Further adventures in 3D printing for tabletop

A while back I wrote an article about my first steps in the growing 3D printing part of the tabletop hobby.  Now a few months down the line, an update on what I have learned and where I am going next with this.

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I’ve said it before, but it is worth reiterating – patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to 3D printing.  Over the last few months I’ve made some great inroads into ‘dialling my settings in’ and getting some great results for scenery pieces and larger models.  I’ve done something I’ve never done before – stripping electrics and re-wiring when a key component broke and I’ve also discovered some fantastic digital sculptors pushing their wares on Patreon.

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Dock side scenery piece by Hayland Terrain

So a reminder, I am running a Creality CR-10S which is a larger bed (meaning larger print sizes) FDM printer.  FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, this is the most traditional style of 3D printer on the market and basically works by layering down melted plastic filament to build up a model.  The material I am using is PLA – this is an odourless plastic based on corn starch (so biodegrable).  Having played around with different brands (which does make a difference) I have settled on eSun PLA+ (in a rather splendid yellow).  PLA+ seems to be a slightly more dense version of PLA (possible with extra additives) and I have found it produces stronger models that are easier to work with both in terms of modelling and painting post-printing.

One of the key challenges with printing miniatures in particular is getting the ‘supports’ right.  Supports are the removable parts of the print, which you’ve guessed it, support parts of the model which overhang and would otherwise have to print in mid-air (as a famous guide book once said – this is of course impossible).  There are plenty of miniature designs out there in the 3D printing universe which have been specially designed to print without supports (more on these in a bit).  The real issue when you are using them is to get them so they provide enough ‘support’ for the model while also being relatively easy to remove without snapping off those important bits that should remain in place.

When taking this into account there are all sorts of different variables and pieces of advice out there.  Most of these relate to how you process the STL file prior to printing in your ‘slicing software’, but many also relate to the physical setup of your machine, brand and even colour of filament used and so on.  Lots of trial and error, lots of visiting Facebook groups, checking YouTube and reading forums – so again patience is a virtue.  For information I am using a piece of software called Cura to process (slice) the files before printing.  Learning and tweaking the settings in here is all part of the fun!

In the end I have got this about right I think and some of the results I am getting for larger miniatures both with and without supports are really pleasing.

But where I am getting the files from to print?  Thingiverse is a great resource – a community of designers and printers and a place to find stuff that is free.  There are specific groups and collections of files on there which are aimed at tabletop gamers. However there is also a growing trend for digital sculptors and designers to use the Patreon funding platform to market and distribute work.

I currently support two Patreon campaigns, where for a monthly charge I get access to a number of STL files each month.  Duncan ‘shadow’ Louca is well worth checking out.  I first came across his work as part of a Kickstarter campaign which was creating tanks and armoured vehicle files for a ‘grimdark’ setting.  However he has since branched out into miniatures which are primarily aimed at the fantasy roleplaying game market.  Duncan is extremely prolific and the level of funding he is achieving each month is quite staggering.  It is worth saying that the quality of the prints I have been getting from his files have been excellent as well.  So both quantity and quality – winner!

Another Patreon I have also recently started supported is run by Rocket Pig Games.  They again focus on fantasy monsters and creatures primarily for role playing (but for me ideal for planning out a Saga Age of Magic army).  The big selling point of their models is the aforementioned lack of supports.  Well worth checking out.  They also run a seperate Patreon campaign which focuses more on Lovecraftian ‘cosmic horror’ style miniatures.

The thing that connects everything I have covered so far is that I am printing big models.  In addition thanks to some recent Kickstarer campaigns and the wealth of treasures on Thingiverse I have been printing lots of scenery.  Again, although often detailed, this is big chunky stuff.  For the most part the models produced are sturdy and where supports are necessary they are relatively easy to remove.

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Pre-support removal and clean up

What about normal sized 28mm scale miniatures though?  I recently volunteered to print our some models that a friend had designed and purchased on HeroForge.  This is a great site where you can design character miniatures for your games and then either get them printed and shipped out to you or receive the STL files for printing out yourself.  It is here that I’ve noticed that you are really stretching the capabilities of a FDM printer.  As you are effectively layering up a model by depositing thin layers of plastic you do get some lines on flat surfaces.  For larger models these can be easily filed or treated post-printing (with plastic putty for example).  Settings can again be tweaked in slicing software to increase the resolution of a print (by reducing the layer height, but thus increasing print times); combined with the ability to swap out nozzles of different diameters this can lead to some stunning results. Of course on smaller models even with a high resolution setting and a smaller nozzle size these lines do become more visible.  Combine this with the issue of removing supports and you do start to get some problems with bits snapping off that shouldn’t or obsfucation of detail.

This very much became apparent when I was trying to print off these models – many came out well, but there were a few where the detail was just too fine and the oft mentioned patience became somewhat stretched.

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Smaller minis are pushing the limits of what I can do on a FDM printer

There is some light on the horizon though.  SLA (Stereolithography) printers are becoming much more affordable.  These work in a slightly different way and although they tend to have a smaller print size and are somewhat messier (they use light to harden liquid resin that is contained in a reservoir to create the desired 3D shape), they are ideal for printing smaller more detailed minaitures.

Ooops….

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Cultists and Survivors for 7TV Apocalypse

The journey through the post-apocalyptic landscape that is my pile of unpainted models continues.

Next up some of the cultists that were released by Crooked Dice originally as part of the 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter campaign and now available via their webstore.

These are nice chunky models and were a pleasure to paint.  Resisting the temptation to go down the contrast paints route on these like I did on my ‘protect and survive’ miniature, I concentrated on a more traditional approach.

I wanted to tie these guys together as a warband / cast while still reflecting their indivduality.  As such I chose a ‘german field grey’ as this base.

Feeling the call of the ‘fury road’, I also had a go at a test colour scheme for one of the ‘war boys’.  Trying to match the washed out white skin of the characters from the most recent Mad Max film was a bit of a challenge, and in the end I went for a combination of white drybrushing over a grey undercoat with some restained use of flesh wash.  Oh and don’t forget the chrome!

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What a lovely day

I also wanted to expand my generic cast of ‘survivors’, with the intention of using these not only in games of Apocalypse, but also in other settings.  A while ago I bought the Walking Dead miniatures game from Mantic, purely for the figures.

These are plastic and one-piece (and also by far the best miniatures I think Mantic have ever produced – at least from a quality control perspective).  I’m thinking that these would also make an ideal ‘resistance’ for modern day 7TV (perhaps facing down an invasion of visiting alien invaders)?

Next up (and in the same vein as the ‘Mantic survivors’), a female member biker, built from the Warlord Games Project Z Motorcycle Gang set.  These are former Wargames Factory models and are somewhat more spindly than their Mantic counterparts.  That said I found this a really enjoyable kit to put together and paint.  The majority of the figures on the sprue were bike mounted, but there was the opportunity to build a few ‘foot troops’.

Finally (and from way way way back), we have a Prince August Future Shock ‘police scientist’.  This is a one piece metal miniature – I decided again to paint him in a way that he could be used across multiple settings (he has a touch of  Spy-fi evil genius about him.  Black Templar contrast paint was used for the primary colouring here, with some fluroescent green and yellow on the flask / syringe.

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I’m finding Black Templar a really useful colour for doing black leathers and fatigues on modern setting miniatures.  It works particularly well for me over a grey undercoat, giving a nice coverage of black while retaining the highlights that both the undercoat and constrast paint emphasise

Next up for this project is a biker gang (and police opponents) which I am pulling together from Crooked Dice, Project Z and Future Shock ranges with a bit of kit-bashing on the way…..

Two minutes to midnight – 7TV Apocalypse update

In between everything else I have getting on with (to varying levels of success) over the last few weeks I’ve been gradually grinding through the 7TV Apocalpse lead pile.

One of the sets I picked up were the cultists.  My favourite figure from this selection is definately ‘billboard man’.  What could he be advertising though?  Probably not insurance, but maybe something more sinister?

cultists

Having grown up in the eighties I have a certain morbid fascination with nuclear armageddon and in particular the whole area of civil defence and in the termonuclear age, the utter pointlessness of it.  No better is this encapsulated than in the infamous ‘Protect and Survive’ booklet and films of the period.

Protect and Survive

These are widely available to view on YouTube and the booklet itself has recently been republished by the Imperial War Museum.  The iconic branding of the ‘nuclear family’ on the cover of the booklet and as a bumper to the films seems perfectly ironic and fitting for ‘billboard man’.

Now my freehand painting leaves a lot to be desired, but I gave it a go anyway.  I decided to try and paint the majority of the miniature using Citadel contrast paints.  I’m still playing around with finding the best use for these, but am finding them particularly effective on ‘organics’ and ‘clothing’, especially over a white undercoat.

The board itself was painted with a grey contrast paint over white as a base.  I then freehanded on to the best of my ability a rough approximation of the Protect and Survive logo (including the mushroom cload) on the front and the phrase itself on the back.

 

I’ve still got plenty of more stuff to do on the post-apocalypse lead pile, and am still not really approaching this with any real plan over ‘what looks cool next’.  Next up then (probably) will be a biker gang.  I picked up a couple of sets of these from the Kickstarter, but have also recently built a couple of the now out of production Warlord/WGF Project Z biker gang.  Really impressed the quality and options on this kit and wish I had picked up more while they were still widely available.

 

Also recently completed (and again another majority ‘contrast job’) is this guy from Mantic’s Walking Dead, who will be added to my pool of generic PA survivors.

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Project Kraken – Red Shadows Laboratory

As I continue to prepare my 7TV secret base board I’ve been thinking about the sort of rooms and components that make up a good lair.

One thing that evil geniuses such as Baron Ironblood are always keen on is some form of twisted scientific research.  Part of the lore of the Red Shadows organisation both in the toy line and the accompanying comic strips in Battle Action Force was the idea of the Kraken.

Kraken Action Figure

The Kraken in toy form was originally only available via a special offer leaflet in some Action Force vehicle boxes.  In the story line this was a bit more of a science fiction diversion for what primarily up to this point was a more hard military tale.  Discovered in stasis beneath the artic ice the Kraken was then engineered by the Baron and his servants into servant of the Enemy, armed with ‘trident gun’ and net (and then cloned many times over).

Battle Action Force Kraken datafile.jpg

I’m yet to model a Kraken for inclusion in my cast (an official stat card exists for the creature in the 7TV 1969 Annual), but undoubtedly this will happen at some point.  However in the meantime and considering my focus on pulling a secret base layout together I’ve gone back to the early stages of the Baron’s experiments.

Suppose rather than happen across a conveniently frozen lizardman in the snow, the Baron had to work for it and develop his own super soldier mutant.  Many years ago I picked up this excellent set of miniatures from West Wind Productions Secrets of the Third Reich range.

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West Wind Productions Cloning Tanks

I’ve been waiting for a while to do anything with them so have decided to paint them up as features for a laboratory in the base.

The kit is all metal apart from the clear plastic tubing.  A quick paint job on the metallic parts using some washes and Citadel Ryza Rust gave me the kind of murky grimy evil lab setting I was after.  For the ‘specimens’ it was another excuse to use some Citadel Constrast paints. Guilleman Flesh over a white undercoat is one of the best results I have come across yet for this new range and it works particularly well for these gribbly creatures.  I also used some ‘Nurgle’s Rot’ to add a bit of slime to the bases.

One mistake I made was the overuse of super glue to fix the clear plastic tubes to the metal ends resulting in a bit of frosting.  In the end though I think this kind of adds to the effect.

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If not the Kraken then what?

 

 

The accompanying white coated scientist becomes a red coated scientest and voila I have some set dressing for the lab.  I can also use the scientist in my 7TV cast as an extra, so bonus.

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One of the Baron’s science team

I’ll be adding a few more bits and pieces to the lab (including of course some walls and doors) and a thinking about a command centre.

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Some already completed components for the control room

One idea is to add some of the plant based post-apocalyptic miniatures from 7TV to the mix.  Can’t help but think that the Baron would certainly be in the market for a few Triffids.

Day of the Triffids BBC

 

World Enemy Number One

My long running Action Force in 28mm scale project has suddenly got a bit more focus.  I am attending the next 7TV campaign day at Board in Brum in Walsall in September.  This requires a 40 ratings cast and having fielded Space Force last time, I figure it’s time for the Enemy this time round.

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Action Force will never succeed in eliminating the Baron! (A classic illustration from the pages of Battle Action Force Issue 508 January 1985)

In addition to the cast I am also putting together a table layout for the day, which is going to be themed around said cast – so Red Shadow secret base it is then.

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They will come like a red horde from the shadows!

I’ll be documenting my progress over the next few weeks.  The casting is mostly complete, so most of the focus will be on the table.  What this is allowing me to do is also stress the 3D printer with terrain and vehicles for the Baron!  I’m not planning on including any vehicles in my cast, but I figure any secret base worth its weight is going to have a pretty well stocked motor pool.  So a great excuse to go wild and finish off a number of things I have had part completed for quite a while.

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Bits of base – all 3D printed – all work in progress

First up is a 1:43 scale die cast World War 2 German Puma.  Following a black undercoat I airbrushed on some successively lighter layers of red and a picked out the basic highlights on the tools, metalwork and other features.  Decals wise I was lucky to chance upon some custom ‘Enemy’ decals from eBay a while back.  I applied these on top of a gloss varnish and subsequently weathered up using a sponge chipping technique.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  The WW2 German aesthetic fits the Red Shadows well (the original figure being based on the German Stormtrooper).

Next up are the Hyena tanks (known more commonly by GI Joe fans as the Cobra HISS tank).  I’ve got a stash of gift style toys released a few years ago that are perfect for 28mm scale and have previously painted one up, but I want a whole squadron for the motor pool.  This also gave me the chance to experiment with the new Citadel Contrast paints on a vehicle rather than a miniature.

Decals were from the same source as the ones used on the Puma.  The contrast paint went down well, but I have to say (as many others have commented) I feel it works much better on ‘organic’ models with plenty of folds and creases.  The paint tends to pool on flat surfaces and although it does run into panel lines it is not as effective as a wash.  I used Flesh Tearers Red over a white undercoat and ended up doing some dry brush highlighting afterwards in order to bring it up to a better and more consistent finish.  Interesting note, wary of some reports of the adherence of contrast paints not being as good as standard acrylics, I did seal the model with Dullcote between these steps.

Finally on the vehicles I needed Shadowtraks.  The eponymous Red Shadows vehicle, from both the toy line and the pages of Battle Action Force.

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The original toy

Luckily a fellow fan and wargamer has produced an excellent 3D model and made it freely available on Thingiverse.  I’ve printed this at 160% and made some ‘after print modifications’ to get the wheels positioned correctly.  A few more of these will be rolling off the Baron’s production line shortly.

Featured in one of the photos above is a new Baron Ironblood miniature I am working on.  I’ve previously modelled a Baron using a 7TV ‘not Blakes 7 Travis’ figure, but all in all wasn’t that pleased with the outcome (mainly on account of the rough job I did on the helmet using some very basic greenstuff skills).

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Classic take on the Baron I am keen to emulate in miniature form

While purusing my bits box a few weeks ago I happened across a figure I’m still struggling to identify.  Helmet wise I’ve gone with a ‘welders mask’ head from the Crooked Dice 7TV henchmen set.  Revel ‘Plasto’ putty has been used to make the mask into a full helmet.  I snipped off the right hand which was holding a hypodermic needle and replaced this with a fist from a random plastic sprue and added some electrical wire as a whip.  In honour of the original action figure I’m arming the Baron with an UZI which I sourced from an old Dreamforge Games Eisenkern Troopers frame.

Painting is yet to be completed but I’ll be using it as an opportunity to try both the black and white constrast paints.

More soon, including the plans for the rest of the base.

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What lies within?

Blood for the Baron!

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A portent of things to come

The Cabinets of Wonder at Wargames Foundry

I recently attended a 7TV campaign day at Foundry Miniatures (aka Wargames Foundry).  Dotted throughout the venue are cabinets upon cabinets of wonderfully painted vintage Citadel Miniatures.

Many of these are recognisable to those of us of a certain vintage from the pages of White Dwarf back in the day.

First off, some classic Warhammer 40k miniatures:

 

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Space Crusade

Some smaller scale classic ‘Epic’ miniatures:

 

Citadel fantasy and medieval, including Heroquest, Advanced Heroquest, Talisman and Warhammer.

 

 

A bit of Bloodbowl (and Dungeonbowl)!

And finally a selection of Foundry Miniatures:

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The shop at Foundry which contains all these wonders is well worth a visit.  It is open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm – more details on their website.

Pulptastic – A 7TV Campaign Day

On Saturday 6th July I attended the now annual 7TV campaign day, organised by Wargames Illustrated and hosted at Foundry Miniatures just outside Newark.  This is the second year I have attended following last years event which focussed on playtesting the Apocalypse ruleset.

This time round the focus was Pulp and the newly released 7TV Pulp boxed set.  As per usual Mr. 7TV himself, Karl Perroton was in attendance.  Also there was Peter Wright from Edge Hill University and some of his students who had worked on the rules in collobaration with Crooked Dice.

As a change this year attendees were invited to bring along a board or table setup.  The 7TV community is well known for really pushing the boat out when it comes to scenery and terrain and there were some excellent setups in attendance.  The gaming area was spread across the Foundry shop, marquee and also a spare stable!

For those who don’t know, Wargames Foundry has for a few years now been based in the stable block at Stoke Hall.  The stable block is a circular building with a central exterior courtyard in which is based a semi-permanent hospitality tent.  The shop itself is large and filled with a huge number of blisters containing just about every type of 28mm scale metal wargames figures you could imagine.  Even more exciting for a man of my age, there are cabinets full of beautifully painted ‘old skool’ miniatures.  Many of these are old Citadel Miniatures sculpts from the 1980s that once graced the pages of White Dwarf back in the day (Bryan Ansell who owns Foundry is the former head of Games Workshop).  Any how, more on the cabinets in another blog!

The day was split up into three games and we were organised into two groups.  The ‘baddie’ casts were fighting for the sinister Hydra organisation, while the ‘goodies’ were on the side of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR).  A general theme running throughout the day saw the games oriented around the scouting out and collecting of parts for a sinister super weapon, with the final game being a battle to ultimately control these doomsday devices.

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A super weapon!

Attendees were also encouraged to model and bring along their own super weapon.  I’ve already documented my adventures in putting together my big stompy robot for this purpose, and there were a wide variety of ‘devices’ on show (including a mysterious pyramid, various mechanical men and a plank of wood with some nails in).  My favourite however had to be a television set – symbolising the rise of TV in the home and the death of the cinema serial!

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A possible super weapon?

Casts were many and varied (according to Wayne from Wargames Illustrated this is by far the most popular event they put on) and in total there were about twenty four attendees playing.  Although there was the overarching Hydra versus SSR theme, this did not mean a restiction in the types of casts fielded.  There were mobsters, adventurers, Lovecraftian horrors, space aliens from beyond the stars, rocketeers and many more.

My first game was against Peter James and his Rocketeers and was played on the Nazi flying saucer / V2 launch site table I had quickly put together for the event.  This was my first ever game using the Pulp variant of the rules and it was interesting to see how a few little things here and there had been tweaked.  The new countdown deck (now called the cliffhanger deck) provided a suitably ‘pulpy flavour’ to proceedings.  My cast from Mongo didn’t fair too well here, with Emperor Ming and his cronies being axed only just as we entered Act 2!

This gave me a bit of extra time to have a browse round the Foundry shop and discover that despite not being aware of it at the beginning of the day, I suddenly really needed to start an Elf army for Saga Age of Magic!

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Unexpected purchase in the hobby area!

Lunch followed including a question and answer session with Karl and the gang from EHU.  A few tasty titbits of info on upcoming activities and 7TV releases were forthcoming.  As you can probably guess I was particularly excited by the upcoming ‘classic sci-fi’ range of figures which are coming to Kickstarter soon.

Mongo Secret Police

The afternoon’s games soon came round.  First up I was up against Simon Clarke and his excellent ‘North Pole’ cast, which included a heavily armed Father Christmas as well as a particularly violent red nosed reindeer!  Two highlights in this game for me.  First off Princess Aura being gored off the top of a building by Rudolf.  Second (having survived and ultimately being the only cast member I had left), Aura attempting to seduce Santa in the last act of the game.  Needless to say my run of luck continued and the invaders from Mongo were once again banished (surely Hydra must have been offshoring to Mongo by now).

The final game of the day was against an old adversary, Kieron Mulholland.  I’d previously played Kieron at the Dales 7TV event earlier in the summer and got roundly spanked after about three turns when Skeletor and his crew totally decimated my cast of orange jumpsuited fascist space lizards.  Surely history couldn’t repeat itself?

It did.

While it wasn’t quite as short a game this time, my dice luck and tactical choices were similary awful and I was axed during act 2 as I valiantly tried to defend my stompy robot from Captain America, Bucky and pals.  All in all though another excellent game and a reminder (not that it’s needed) how much fun 7TV is to play.

After all the results were totted up and points allocated, stunningly (although in keeping with the cliffhanger nature of the pulp serials) it was a dead heat between the forces of Hydra and the SSR.  A number of prizes were allocated and a few freebies given out.  It was a fantastic day all in all.  Great to catch up with old faces and meet new ones.

A massive thanks to Wayne at Wargames Illustrated and the staff at Foundry for the organisation.  A big shout out to all the attendees and their brilliant casts and tables, and an especially loud ‘pip pip’ to Karl, Peter and the brilliant student team from EHU for crafting a fantastic new version of our favourite game.  Looking forward to next year already.