-painted, "Heroclix" crewmen available.  Board games such as Star Trek Expeditions include these, though I understand they can be obtained separately as well.
I just finished painting up my Matakishi models, so here they are.

Science


To represent the science division, we have Lieutenant Gupta and Doctor Forester.  The former is using a tricorder to look up something, whilst the latter is talking urgently into his communicator whilst wielding a phaser.  Evidently his Hippocratic Oath doesn't prevent him from at least threatening to use force on someone or something!

Command


In the second picture are Captain Hunter and his faithful assistant, Yeoman Brookings.  The captain clearly has his arms open in the universal gesture of welcome.  He hasn't put down either his communicator or his weapon, though - so he's not completely trusting ("We come in peace.  Shoot to kill"?).

Unusually, Hunter is an older gentleman with a grey beard and a bit of a protruding belly.  It's not obvious whether he is wearing a visor for medial reasons or whether he just has some funky sunglasses as a style thing...

The relatively-small yeoman is dressed in the traditional mini-skirt & thigh-length boots and has an appropriate regulation beehive hairdo.

Security


Not much point in giving these guys names, really.  Life expectancy for a security guard on an away mission is negligible...


Conclusion

The Matakishi miniatures are good figures, but somewhat dated and not really up to the standards of today's best sculptors.  But hey - all my models are just playing pieces, right?  They're perfectly acceptable as that, especially given the rarity of "not Star Trek" figures.

This is a small (but significant) start to my Star Trek collection.  In due course, I'll build and paint the Victory Force miniatures I own; that will give me the opportunity to add some alien crew members.  Not all Federation members are human, after all, so I can play with lumps and bumps on the heads as well as different skin & hair colours.

But there's still the problem of where to find suitable enemies...

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Final Flight: the Airport

Introduction

Most of my last few posts have been Pulp-related (this won't continue forever; if your interests lie elsewhere then keep hanging on and I'll post other stuff in due course).  This recent series of posts detail my preparations for the "Final Flight" scenario from the Perilous Island campaign for the Pulp Alley rules:
Aircraft?  Check.  Shady characters?  Check.  Baggage, crates &c?  Check.  That's all very well, but the scenario I'm targeting is set at an airport.  What about airfield-related buildings?  Don't worry, I've got that covered too!

Lumbasa Airport Terminal

The problem with making a model of a real airport terminal building is that they are huge!  Even a serious, metropolitan airport in the 1930's would be a very substantial affair, far beyond my intentions for game scenery.  I could go for a simple, grass field "flying club" setup, but I'm aiming higher than that.



Fortunately, there is one kit which is about the right scale and which isn't too large.  This is the Plasticville terminal, intended for O gauge model railway layouts.  There are several things about this model which make it suitable for wargaming:
  • It's relatively small; representative of a terminal building rather than strictly realistic.  The terminal is nominally scaled for O gauge layouts, but that's American O gauge (which is smaller than British O gauge) - and even then it is smaller than might be truly accurate for such a layout.  That suits me just fine!
  • The Plasticville range is at the toy end of the model railway market, rather than the finely-detailed, super accurate end.  Consequently, the parts are nice and chunky (so they won't break easily with handling) and the models are easy to assemble.
  • It's not easy to find these models outside the USA, but it can be done.  My terminal came from a model shop in Germany (via eBay) and although it cost more than I would have liked, it wasn't prohibitively expensive.



I made a few adaptations to the kit as I was building it.  The first of these are apparent here:
  1. The terminal building has been glued to a base (and I've added a separate, grassed & fenced area to hold passengers as they walk to their aircraft).
  2. I carved off the heavily-contoured "PLASTICVILLE AIRPORT" lettering from the panel over the front door.  Instead (after painting the model), I applied a home made decal for my chosen name "LUMBASA AIRPORT".  I imagine this to be somewhere in Africa, though the precise location isn't really important.



I've mentioned size before, but how does this building work with 28mm figures.  The picture above includes one such model, whom you may recognise as "Betty" from my recent Pulp Women post.  In my opinion, the doors to the terminal are a little too large,, but the building is a bit too small.  It'll do...

You can also see from the ruler that the building's footprint is about 26cm (10.25") wide and maybe 20cm (8") deep.



Here you can see another of my modifications to the kit.  The original ladder was a single piece, but I wanted to be able to remove the roof from the control tower.  I cut the ladder in two just below the level of the roof.  This left the lower part hanging loose, so I added a small piece of plasticard outside the tower window frame to hold the lower part of the ladder in position.



Finally, I made 2 cuts to the upper wall, one either side of the clock.  This freed the roof of the terminal building and meant that it could be removed for access to the inside.



So, after a few simple modifications, the terminal comes apart and allows figures to be placed in it.  Of course, I haven't added any detail to the interior of either the main building or the control tower...


Conclusion

I'm looking forward to setting up my "airport" table and playing a game on it.  Everything is ready now, I think - but I daresay that I've forgotten something...

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Pulp Women: Archaeologists and Missionaries

Introduction

My mission continues: to build a suitable number of Pulp figures from which to form a crowd at an airport (for scenario 2 from the Perilous Island scenario book for Pulp Alley).  I've shown some of the men I have collected already (here); now it's the turn of the women.

Female Archaeologists

These four figures come from Copplestone's "BC19 - Female Archaeologists" pack.  BC-19 is currently available from North Star, who have (I believe) taken over the selling of all Copplestone Castings figures.  Mind you, I'm not entirely sure what makes any of these women "archaeologists", as not one of the miniatures has a trowel or a small brush...



Henrietta Smith is a thrill seeker who relishes the chance to live by her wits, beyond the reach of normal law and order.  She likes animals, plays chess and enjoys discovering lost worlds.



Betty Pickering is the daughter of a rich Kenyan tea plantation owner.  She found finishing school in England very restrictive and now wishes to travel the world, in first class (of course).  She likes fashion, tropical sunsets and thinks that honest men are few in number.



Jean Cameron comes from a long line of Scottish antiquarians.  Somewhat more adventurous than her ancestors, she has decided to apply her talents and knowledge to some archaeological digs in the more remote parts of the empire.  She likes hard work & frugal living and abhors liars.



Cassie DeLancy comes from Ireland, though much of her adult life has been spent in the Far East.  She is quite the innocent in many ways and doesn't understand why so many men with questionable morals pursue her.  However, she is practical enough to know how to fend off their advances with a .45 pistol.  Cassie likes singing, cooking and breaking up criminal enterprises.


The Missionary


Lady Isobel Poppington is another North Star figure, though this time from their own-name range rather than the Copplestone Castings brand.  The model comes with a display base of luggage which includes a chest, African tribal mask, ivory/tusks & other souvenirs on it and is topped by a bible.  I've chosen to place this luggage on a separate base (not shown here); it will make an excellent plot point or piece of scatter terrain in games of Pulp Alley, Congo or the like.

She's a rather stern looking woman, dressed in an old-fashioned style and drinking a cup of tea.  Lady Poppington likes tea & singing hymns and won't tolerate bad manners!


Conclusion


Traditionally in Pulp adventures, a woman is just there to scream when the bad guys/monster/... appears so that the hero can then come to the rescue.  I think this started to change from the 1970's onwards with space operas such as Star Wars and video games like Tomb Raider.

I'd like to think that any of my heroines were more than simple, helpless damsels.  Each of these characters could hold her own against whatever the world throws at her, though I suspect that they would all have very different approaches!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Frostgrave: Small Demons

Introduction

It's strange: I'm frantically busy building and painting models, as well as working, looking after the family &c, but I just don't seem to have much time for blogging these days.  I want to give more attention to blogs - both my own and those of other hobbyists - but there aren't enough hours in the day for everything I'd like to do.  Oh well, I'll just need to keep things in perspective: many people in this world have far worse problems than I do...

Frostgrave Imps

I haven't written about it much recently, but that doesn't mean that I have given up on Frostgrave!  Here are some new monsters I painted up recently.

Demons in Frostgrave come in 3 different sizes: man-sized, smaller than a man and larger than a man.  In the latter category, I am already quite well provided, with a couple of Reaper Bones models: http://colgar6.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/frostgrave-demon-bones.html .  I have used one of these older models as a regular, man-sized demon before, but he/she/it is really a bit big for that.



As part of my Christmas present to myself last December, I bought a Mantic "crazy box".  This is a random assortment of models, but at a much cheaper price than if they were bought at list price.  You pays you money and takes your chances...

On this occasion, one of the items in my crazy box was a sprue of hard plastic "Lower Abyssals"; classic demons with goat's feet, horns and a tail.  Excellent - I built up a pair of these to act as my man-sized demons in Frostgrave.



The sprue has (from memory) 5 of these demons on it, so I could build another three if I wanted.  However, just the two will do for now.



As well as the man-sized demons, each Lower Abyssal sprue has a few much smaller creatures on it.  These will make excellent Imps, I think.



The Imps are quite small figures and are probably a little bit fragile - especially the winged one, who is only touching the ground with one foot.  We'll just have to be careful with them.


Conclusion


I would never have thought to look in the Mantic catalogue for such creatures, but I think they'll work very well.  I believe that the same faction (for Kings of War) has larger creatures of a similar form as well.  Those would make excellent large demons for Frostgrave, if I was so minded.

Overall, I'm very pleased with these models apart perhaps from the Imp with the staff.  The varnish on that model has frosted slightly - though I suppose you might just say that the creature was caught in a snowstorm and being slowly encased in ice.!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

28mm Pulp Aircraft: the Beech Model 18

Introduction

Last week, I showed a small, 2-seater aircraft in 1:48th scale that I intend to use for Pulp wargaming: the Avia BH-11.  Whilst this will be useful, I really need an airliner for my next intended scenario.  However, an iconic 1930s plane such as the DC-3 has a wingspan of 95 feet.  At 1:48 scale, that's very close to 2 feet (60cm) across!  A German Ju-52 trimotor has almost exactly the same dimensions, so that's no better.

On a 3' gaming table, a 2' wide model would dominate, leaving little room for anything else.  Equally, the cost of such a large kit and the storage requirements of the completed model are offputting.  So, what to do?

Instead of looking for a medium-sized airliner such as the DC-3, I decided to search for much smaller twin-motor craft.  Here's one that I found...

The Beech Model 18


The Beech Model 18 (also known as the "Twin Beech", or "C-45 Expeditor" when in USAAF service) was a small transport aircraft that was produced in surprisingly large numbers.  It typically carried about 7 passengers (compared to the DC-3's capacity of 30 or so).  The Model 18 first flew in 1937, so it just about fits in the Interwar period that I desire for Pulp adventures.



Because the original is a relatively small craft, the 1:48th scale model has a wingspan of marginally under 1 foot (30cm).  That's much more manageable on a wargames table!  I've included a 28mm figure for comparison purposes, as well as a home made set of steps.



So, what can I tell you about this model?

  • It's built from a kit by ICM, though I believe that Revell have also released a kit from the same tooling.
  • The kit is fairly easy to find online; there are a number of sellers who offer it.  I paid around £20 for mine, which is significant but not prohibitive.  Your circumstances may differ, of course.
  • The interior is fully detailed, with instrument panels, controls and seats.  Normally, I would assemble a model fully before undercoating, painting and sealing it.  In this case, I had to paint the sections separately before final assembly - and then fill & touch up the paint around the joints.



  • No crew figures come with the ICM kit (& probably not with the Revell one either, I imagine).  However, I added a pilot from another kit.  He's just about visible in the left hand, front seat.  Apparently it's convention for the pilot to sit in the left seat for a fixed wing aircraft, but the right seat in a helicopter!
  • I've cut down the propellers and added "spinning disks" instead, as I want my model to be preparing for take-off.  Opinions in the scale modeller world on the effectiveness of this technique seem to be fairly negative, but it works for me.


  • For the most part, the pieces fitted together well.  However, two area were problematic.
    Firstly, the seats had some very thin and brittle parts (the frames/legs).  I broke quite a few of these when trying to cut them from the sprue and even had to replace one shattered seat frame completely with wire.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, considering the amount of effort I put into these), the passenger seats can't really be seen inside the completed model.
    Secondly, the undercarriage is composed of a large number of spindly struts.  Assembly of this was complex and I think that these are easily the most fragile part of the plane.
  • I haven't fitted radio aerials to the model; these would probably be in the way when wargaming and don't add hugely to the overall appearance.
  • The colour scheme and markings are entirely fictitious and my own work, though I did take inspiration from some real life airlines.

Conclusion

The ICM Beech 18 kit makes a nice model that is a very good size for 28mm figures and not hugely expensive either.  However, it is primarily intended as a scale modeller's kit rather than for wargaming.  Consequently it was a bit more intricate to build than I might have desired.  The big concern I have is how fragile it will be, though as a static centrepiece for a game it shouldn't have a lot of handling.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A 28mm Pulp aircraft: the BH-11

Introduction

Anyone who has been following my blog recently will know that I'm preparing to play more Pulp Alley, specifically Scenario 2 ("Final Flight") from the Perilous Island campaign.  That scenario is set at an airport somewhere in Africa, though it could just as well be Latin America, Asia or elsewhere.

I've been collecting figures to make the necessary crowd of agitated civilians (although I think my version will be quite a weeny crowd).  However if it's an airport then I'll need something else as well: terrain and aircraft models.  Here's the first of them.


The Avia BH-11


This is a 1:48th scale model of an Avia BH-11; a 2-seater Czechoslovakian sports/trainer plane that first flew in 1923.  As such, it fits well into my Pulp timeline (interwar, so think Indiana Jones - any time from about 1920 to 1940).



28mm wargaming figures are often regarded as about 1:56 scale.  There aren't any 1:56 scale model aircraft!  I'll probably regret being as definite about that, as someone may well point out an obscure range somewhere, but generally speaking it is true.

Aircraft modellers stick to either 1:72 or 1:48.  The former is really much too small for 28mm figures, though it would probably work well enough to represent craft flying high over a battlefield.  1:48 is a bit too big, but not impossibly so - especially if you stick to smaller real life aircraft.

Most of the pictures in this article show one of my 28mm pilot figures standing beside the plane.  Judge for yourself how compatible he is in size.



There are hundreds, if not thousands of 1:48th scale aircraft kits.  However, not many of them come from the Interwar period - and those that do are mostly warplanes.  The Avia BH-11 model is one of the few exceptions to this, fortunately for me!

This kit is released by SMER and has one overwhelming advantage, at least in terms of being my first 1:48th scale aircraft model: it was very cheap!  The model only cost me a few pounds, so if it turned out not to be suitable for gaming then I could afford the loss.



So, how was the kit to build:

  • Assembly was easy; parts are fairly chunky and fitted together very well.
  • A seated pilot was supplied as part of the kit.  I didn't use this as, quite honestly, it was an awful model, little more than a blob of plastic!
  • The undercarriage was slightly tricky, though not really difficult.  It's probably the most fragile part of the finished model though, so care will have to be taken when this is on the gaming table.
  • The wing struts add interest, but without being very complex to assemble.  Also note that this aircraft doesn't have any rigging, so no wires and braces are needed!



I've copied a colour scheme, semi-faithfully, from a modern restoration aircraft.  For my purposes, it doesn't have to be completely authentic, it just has to look plausible.  The decals for the lettering are home made, but based on the original plane.  I think it works well enough...

Conclusion

This is a nice, cheap and relatively simple model that will do well for games, as long as it's handled with a certain amount of care.  I can see it being the ride for an early round-the-world aviator, or belonging to a rich enthusiast who likes to visit the more dusty and backward parts of the world.  Alternatively, it might be the cobwebby, old banger left in a corner of the flying field, just waiting for the hero to use it in his/her daring escape!  You decide...


Saturday, 21 January 2017

More Pulp Characters

Introduction

We've started playing the Perilous Island campaign for the Pulp Alley rules.  Scenario 1 can be seen here and that was easy enough to set up because I already had all the figures and terrain I needed.  However, Scenario 2 in this campaign is set at an airport, with a large crowd on the verge of rioting.  I think I need some new scenery for this; also I'll need as many "crowd" figures as I can find.

I did consider making some 28mm standees for the crowd, either of individuals or of mobs.  However, my early searches failed to find any pictures that I felt were suitable for this purpose.  Plan B is to search through my spares boxes and paint up all the figures I can find which could plausibly be found at an airport in Africa, some time in the 1930s or so.


The Dapper


First up are a couple of very smartly-dressed gentlemen:

  • On the left is a figure from Copplestone's GN9 - Sleuths pack, in which he is named as "Nick Charles".  I believe that this is a model of the main character from "The Thin Man", but I'm not familiar enough with either the book or the film to know anything about the character portrayed.  He's obviously very smartly-dressed, though!
  • The miniature on the right is "Captain Citroen" from Artizan Miniatures' "Thrilling Tales" range.  He's obviously based on Captain Renault; the corrupt Vichy French police chief played so superbly by Claude Rains in the movie Casablanca.
    In my photo, it looks a little as if the model only has one arm.  That's not the case; his left arm is definitely present, though held close to his side.

The Gumshoes



Next, I present the remaining 2 figures from the Copplestone GN9 - Sleuths pack:

  • The first model is of "The Continental Op"; a fictional private detective created by pulp author Dashiell Hammett.  I don't know anything about the character other than what is readily available on Wikipedia, but the model will work well enough for my immediate needs.
  • On the right is "Sam Spade", another Dashiell Hammett private investigator and hero of the story "The Maltese Falcon".  In the movie of that tale, Spade was played by Humphrey Bogart - who was the same actor to play "Rick" in Casablanca.  Since Bogart wore an almost identical greatcoat in the last scene of Casablanca (at the airport), I think this model is unarguably suitable for my upcoming game!


The Airmen


My last 2 figures for today are both from Artizan Designs, again from the Thrilling Tales subsection:

  • The model on the left is "Captain Withnail", presumably a reference to the film Withnail and I.  Since that isn't in any sense a pulp or adventure movie, I'm somewhat puzzled by the association - unless someone else knows better?  Anyway, the figure wears a greatcoat and carries a revolver and a bottle; I've painted him up to suggest a hung-over and somewhat disreputable RAF ground crewman.
  • Finally, we have "Midshipman York", who I think must be modelled after Michael York's character from the movie Zeppelin.  As it is, I got this model second hand and the right arm (with pistol) was missing.  I've replaced that with a spare plastic arm from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors set; he now looks as if he could be swinging a propellor to start a primitive aircraft engine or something like that.

Conclusion


Why are these characters at the airport?  Are they trying desperately to get on the last flight out of the country?  Perhaps they're trying to arrest a fugitive, or they're spies who are shadowing someone?  Maybe they just work at the airport?  Who can tell?

6 figures isn't really a crowd.  Even if I add all the other miniatures I have which are vaguely plausible for this setting, I'm not sure that it'll really look like a mob.  But I've got to try...