Robogear – the ultimate bits box

A few years ago while hoovering up random bits and pieces on eBay to resell via my old online store I happened across a starter box for a tabletop miniatures game called Robogear.

This was a science fiction game with plastic miniatures and vehicles,  released in the UK by Airfix in the noughties.  As an aside, I’ve since found out that the background to the game is slightly more complicated than simply an attempt by an (at the time) ailing scale model company to grab a piece of Games Workshop’s 40k market.  More on that in a bit.

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Airfix version of the Starter Set

The starter set I got hold of contained a lot of half built models and in the end I sold it off for not much more than I bought it for.  Not a hugely interesting story so far I’m sure you’ll agree.

However over the past few years as my gaming and hobby has become (slightly) more focused I got to thinking about how much potential there was in the Robogear starter box for a couple of the projects I have on the go.  In particular the set contained some interesting plastic terrain (in the form of platforms and gantries), that would not only do for Kill Team, but also would slot quite nicely into some of the post-apocalypse scenery I have been building for 7TV.  Similarly the vehicles could be cannibalised for bits for wasteland vehicles, but more specifically many had a 40k Imperial Guard feel to them.

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Stat card for one of the Starter Set models

So back to ‘the online auction site’ it was.  After a bit of searching around I managed to pick up two nearly completed starter boxes for only a tenner (albeit with the terrain bits missing), as well as complete unopened box for not that much more.

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Two for a tenner – bargain!

First thing to say is that the infantry figures are really not very good.  They are pretty large (maybe 1/48 to 1/35 scale) and very basic.  They are multi-part but are built with articulation that really puts them in the category I feel of a mini action figure rather than a wargames miniature.  Some of the hand weapons may get reused, but I suspect these will find themselves either in the back of a drawer or re-sold at some point soon.

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The not great figures

The vehicles on the other hand have a lot of potential.  Stylistically they are a bit ‘confused’.  There are elements of hard science fiction here, but also a touch of the grim dark too, as well as a bit of Battletech.  Various vehicles are included and these can be built in a number of ways – either with tank tracks, mech-style legs (think Astra Millitarum Sentinel) or insectoid (think Zoids!).

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Example of some of the part built vehicles (28mm figure for scale)

The weapons are of variable styling and quality and it has to say, again, that some of these look quite toy like.  There is a reason for this however, in the rules for the Robogear game you can either play with ‘virtual combat’ (i.e. rolling dice), or physical combat (yes the weapons actually fire mini missiles in some cases)!  All of this however could be worked out by swapping out bits and pieces from other spare parts in the bits box.  There are also a couple of ‘flyers’ in the box, again these have potential, but maybe not as much as the ground vehicles.

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Example of a complete frame

As I mentioned, only one of the three boxes I acquired contained the scenery components.  Now these do look useful.  Designed to be reconfigurable, they are provided with a ‘clip’ system to hold everything together (but not necessarily permanently).  Looking into the current availability of these terrain kits I discovered more about the background of Robogear itself.  It turns out that Airfix bought the rights in for the system from a Russian company called Tehnolog (similarly in the US the same game and kits were released and marketed by both IMEX and Pegasus Hobbies).

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Hexagon / Platformer Terrain from the Starter Set

 

A further search on eBay and I found a trader in Russia selling brand new Robogear kits for a bargain price of about $8 a kit.  I’ve ordered a few of this, with my eyes on the flyers as Imperial Guard air support and the buggy to be added to the wastelands of my post-apocalypse gaming.

 

Furthermore I also happened at the same time across this beauty of a kit from the same stable.  A modular chemical plant kit that snaps together and will be another fine addition to my stock of terrain pieces for multiple games.  Like a lot of the Tehnolog kits this appears to have been released by another firm for the Western market (in this case Pocketbond).

All in all I can see a huge amount of potential with all these purchases for conversions and kit bashing and can see them working across loads of my existing projects (and maybe spawning a few new ones).

First on the list, a proxy for an Imperial Guard Sentinel and we’ll then see where things go from there….

 

 

 

7TV Pulp Blog (and a whole load of apocalypse)

Today I visited the Robin Wargames Trade show in Nottingham, primarily to pick up my 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter from Karl at Crooked Dice, but also to have a general ‘mouch’ about while trying not to spend any money.

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A big box of goodies collected today

I’ll be doing a quick write up of Robin and an overview of the Apocalypse Kickstarter items in another post shortly, but in the meantime I just wanted to point you the reader in the direction of the 7TV Pulp blog.

7TV Pulp is due for release at UK Games Expo later in the year, and is a unique collaboration between Crooked Dice Design Studio and Edge Hill University.  You can find out more about the game on their new blog, which includes a game design and development diary.

The Pulp version of 7TV is an ode to the cinema serials, crime novels and ‘pulp’ magazines of the 30’s and 40’s; with a serious nod also to the cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the cinematic outings of Nazi bashing archaeologists everywhere.

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Some of the existing Crooked Dice Pulp-style miniatures – soon to be joined by a whole lot more

I was lucky enough to have Karl show me some of the figure previews for the Pulp range and there are some corkers in there.  With such a wide genre definition, there’s sure to be something for everyone.  I for one am working on a ‘Flash Gordon’ cast that should slot in nicely, that said I have a lot of post-apocalypse to get through in the meantime…..

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Lots of post-apocalypse miniatures now in the lead pile

Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard – The Sons of Skaro

Or should I say Astra Militarum?

I recently posted about my return to Warhammer 40k after a couple of decades off.  My faction of choice for both 40k and the smaller scale Kill Team are the Imperial Guard.  There is something appealing to me about the freedom that fielding a Guard army gives in terms of background and modelling (especially if you look beyond the official line of Games Workshop / Citadel Miniatures).  I also really like tanks!

As per usual I’ve got more than one related project on the go at once.  On the back burner are my ‘Empire of Men not Death Korps of Krieg’ troops.  I started off thinking I’d use this in a Weird World War game (and painted the armour accordingly); however since the Kill Team bug has bitten I think I’ll be diverting them to the front line of the Grim Dark.

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Male Stormtroopers by Archon Studio – totally not Death Korps of Krieg
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My Empire of Men Stahlratte – not quite the right livery for 40k!

In the meantime however I’ve been continuing to expand my basic guard force from a Kill Team to a full 40k army.  Having concentrated on tanks initially I’ve recently gone back and continued to flesh out the grunts.  Primarily using the standard Cadian models with some head swaps from the Tempestus Scions kit to distinguish my veterans.  I have stuck with the colour scheme that harks back to the original Rogue Trader plastic set.

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I’ve also started to think about the background for my regiment.  So these guys originate from the planet Skaro.  In ancient times the home of a mythical race of metallic war like creatures….

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Over the millenia mutations have come full circle and the inhabitants of this once irradiated world have come full circle and back into the light of humanity!

This has got me thinking though – Chaos Daleks……

The Survivalist Returns (in 28mm scale)!

A few months ago I waxed lyrical about some inspiration for post-apocalypse gaming and in particular the Survivalist novels of the 1980s by Jerry Ahern.  As fulfilment of the Crooked Dice 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter gets closer I’ve decided to revisit this irradiated world where men were men, women were women, guns were cool (and overly described repeatedly in the prose) and the red menace was real.

 

As a reminder this pulpy post-apocalyptic novel series racked up over 20 titles telling tales of the titular Survivalist, John Rourke and his adventures following the nuclear devastation of World War III and a subsequent Russian occupation.  In case you had forgot our hero had the following traits:

  • Ex-CIA operative
  • Weapons expert
  • Survival and wilderness expert
  • Medical doctor
  • Super-sensitive eyesight (so has to wear mirrored shades ALL the time)
  • Motorbike rider (almost exclusively always a Harley Davidson)
  • Smoker (because it was respectable in the 80s)
  • Fluent in multiple languages
  • Irresistible to women
  • His middle name is Thomas (yes really)

This guy is crying out for the tabletop!

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So two things to do.  Find a figure to represent this alpha male in 28mm scale, and stat him up for 7TV.

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Wargames Factory Male Apocalypse Survivors were repackaged by Warlord Games as part of their Project Z range

Miniature choice first!  Rourke has many weapons of choice, but the most iconic are his ‘twin Detonics Combat Master .45, shoulder holstered pistols’.  The novels are very focused on the exact name, model, calibre and so on of the various weapons being used, in fact arguably more effort is put into the description  of military hardware and material than is expended on characters.  But I digress, the key thing is I had a couple of sprues of the old Wargames Factory Male Apocalypse survivors laying around and a quick snip round with the clippers and plastic glue and I had the vested, shade wearing, pistol wielding post-nuclear survivalist I need.

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In terms of the stats, I used the excellent fan built Agency Casting Tool for 7TV to produce a suitably matching profile for 7TV.  I based the core profile on the generic Action Hero, but made a few changes to the attacks and special abilities to match the unique range of skill our hero has.  With a star quality of Burst of Action coupled with Blown Clear, Hard, Fight Back and Lucky as base special effects for this profile I felt we were nearly there, I swapped out Lucky for Medic (as previously mentioned Rourke is of course also a fully trained MD, and he’s so damned good he’s no need of luck).

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I used the rules in the 7TV Producer’s Guide to craft myself a hero

The only problem I really came across was how to represent the ‘twin Detonics’.  7TV doesn’t have any rules for dual wielding; the 2 shot ability most pistols have doesn’t really cut it as it simply allows more than one shoot action to be taken a turn.  What I wanted was double the fire power in just one attack.  After some head scratching I decided to swap out the standard pistol from the Action Hero profile with a high powered pistol from the military weapons list.  This gave me a boost to the strike value and still gave me the 2 shots option, but I didn’t really think that it still represented that balletic gun play action I was after.  Rather than invent any rules I think I solved the problem but adding the ‘Deadly’ effect to the attack profile.  This would allow me to chuck in an extra attack dice, so to me gave a nice approximation of the extra punch you might get from firing two pistols at once.

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Of course non of this came cheap.  Following the rules in the 7TV Producers Guide for customising profiles has led to John costing a chunky 15 ratings (points).  The vast majority of stars in 7TV only cost 10.  However as I’m sure you can appreciate our Survivalist has a very unique set of skills and is in effect a one man army, so I’m not too worried about this.

With 7TV Apocalypse due out in March John will be getting some action soon I’m sure.  Might even build him his ride if I can find that Project Z bikers sprue anywhere…..

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John Thomas Rourke – he always rolls a six

Action Force in 28mm scale – Space Force Profiles for 7TV

I thought I’d post up the Space Force 7TV profiles for the cast I fielded at the campaign day at Board in Brum recently.

These were created using the 7TV Studios Agency Casting Tool developed by Jorge Robles.

All are based on 7TV 2nd Edition core profiles with just names and profile pictures changed.  I had to be a bit creative with the pictures.  Wanting to stick to comic art rather than photos of the minis or original action figures I was reminded just how little Space Force featured in the Battle Action Force strips.  Therefore not every character is accurately represented in pictures.

So presented below are the cards.  Commander Connors is based on the ‘Military Mind’ profile, while the remainder of the team are ‘Armed Astronauts’.  My re-purposed SHADO mobile transport is for gaming purposes stated up as a Land Rover.

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7TV Day II at Board in Brum

This last weekend I made the journey down from Chesterfield to participate in a 7TV campaign day at Board in Brum in Walsall.  This is the second such event held at this venue and my first time visiting.

Pitched as a campaign day rather than a tournament (which nicely fits in with the ethos of 7TV), this saw eighteen players come together to play three games each.  Participants were encouraged to bring their own boards and this resulted in some suitably epic backdrops for the action that was to unfold.

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MOD Base

Board in Brum is a new venue to me.  Based in the upstairs of an office block on an industrial site in Walsall, it looks quite unassuming from the outside.  However inside is a gem of a venue, including a well stocked shop (including not only Games Workshop and Warlord Games products but other interesting lines such as Gangs of Rome, Batllesystems Terrain and a range of board games and accessories), as well as a large gaming area.  The gaming area consisted of nine 6′ by 4′ tables and looking at their events calendar looks well utilised, and as indicated by the footfall on the day a great local hub for hobbyists and gamers.

Upon arrival I met some of the participants, many of whom I knew from the 7TV Productions Facebook group.  As always it is great to put names to faces.  I had at the last minute decided to bring a board myself.  This was quite quickly knocked together and consisted of some high rise MDF office blocks (an eBay purchase last year), a recently acquired 4′ by 4′ city map from Antenocitis Workshop (originally designed for Infinity) and (of course) a flying saucer.

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Downtown UFO Landing Zone

As more folk started arriving I got a view of some fantastic tables and layouts.  These included a Nazi Moonbase, an abandoned MOD site, a desert compound, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a concealed secret base and downtown New York (complete with mutant turtles).

The amazing effort and eclectic nature of the boards was matched by the casts that were brought along on the day.  Again another thing I love about 7TV is the ability to field pretty much whatever you like without worrying about balance or theme – after all we are making a television programme.

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Wayne Bollands’ excellent Time War Veterans
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A repainted Avengers toy formed the centrepiece of this impressive sci-fi board

Talking of the TV background, Mike Strong who was running the event on the day had written a detailed and amusing back story for the day’s ‘filming’.  Against a back drop of industrial action and union unrest at Barron Studios we were to shoot 3 episodes (games) with some specific scenario stipulations to match the problems the ‘studio’ was experiencing.  So for example due to budgetary restrictions (in actuality the fact that Mr.Barron had never bothered upgrading the studio electricity meter to metric in the early 70s and was now down to his last few half crowns), episode 1 saw the ability for us players to choose to turn off the studio lights in certain situations.  The in game effect being to reduce ranges and visibility at random.  This added a real fun flavour to proceedings!

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What horrors lurk in wait?

In addition to these scenario specific rules we were also tasked as players to get as much product placement into our shows as possible to aid the ailing fortunes of the production studio.  Each player was given a product and catch phrase to try and shoehorn into the narrative in as appropriate a way as possible (with the benefit of gaining extra plot points to spend as a result).  Now I must admit I kept forgetting about this throughout the day (I like to think that I was very much in the mindset of a BBC rather than ITV director), but I was myself the victim of some excellently placed advertising, including a well timed ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label’ as a sniper (with a Jezzail) took out once of my armed astronauts!

So to the actual games.  I had chosen to rock up with my Action Force Space Force cast, including my re-purposed SHADO Mobile (acting in game terms as a humble Land Rover).

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When is a Land Rover not a Land Rover? When it is a re-purposed SHADO Mobile.

Game 1 saw the Space Force team go up against Alistair’s SHIVA cast on my city board.  I made the mistake of not piling everyone into the transport first off and very quickly my chaps were picked off by the aforementioned sniper and some nifty sword work by the daughters of SHIVA.  The highlight of this game for me was the ‘set dressing’ event card which saw a continuity error/set problem move one of the office blocks mid-episode.  Well those are the breaks I guess when you’ve not paid your stage hands properly for months and you’ve got the union on your backs!

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Chuck Connors about to get a beating
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Look how close that objective token is…..he didn’t make it
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Moondancer and Skyraider survey the scene

Special mention here also to my product placement which I failed to pull off.  I was just waiting for that moment to express the slightly amended catchphrase ‘M&Ms, melts in your FACE not in your hand’ as I blasted a member of the opposing cast away with lasers.  That moment never came to be.

Game 2 followed a chippy lunch and saw a switch to the excellent secret base (which was nominated for and won best setup on the day).  I setup in the base and faced off against a cast comprising a tough detective, a ghost, a tomorrow person and some Victorian police officers.  For this episode budget cuts meant that certain abilities for stars and co-stars were reduced in effectiveness, although due to the choices myself and my opponent Steve made this didn’t have too much effect.

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Look out its the rozzers
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Space Force hide in the trees
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Truncheons versus lasers
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The hidden base

This time I decided to load up the transport and try and nip around collecting objectives as fast as I could.  This worked to a certain degree, but upon disembarking and dealing with the ghost and blocking off the progress of my opponents stars and co-stars I only really had the police to deal with.  The moral of this story is never underestimate police brutality.  Overly confident my spacesuit clad specialists could easily ‘zap’ their way to victory, I underestimated the power of the good old British police truncheon. And it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  So another great game played in excellent spirit, and no real chance to get off my advertising slogan (‘all because the lady loves milk tray’)!

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Simon Quinton’s excellent PA board

The final game of the day saw a move to a sci-fi cityscape board and opposition in the shape of Shaun Pike’s ‘The Laundry’ cast (based on the The Nightmare Stacks, a novel by Charles Stross).  Now this was a fun episode!  Staff shortages in the studio kitchens and an under cooked chicken curry had led to a number of cases of ‘the trots’ and cast members having to very quickly exit to the nearest facilities.  In game this was represented by a ‘line of doom’ gradually moving across the board, with both casts having to keep ahead of this, deal with each other and collect objectives and exit off the board at the other side.  Any cast member caught by the line would have to be removed from ‘the set’ as the dodgy chicken curry caught hold.

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Race for the exit (not for the loo)!

Ha! Thinks I (being all cock of the walk).  I have a transport that I can load up and drive fast across the board.  No problems.  I even sort of apologise to my opponent up from.  Oh dear, as someone once said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ‘your overconfidence is your weakness’.  I had not factored on the luck of the draw when it comes to the countdown cards in 7TV.  For those who don’t know in 7TV at the beginning of each turn you draw a countdown card.  This is an event that may of may not be of advantage to either yourself, your opponent or some combination of the two.  These might include things like wobbly sets (scenery disappearing or moving), continuity errors (cast miniatures from each side suddenly swapping places on the board) or special effects malfunctions (often resulting in unexpected explosions in the vicinity of your cast).

Now unfortunately I was the victim of a couple of these, which resulted in my transport driver swapping places with an enemy minion, who promptly drove me in the wrong direction to the line of doom (at least once).  Couple this with an enemy cast member driving a tracked motorbike around and dropping explosive devices to block my exit and let’s just say that the Space Force crew yet again didn’t cover themselves in glory.

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Transport hijacked!

Again another splendid game and like all the games played no real notice was taken of winners and losers.  I think combined with the freedom of choice when it comes to settings, figures and genres, the creativity that this enables with board design, the quirky meta-game of creating a TV programme/film, the easy to understand and flexible rules and most importantly a community of players that embraces narrative and a good time over competitive play really reinforces my love for all things 7TV.

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So a massive thanks to Mike for organising the day, to Simon and Jez at Board in Brum for a great venue and everyone who attended.  A special shout out to Wayne Bollands who brought along a lucky dip bag of out of production miniatures that everyone got to delve into.

Finally of course thanks to Karl at Crooked Dice for 7TV itself.

If you’re interested in finding out more about 7TV, check out the Crooked Dice Games Design website or the ultra friendly 7TV Productions community on Facebook.  The next events which are both in my diary are:

  • Wargames Illustrated 7TV Pulp day at Wargames Foundry (Newark) on 6th July, and;
  • 7TV Day III at Board in Brum (which should by this time have expanded into the rest of their building) is happening on Saturday 21st September 2018 (I’m already starting to think about a board for this, let’s just say it involves a lot of biscuit tins and coffee jars!)

Princes of the Universe by Cold War Miniatures

Or how Betamax changed my life.

Back in the heady days of the mid-eighties my Dad made a decision.  A decision that would resonate for the rest of my childhood.  A decision that would fundamentally change my outlook on life.  A decision that would be looked back on as one of the most important of the late 20th Century. He decided to buy a video recorder.

Not just any video recorder, but a Betamax video recorder.

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At least it was a front loader (‘stock footage’ – not a photo of the actual VCR, which was finally skipped a few years ago)

Those of you that know your history will recall that back in these times of big hair and constant fear of nuclear Armageddon there were a number of competing formats for home video.  Betamax (arguably technically superior) backed by Sony and VHS by JVC appeared as the top runners and therein entered into a brief period of competition from which one only would emerge triumphant (spoiler – it was VHS).  (Older readers may also remember other formats, including the curious Video 2000 with it’s curious two sided cassettes – something that remained in use in my school anyway well into the nineties, often wheeled into classrooms on giant wheeled trolleys also holding very flammable looking wooden framed TVs).

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The classic L-750

So the fateful decision having being made we were then the proud owner of a technically great machine, but within a few months without the ability to rent or buy any tapes.  What this did mean was that as a youngster I was limited to those films we taped off the telly and the increasingly rare (and often ex-rental) tapes we could still buy.  Accordingly I had a relatively small pool of things to watch, and watch them I did, repeatedly.  Some of my all-time favorite films were discovered during this period, including the 1978 animated version of the Lord of the Rings, the second 60’s Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie (Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD) and of course the camp, cult classic Flash Gordon.

 

I must have watched the 1980 Flash Gordon film hundreds of times over the past few decades, and I’ve often thought about how I might bring Flash to the tabletop.  A successful Kickstarter was recently run to publish a Flash Gordon setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying system.  I’m more of a miniatures person though, and although the Kickstarter produced a limited set of miniatures they weren’t quick what I was looking for.

 

Fast forward to last year and a random Facebook post pointed me in the direction of Cold War Miniatures.  This is a small Scottish based miniatures produced (who interestingly despite their name do not have any Cold War ranges), but do have a number of interesting lines, including a wonderful range called Princes of the Universe (retro sci fi minis with a Flash Gordon flavour in 28mm scale miniatures in both resin and metal).  I ordered a couple late last year to check them out and they are very well sculpted, clean and crisp with no flash at all.

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Princes of the Universe by Cold War Miniatures

The style is very much based on the classic Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond from the 30’s and 40’s, with a significant nod to the Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe movie serials of the same time.  (The black and white serials were often shown daily during school summer holidays on TV in the UK and I remember watching  and loving these way before I got a view of the Technicolor delights of the 1980 Mike Hodges film.)

 

As regular readers of my blog may know, my go-to miniatures game is 7TV as it allows me to game pretty much what I want and allows me to field all those random cool toys that catch my eye.  So it is that my ‘Flash Gordon’ cast is beginning to take shape.  I’ve decided to concentrate on the good guys to start with, so an additional order to Cold War Miniatures has resulted in the fleshing out of the team to include not only the dashing hero, his muse and their mad scientist companion, but also a couple of alien princes (one at home in the forest kingdoms, the other a winged behemoth with a passion for shouting!)

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These guys are currently work in progress.  I am due to attend a couple of 7TV gaming days this year.  The one at Board in Brum in January might be a bit too soon to get these guys finished, however I’ve also recently signed up for the Wargames Illustrated 7TV day at Wargames Foundry in the summer (at which conveniently the new Pulp version of the rules will be being used).  (You can read about last year’s event elsewhere on the site).

 

I’d highly recommend checking Princes of the Universe and Cold War Miniatures in general.  Not only lovely miniatures but great service and very quick postage within the UK.  In addition to the miniatures I also bought from them a couple of the 3D print files for a rocket ship and some giant trees to go have a go at with my newly acquired toy (but that is a story for another time….)

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New toy