Monday, January 20, 2014

28mm Battletech- Flea

Hey all, I’ve got a new build to share with you. The 28mm/1/60 scale Flea battlemech! This is one of Tim Fusco’s kits, cast in resin based on a sculpt he did by JPG Productions.

The Flea is a small, fast light ‘mech that’s a staple of the Wolf’s Dragoons, and while not particularly powerful, it packs enough punch against battle armor, infantry, and other light ‘mechs that it’s a staple unit on the battlefield. Now first things first…this is the best 28mm Battlemech kit i’ve ever had the pleasure of building. Super simple construction, perfect scale, and it just looks fantastic, hats off to Tim for making this one work!
I made a couple of special modifications, of course. Like the Catapult, I added stowage to this little beauty, caging off the recessed area above/behind the cockpit to store some fuel canisters and kit bags.

I decided on a very active pose for this model, as if stalking forward in support of infantry- and to that end I based it on a Games Workshop large oval base (the kind they use to base monstrous creatures and flyers). I added a bit of ruined masonry under the Flea’s uplifted foot to allow it to stand with minimal stress on the joints. In between its legs sits a jersey barrier, with two infantrymen walking along one side of it. I feel like this gives a real scenic look to the model, and ties it in to the force it’s fighting with.

So who’s this Flea going to fight for? Well the Wolf’s Dragoons would be the obvious choice….but I never liked “obvious.” So I’m going to align it and its attendant infantry (more on them later) with the Free Rasalhague Republic, to accompany both the NightHawk PA(L) I already have, and Tim’s Owens once he decides to kit that out. I’ve already begun painting this model, so I’ll have a few updates soon.

One last parting thought…..since this Flea is based on the Mechwarrior 4 version, does anyone know which variant it’s supposed to represent? There are only three weapons on it (the chin gun and the guns on either side of the cockpit) and the only Flea with 3 weapons I could find is the FLE-20 with two medium lasers and a light ppc.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

28mm Battletech Modeling- Basing Your Miniatures

Basing miniatures goes hand-in-hand with building and painting them. In Battletech: Combined Arms, with 28mm Battletech miniatures, this is no different. Unlike building the miniatures or painting them to a personal standard, basing often gets the least amount of attention from gamers and modelers, so I thought I would take today to discuss some great, easy options for basing your models to a professional level.

Almost every 28mm miniature has a base that it stands on- in fact, it’s the only way most models will stand at all, as balancing them and getting them to work as free-standing models would result in very boring, static poses. The term “basing” therefore, doesn’t mean literally just attaching a miniature to its respective base, but also pertains to how you decorate that base. Armies of miniatures for wargaming look best when there’s a cohesive basing scheme, all of the miniatures on bases decorated to represent the same environment or combat zone. It would indeed look odd if half your soldiers were on desert sand-themed bases and the rest were on dark urban grey.

So when it comes to 28mm Battletech, the question of basing is a valid one. This is especially true when considering the battlemechs themselves: the majority of 1/60 scale battletech models are freestanding, with no need for a base since their large feet and high center of gravity allows them to stand with no support needed. Only when you attempt an extremely de-stabilized pose will you ever need to base a battlemech, and even then you should consider how you want to base the rest of your force to look when deployed alongside it.

The Basics
The most common basing material people use today is sand. Pure, simple, find-it-on-the-beach sand. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s the standard was flock, a sort of fibrous, lightweight material meant to mimic grass or earth. Nowadays the more realistic approach to basing involves sand, static grass to mimic, well, grass, and large or small pieces of slate used as rocks and boulders. This effect works just as well for 28mm Battletech, as 28mm infantry are the same size (ish) in every miniature wargame.

Kuritan Infantry (Defiance Games Chinese Militia), displaying a very basic basing style. 
Basing is most easily accomplished by using wood glue or white glue on your model’s base, painting it on with an old paintbrush, or using a toothpick to smear it on, making sure to avoid the miniature’s feet (or claws, or hooves, or whatever).

 After spreading on the glue, pour sand or flock onto the base, covering the glue entirely. Leave the miniature to dry after this, and then shake the excess sand or flock back into its container.

Some gamers prefer to simply leave the sand or flock the color it came in. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but for a much more professional touch, you can paint the basing material the same way you would paint the model (some painters say to prime the model, paint the base first, and then paint the model, other say to paint the model and then the base, either way works really). Sand and flock work equally well painted as asphalt or cement, muddy terrain, urban rubble, or red-tinted martian dirt.

Advanced Methods
While flock and sand make for great basic bases, many gamers and professional modelers prefer more advanced techniques. There are many different basing materials on the market right now. Among the best are those offered by Secret Weapon Miniatures. This company makes an extensive line of resin bases, as well as what are hands-down the finest weathering pigments, washes, and thematic basing materials.

Among these “advanced methods” I speak of are weathering and scenery effects that more accurately portray real phenomena, such as mud, snow, water, and grasslands. Mud mixtures and snow effects are becoming fairly common, even Games Workshop produces a Citadel Mourn Mountain Snow Texture paint, as well as a Citadel Snow basing material, which is basically white flock.

In fact, Games Workshop’s Citadel Texture paints bear a mention here. Citadel Texture is part of their new paint line, instead of liquid paint, the stuff is almost pure pigment with a gritty, grainy texture. It spreads onto a base (and will ruin a good brush, so make sure you use an old one), best done in a fairly heavy layer, and completely replaces the need for sand or flock, instead working as an all-in-one, easy-to-apply basing material. They offer it in 6 colors, with one other Citadel Technical paint that I will detail below. The colors available are Citadel Mourn Mountain Snow, Stirland Mud, Blackfire Earth, Astrogranite, Armageddon Dust, and Lustrian Undergrowth. Mourn Mountain Snow provides a very decent snow base for your money- though be warned, Citadel Texture paints do not stretch as far as other basing materials or even other paints. I used an entire pot of the stuff to get good coverage on 10 40mm-base models. Stirland Mud is a decent mud mixture, Astrogranite makes for damn-near perfect cement if you make sure to keep the application smooth and even, and Armageddon Dust makes for good sand on desert-themed bases. Blackfire Earth and Lustrian Undergrowth are unfortunately the worst two of the line, with colors that don’t really apply to anything in the real world.

Lastly there is Citadel Agrellan Earth Technical paint. Designed for basing as well, this one differs in that, instead of a generic pebbly texture, it is smooth and at first glance looks identical to normal paint. However, it is specially formulated so that, as it dries, the technical paint cracks and withers, and, once 100% dried, makes for absolutely outstanding cracked, dry dirt. We’re talking salt flats, parched earth, cracked mud, this stuff makes every other desert basing material look pathetic!
Citadel Agrellan Earth on the base of a Defiance Games UAMC Marine 

Decorating Your Bases
While a basic substrate is fine for many models (dirt, sand, snow, whatever), further decoration goes a long way not only in personalizing your army, but also in adding more depth and realism to the miniatures themselves. If you’re doing a desert-themed army, for example, why not add dry, dehydrated grasses with static grass? Or go the full mile with animal skeletons, cacti, or vultures perching on accompanying scenery (or…y’know, Jade Falcons I guess)? If you’re doing snow bases, try using water effects to make puddles of ice, or get the Games Workshop Northern Wastes Basing Kit, which for $33 gives you a whole mess of winter-themed basing supplies such as snow flock, slate, dried tan static grass, and plastic icicles which make a winter base look truly stunning. In fact, GW makes 6 different basing kits like this, each with a different scenic theme from the war-torn cities of Warhammer 40,000 (great for Battletech) to scorched sands of the desert. Adding a bit more of that “personal touch” to your 28mm Battletech miniatures can make an army go from “1st Genyosha” to “The 1st Genyosha During the Battle of Luthien in 3068.”

A fully based Battlemech (3 Guesses which one!). This one features a sand/slate mixture, several larger slate pieces, resin Jersey Barriers from Defiance Games, and two Defiance Games UAMC Marines, as well as a piece of ruined masonry from Games Workshop and a brass etched piece of bullet-riddled metal. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1/60 Scale Battletech- Catapult

I’m back with a vengeance, and have another great build to share with y’all. Scott Murphy of Scott’s Messy Desk blog had one last Catapult in his inventory, which I was happy to purchase for a great price. This is a full resin kit with 20 pieces, and is simply a joy to put together. Although the model was shipped accidentally missing the upper leg pieces, Scott rectified the situation very quickly, and I appreciate both his quick shipping (even having to deal with customs between US and Canada) and his exceptional skill at casting these kits. A couple of the pieces were pre-primed before he sent them, but that’s not a problem for construction.

Now this Catapult is done in the style seen in Mechwarrior 4, marking it as a 3062 (Fedcom Civil War era) CPLT-C1 with 4 Medium Lasers and 2 LRM-15 launchers. I really love the Catapult design as a whole, and the MW4 variant is my favorite of all, with the slimmed-down frame, utilitarian aesthetics, and rugged construction.

Of course, I had to add my own personal touch to the miniature. After brainstorming a bit, I ended up settling on stowage. Stowage, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the baggage and ammunition and spare gear that is often strapped to fighting vehicles on the move. It was a common practice to stow fuel canisters, mess equipment, kit bags and the like on tanks and armored cars when military forces were on the move during World War 2. I took a similar idea for my Catapult. Although ‘mechs are different than tanks in a variety of ways, with moving limbs and standing much higher than the infantry they accompany, I decided it was nonetheless plausible for a disparate mercenary company or a long-range patrol force to use the heavy lifting power of their ‘mechs to carry extra gear. For it to make sense, I kept all of the baggage strapped to the ankle/foot armor plates, down where infantry can unload them once the convoy stops moving.

In addition to stowage on the legs, I rigged up a set of spare fuel/coolant tanks directly behind the
cockpit assembly, with a chain and winch system for loading and unloading. I think it gives the machine a very heavy duty appearance, perfect for a Catapult that needs to stick by supply lines anyway.

Lastly, I drilled out some holes behind the cockpit glass and inserted a pair of metal wires to work as radio antennas. I also added a pair of exhaust vents (all of these are old 40k bits, btw) to the upper hips, either as jump jets or heat sinks, whichever works better I suppose.

So who’s the mean machine going to fight for? Well…I did mention a disparate mercenary company. I was thinking Hansen’s Roughriders. I’m a big fan of this particular unit, and since they’re mercenaries, they fight for just about any cause imaginable, as long as the money is right- ideal for 28mm Battletech gaming, where at a tournament you could find your force facing any house or merc unit or clan imaginable. I’ll be starting on the painting job soon enough, i’ll need to order some new decals from Fighting Piranha Graphics so I can detail it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

And with 2014 Comes….

…more N-Scale! Just for the moment. I got the final pieces needed for the 1/60 Scale Catapult while i was on vacation over the last week, so I will have that built and painted very soon here. But while I was packing up before I left I had the chance to take a few (admittedly crappy) pics of the N-Scale Orko_one Dragon I bought off Lords of the Battlefield sometime back in 2012 and finally got around to painting.

Sometimes it’s hard to work up the courage to paint something you really enjoyed building. I know that’s the case with myself anyway. A lot of times a model will be great standing on its base, built and converted lovingly, and still grey plastic or resin…..and then when you paint it something goes wrong. I’ve had that problem with Warhammer 40,000 models all my life. I consider myself a decent painter, don’t get me wrong, but there are times where I draw a blank on a good paint scheme, or the way I envision it just doesn’t pan out in practice. Whatever the case, it helps to have a strong vision of what you intend, and carefully plan out how you’re going to accomplish it.

The Dragon here I feel turned out very well. I’ll try and get better pics up this weekend, but for now, you can view the phone versions. I primed it black, and then painted on several thin layers of Citadel Astronomicon Grey, a good flat shade which I think turned out okay. I washed the entire model in Citadel Gryphonne Sepia shade, which gave it a dirty texture and washed into the recesses, a good basic weathering effect so your ‘mechs don’t look like they’re straight out of the factory.

Since I already had the ruined brick wall piece on the base, I felt a rural-urban setting was necessary, and with red brick and brown dirt, the grey of the ‘mech needed camouflage- albeit in a contrasting color. I used a mustard-brown/yellow camo scheme. I started with Citadel Zandri Dust, applied via stippling, in a banded pattern across the hull, arms, and legs. This was then highlighted with Citadel Dry Hexos Palesun, which gave it a yellowish, sulfur-colored finish which I really like.

The metals were done using a base of Citadel Warplock Bronze followed by a layer of Citadel Boltgun Metal, and then a wash of Citadel Gryphonne Sepia to take the sheen off of it.

The cockpit was done in a contrasting tone, in this case bright green, using Vallejo Game Color Escorpina Green, followed by the brighter layer of Vallejo Game Color Livery Green, with a wash of Citadel Coeilia Greenshade to blend the two colors, followed by a glaze of Citadel Waywatcher Green.

Lastly, I based the model with the resin ruin and a specialty mixture of 3/4 sand and 1/4 slate. I find that I get the best texture from this mix, and always glue the model and any basing accessories (like the ruin) to the base before applying basing material. A battlemech weighs a whole hell of a lot, so the machine is bound to sink into mud or dirt or sand or gravel that it’s stepping in. And it works well to, say, press some footprints into a mud mixture if you plan on having a super-detailed base beforehand. With this model, and many of my N-scale pieces, I use a set of 15mm/N-Scale ruined buildings from a manufacturer that’s sadly now out of business. However, you can find base accessories like it from other sources out there. I highly recommend 15mm Stalingrad buildings found on FRP Games website. I base coated the dirt and grit with Citadel Rhinox Hide, then drybrushed heavily with Citadel Doombull Brown, followed by Citadel Tuskgor Fur, and finally with a very, very, very light brushing of Tuskgor Fur mixed with Citadel Screaming Skull white. The bricks were done in one layer of Formula P3 Khador Red base, shaded with a wash of Citadel Gryphonne Sepia. And the faded wallpaper on the inner walls of the ruin were done with Citadel Screaming Skull and the same Gryphonne Sepia wash.

Overall you get the sense of a heavy battlemech stomping through a long-abandoned, bombed-out ruin, perhaps on the outskirts of a greater city. I think it turned out well.