Sunday, May 18, 2014

28mm Battletech: Mad Cat MK II

Oh the joys of a new battlemech! Mechwarrior 4 and TRO 3067 brought us the Mad Cat MK II, an assault-class upgrade to Battletech’s most famous ‘mech. Tim Fusco, owner of Battlemech Club has sculpted an impressive resin kit of this auspicious Clan Diamond Shark design, bringing the 90 ton design to life in 1/60 scale.

Designed from the ground up to be sold as a kit, the Mad Cat MK II is truly a sight to behold once fully built. This kit proves to be on par with Scott’s Catapult and Tim’s past kit the Flea (still working on that one, need to get a pin-vice), though there are two gripes. One is that the arm assemblies are in three pieces, and the rectangular second piece does not slot in anywhere specific, it’s easy enough to discern where it goes, but the housing around it doesn’t conform to the same footprint. The other issue is the missile launchers.  The classic battletech design and the MW4 design have very different assemblies for the LRMs, and this one conforms to the MW4 design closely. However, there’s no clear location on either side of the fuselage where the LRM racks are supposed to sit. A small raised section where they sit, or a peg-and-hole section for them to slot into would’ve been nice.

Other than that, this kit was amazingly fun to build, though the pose I went with makes it very unbalanced and I will need to base it and support it with a clear rod (you can see the half-tube rod of plasticard I’ve got holding it up right now).

I of course had to add a couple of my trademark modifications to this robust machine. I decided it would be a pirate ‘mech, salvaged from the battlefield and patched up. I used Games Workshop brass etch pieces from a basing kit to provide two beat up panels riddled with bullets, and two skull symbols to denote its pirate affiliation.
This is by far the heaviest ‘mech model I’ve ever worked on. The thing weighs easily 5 lbs in resin (and I’m bad at estimating, it could easily be ten!) It will take some very sturdy support and a display base for this baby to stand upright on its own. I realize how often I say I prefer non-based models…and yet constantly use bases. I prefer active poses for my models, and often I can only do that with a base. I just like my ‘mechs to look exciting, and especially with the Mad Cat MK II, I love the way the machine walks in MW4, that rolling motion makes it look so predatory and powerful that I had to replicate it.

Lastly, compared to my existing Mad Cat model and Stalker, this thing is the PERFECT size. It stands at 10” on the dot at the missile launchers (at least, n the pose I put it), and is easily 50% larger overall than the 75 ton Mad Cat. All in all this is one of my favorite kits to date, and I can’t wait for Tim’s summer program to get more fantastic ‘mechs from him.

Monday, May 12, 2014

28mm Battletech Stalker- Factory Fresh

While I was out of the state on a mini-vacation with my family this weekend, I was unable to paint the Stalker. I did, however, think I should post one last time to give a few shots of the finished product.

I made a number of minor alterations to the ‘mech in the final stages. I wanted to add a bit of extra detail to this beast, since with such a large ‘mech, the details are everything. You will notice I have a 60mm base under each foot.  I did this because, unfortunately the model’s feet aren’t perfectly flat, and I couldn’t sand them any flatter, so I settled on a base under each foot to give it a solid stance that won’t tip over easily.

I’ve also added some rounded half-round plasticard to the sides of the fuselage and the rear section,
giving a bit of interesting surface that I can paint maybe with hazard stripes or rank markings.

Lastly, there was a vacant, recessed spot opposite the AMS system, which I filled with a beaten and bent piece of copper grating, making it look like a vent or heat sink that’s been torn open in battle.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Get Outta Here Stalker D: - 28mm Battletech Stalker

So…the Stalker. An 85 ton assault ‘mech built for breaching fortifications and taking the enemy head-on, weapons blazing as it slowly closes range. This ‘mech is a beast, for a long, long time I’ve loved the description of the design, but hated its art in the Battletech Technical Readouts- those weird, double-hinged legs swiveled so that it was either backward-canted like a Mad Cat or Catapult, or normal-kneed like any humanoid design.

With Mechwarrior 4’s MekTek packs came a much beefier, permanently bird-legged Stalker, which was clearly what the new Mechwarrior Online takes its design cues from, and I LOVE it! The MWO STK-3F Stalker captures the essence of its Classic Battletech Roots and translates them to a much more likable aesthetic. Thor’s Mechworks, as advertised on the blog Wingnuts Cockpit, produced a 3D-printed “Creeper” (so as to avoid copyright BS….though to be honest, I don’t think Catalyst enforces it, and Topps doesn’t care). This is a dead-on accurate depiction of the MWO Stalker, so let’s take a look at what we get in the kit:

The kit comes in about 15 (ish) main pieces, with a good dozen extra little giblets for detail work, some of which I STILL don’t know where they go, even after having built the thing.

The model is 3D-printed ABS plastic, entirely hollow and extra light, making it feel almost more like a toy than the resin kits produced by some other regular manufacturers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, the lighter construction means it won’t break as easily if it falls, and it’s generally easier to stand and display or pose in a more active….well pose. However, there is one major drawback: the ABS plastic results in a layered effect, almost like wood grain, which needs to be filed, sanded, or rubbed with acetone to make smooth. This layered texture is almost insubstantial on the bigger pieces, but there are some fiddly, recessed areas where it gets very bad, and I found even with sanding and acetone that it doesn’t wash away smoothly.

The finished kit, however, looks beautiful. Most of the unsightly layered areas end up being either in the rear of the ‘mech, or hidden pressed against the fuselage or joints.

Speaking of joints, the design is VERY posable. Thor has done an amazing job making the Stalker as detailed and flexible as possible. I discovered while building it that not only are there flexible joints at the ankle and knee, but the ball-and-socket hip joint moves as well, and can be reposed very easily while also maintaining a tight seal, so the joint doesn’t loosen. I tend to glue my models in a single pose, it’s just the way I prefer them. I did that with this kit as well, with the joints at the missile launcher “arms,” the knee, and ankle all fixed, but kept the ball-and-socket hip free so I can reposition the legs somewhat.

The one recognizable extra bit was the AMS system, which I applied to my Stalker. I replaced (what I presume was) the barrel with a gatling gun style assembly from a Warhammer 40,000 assault cannon, but kept the ammo hopper, so it now heavily resembles a real-world CIWS (Close-In Weapon System).

Other than that, I made no real modifications, and am extremely happy with the final build. However, if anyone can tell me what the extra bits that come with the thing are, I would greatly appreciate the info.

So how does the “Creeper” stack up compared to other 28mm Battletech models? Glad you asked! As an 85 ton assault ‘mech, the STK-3F Stalker is much bulkier and taller than either my Timber Wolf or CPLT-C1 Catapult. It stands (in the pose I gave it) at just a smidge under 10” tall compared to the Mad Cat/Timber Wolf’s 8” exactly and the Catapult’s 8.25”

This seems the perfect size to me, and after building this kit, I must say Thor’s Mechworks does, indeed, do great work. I will be ordering more kits from him in the future for certain.

I’ll have this bad boy painted up very soon here, though I’ve got some brainstorming to do for a color scheme. Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned to Myomer Dreams for more updates!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Few Wrinkles….

So as most of you know, I play Warhammer 40,000 in addition to being a stalwart fan of Battletech and Mechwarrior. In the last year or so, I’ve been working on multiple projects related to hobby modeling, as well as writing the rules for Battletech: Combined Arms, a 28mm scale Battletech game meant to complement the excellent models produced by Scott Murphy, Tim Fusco, Ravenstar Studios, SMT Kelly, and the now-outdated Armorcast.

While the game is, so far, not yet sanctioned by Topps or Catalyst Game Labs, the next stage of the project IS working out a publishing deal with them, and it will come to fruition fairly soon.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the rules of this game, however, and need to do some rewrites after analyzing the current state of miniature wargaming- I believe the initial rules are overcomplicated, and need to be smoothed out and toned down to attract new players and make gameplay more fun, and less unnecessarily complex. I should have another update for you guys in the near future here.

In other news, I finally got a Warhammer 40k game in with my Imperial Knights. In fact, it was the first Warhammer 40k game I have won in over five years…..and yet the victory was extraordinarily hollow. Imperial Knights are incredibly tough units, and, in my mind, overpowered in a standard 40k game. In fact…they require almost no tactical skill to use, and that worries me. While I do like winning now and again, I don’t want to just steamroll over my opponent- I’ve been on the receiving end of overpowered army lists far too often and know that it’s not fun to lose like that.

So while the models have turned out fantastically, and you can see pics on my Facebook page….I will likely be shelving these in favor of another 40k army that I’ll work on down the road.

My point in mentioning this is because Warhammer 40,000 is a great influence on my own game design. Now, I didn’t even remotely borrow any rules from 40k for Battletech: Combined Arms, but I am aiming for B:CA to compete with 40k directly. I want a game that players will want to play at tournaments, that suits casual gaming as well as competitive, and offers an exciting hobby in addition to a game. Hopefully with the coming rewrites I will be closer to that.

Other Projects:

Stalker- working on cleaning and sanding, should have assembly pics by Monday

Flea- need a pin vice and new base, won’t be able to make progress until next paycheck

Mad Cat MK II- Tim should be sending these out in the next few weeks, I look forward to the build.