As is often the case this little hobby activity was in no way planned. Having bought a few cheap Heroclix figures from eBay in order to try out a new set of rules, I found the following in the booster packs I was opening….
Now I am not a massive Marvel or superhero comics chap, but I do know that this is Magneto, nemesis of the X-Men. However my immediate thought was, with a bit of work that could easily be Cobra Commander seated in his throne room.
So, first up basing. This looked to be a flying model so rather than being directly attached to the usual Heroclix chunky base, all I had to remove and replace was the clear plastic around the bottom of the model.
In my bits box I knew I had a hooded Cobra Commander head (sourced from a limited run of private commission GI Joe miniatures). So one quick snip and a touch of superglue later and the king snake himself was pretty much done (at least in terms of modelling).
Now the only problem I had with making this a convincing conversation was the facts that the original bare headed figure has his hand placed on a helmet. As it happens the choice of going with the ‘hooded’ version of Cobra Commander proved fortuitous. With a bit of filler I could convert the helmet in hand into his alternate head wear. In fact even better I could go with the ‘Action Force’ version of the Commander and model the helmet as his previous ‘Baron Ironblood’ persona.
(For those readers not familiar with the British Action Force mythology, Cobra was born out of the ashes of the Red Shadows organisation, with Cobra Commander previously being the head of that organisation, the fearsome Baron Ironblood. You can read more about my Action Force project and Baron Ironblood in my past blog posts.)
Next step, painting. I gave the pre-painted figure a covering with a white primer applied with the airbrush. Then it was down to a combination of Citadel Contrast and ‘traditional paints’ to finish things off. All in all a quick but effective conversion, which will probably see some action on the tabletop in games of 7TV at some point in the future.
What this has reminded me is that while some of the pre-paints on Heroclix models can be a bit ropey, there are often some good sculpts hiding underneath. Heroclix can be incredibly cheap to pick up and the vast array of characters means that these can be a really good source for conversions (whether you choose to re-paint them or not).
Thing is this all started off with a desire to do some super hero hobby and gaming. I still plan on pursuing this (especially in light of the theme of this years Wargames Illustrated 7TV Day). Well these turned up recently (I ordered them, but has kind of forgotten about them)….new unpainted X-Men Heroclix, including of course a certain Magneto….
With the recent completion of the 7TV Pulp Sci Fi miniatures Kickstarter I have a load more reinforcements coming over the next few months. (For the record the 1980 version of Flash Gordon is my all time favourite and probably most watched film of all time).
In the meantime I’ve been thinking about how to expand the legions of Mongo to include some themed vehicles to my selection of troops and personalities.
A while ago I picked up a Heroclix model of ‘Brainiacs Skullship’. You can see the original below. This was ostensibly in order to model a Roboskull for my Action Force project, but in the end I never quite got round to that. However as a model it has a certain ‘pulp appeal’ and so I set about repainting this in some suitably Ming-like colours.
The model was first removed from it’s Heroclix base using a hobby saw (and a bit of blunt force).
A basecoat of red primer was applied with the airbrush and a couple of progressively lighter reds (all Vallejo Game Air) were applied as highlights. The clear plastic green panels were masked so that they could be left in place.
Detail was picked out in gold and black lining was done with Tamiya panel line wash.
All I am quite pleased with the result. I think it has a aesthetic that matches the style of the Flash Gordon movie well. I have another one sat on my shelf that I think I am going to do something similar with, but maybe in the black and gold of Klytus’s Imperial Secret Police.
So in amongst all the other stuff I have going on (including a new resin 3D printer, more on which another time), I am still working my way through the big pile of lead from the 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter.
This time up its the turn of the Creepers! These miniatures were multi-part so required a bit of superglue magic (i.e. activator) to get built. They are very much an ode to those killer plants from an early eighties BBC TV adaption of a classic sci fi novel. They are ‘triffic’ sculpts.
Having had a break from the airbrush for a few months (I tend to do all my spraying with rattle cans, especially basecoating outside while the weather is good), I decided to crack it out again for these guys. Over a white undercoat, building up a couple of successively lighter layers of green worked really well. I supplemented this with the use of yellow washes/glazes and a purple contrast paint to make it all look suitably organic and plant-like.
I went to town on the basing with these, swapping out to some of the (now standard for Space Marines anyway) 32mm round bases from Games Workshop. I added in various tufts, flock and static grass to tie in with the theme.
I also found the time to complete another of the cultists from the set, a rather lost looking survivor and am continuing to work on the motorbike gang.
A while back something caught my eye. Not unusual for a hobby butterfly, this was on Kickstarter and was for the Monolith Games Batman Gotham City Chronicles board game. Ultimately a bout of common sense took over and I didn’t hand over the big bucks for this.
Fast forward a couple of years and now that 7TV Pulp has been released the alure of doing a game if not with full blown superheroes at least with costumed vigilantes was strong. What really attracted to me Gotham City Chronicles originally was (as with a lot of things) the miniatures. I’d previously owned and played the Conan game upon which Batman was based, and liked it, although I found it a bit over complicated. But the figures….
Quick trip to eBay and I found a reasonably priced base pledge from the Kickstarter and after an abortive attempt to play the game at one of my regular Wednesday night gaming sessions I then switched my attention to getting some paint down on some figures. Oh, of course, thinking about how to port this to 7TV.
First off the issue of scale. The miniatures in Gotham City Chronicles are (in the majority of cases) one-piece. They are all PVC plastic, but don’t suffer at all from ‘bendy sword syndrome’. They are also on the big side – I’d say on the upper end of 32 to 35mm scale – almost ‘heroic 1:48’.
So is that actually a problem for 7TV? Well obviously not if you are playing exclusively with these miniatures, but what if you want to do some mixing and matching? To be honest, I can live with it. In true 7TV style if it was noticeable it could always be passed off as a continuity error in the production! I have in fact played a game using a standard 28mm scale cast against some chibi miniatures before – in my mind we were filming a crazy mix of animation and live action – ‘who framed Hugo Solomon?’ if you will.
One of four Batman minis in the base set
The Dark Knight
So far I have been concentrating on the good guys. As alluded to above, the thing that helps with the Batman setting (at least within the confines of the majority of the figures I have available) is that super powers are not really a major thing. Most of the good guys (Batman, Robin, Batgirl and so on) are gadget laden combat specialists – sounds an ideal fit for the archetype approach 7TV takes to customising casts. Likewise with the villians. In fact even the addition of some limited super powers into the mix could probably be easily modelled using the guidelines in the various boxed sets available from Crooked Dice.
So far I have only got the Batman himself stated up. I used the base stats from the ‘Crusading Crimefigher’ profile in the 7TV Pulp box and then adjusted the star quality and abilities according. I wanted to give some Batman flavour to these, but avoid creating any new rules and abilities. I therefore looked across the different 7TV books and profiles to see what I could switch out.
I switched in the ‘Pulse Pounding Action’ star quality from the Pulp ‘Intrepid Adventurer’ profile (but renamed this ‘Dark Knight). This gives me a super strong close combat option, which seems about right, and I supplemented this with the ‘Martial Arts’ ability from the ‘Spy-Fy’ profiles. Bruce Wayne loves gadgets, so to replicate this for his alter ego I included the ‘Gadget’ ability and then to make sure Batman’s detective skills are (kind of) represented I also added ‘Spy’ (again renamed for ‘flavour’). Trying to stick to only four abilities became tricky here – there are loads of things that fit, but in the end I went for ‘Jump’ at the expense of ‘Climb’.
So still work in progress, and yet to be tried in a game, so likely to be changed. I am planning on adding Robin to the initial cast and will need to profile him up. As for extras I’ll go with the existing 7TV cop profiles to add some of Gotham City’s finest into the mix.
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.
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.
Supports can be tricky to remove
Supports visible from the rear of this model
It can be a messy job
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!
Model by Duncan Louca
Model by Duncan Louca
Model by Duncan Louca
Model by Duncan Louca
Model by Duncan Louca
Model by Duncan Louca
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.
Astral Lurker (Rocket Pig Games)
Filbolg (Rocket Pig Games)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
I’ve now finished the ‘super weapon’ that attendees were invited to bring along for the final game of the day. Not quite sure how these are going to work in game and looking across the posts on the 7TV Productions Facebook page there is quite a variety of stuff being worked on by attendees.
I settled on finally painting the Mantic Mars Attacks robot that I have had for years and have now finished this off with the addition of a pilot and some suitable basing to tie it into the rest of my cast.