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….
The Action Force project continues. I’ve recently arranged to run a participation game of 7TV at an upcoming show in 2020, and am going to run an Action Force scenario. This is likely to be an assault on the Baron’s secret base by our brave heroes.
I’ve already got ideas around the setup and my recently completed submarine will be making an appearence. Therefore an amphibious assault on a port seems like a great idea. As such I need a way to deliver my forces to the combat zone.
Enter the Action Force hovercraft.
More commonly known as the G.I.Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E this was a toy that was released originally in the third wave of releases by Palitoy in the mid-1980s. By this stage the range was almost exclusively repackaged G.I.Joe figures and vehicles. The background (supported by the weekly Battle Action Force comic) had shifted to a combined Action Force team facing off against the forces of Cobra.
Now at the time I loved this change, but in retrospect my heart always lay with the original Baron Ironblood and the Red Shadows setup. Subsequently this is where the focus of my 28mm scale Action Force wargaming has been.
However, never one to let ‘canon’ get in the way of a good gaming project I’ve decided to model my hovercraft, rather than as a combined Action Force vehicle, as if it were part of the Q Force armoury. As a reminder the original Action Force organisation was split into four arms; Z Force (the infantry backbone), SAS Force (special ops), Space Force (does what it says on the tin) and Q Force (the naval team).
Q Force (like Space Force), never got quite as much love as their land based cousins, so the toy range wasn’t quite as wide in terms of figures or indeed vehicles. What there was though was great. The vehicle sets were original and designed by Palitoy (i.e. they were not G.I.Joe repaints).
Wanting the hovercraft to feel like part of Q Force means looking at an alternative to the quite dull green original scheme. So we are looking primarily at greys and blues with red and yellow accents.
All this talk of colour schemes is very good, but first of course I needed a model. Enter Thingiverse and the world of 3D printing. Having located an amazing model I set this going on my 3D printer and a mere 45 hours later I had the following:
Interestingly this model was originally scaled as per the original toy, which was huge (and always coveted by me as a boy). In order to scale this for 28mm gaming I reduced the print size by 45%.
Clean up was a challenge particularly removing the generated supports on the propellors. I basically had to break these and manually rebuild them (with the addition of some plasticard and plastic filler). The plan is to print two more in the future, and I think I will try printing without supports next time and see what happens.
The model was undercoated using a light grey Halfords car primer. I went quite close and thick with this in order to compensate for some of the layer lines that are an artefact of this type of 3D printing. In combination with a pre-undercoat sanding the finish turned out quite smooth.
So back to the colour scheme and working out a Q Force style livery. I wanted to keep the main body of the craft a traditional naval style grey so went at this with the airbrush using three successively light coats. Once this was dry it was time to block out some colours. It was all brush work from this point on.
The skirt was done using the black Citadel contrast paint, which I think over the grey gives a good ‘rubberised’ look. In fact I’d go as far as saying the slightly visible layer lines actually helped in achieving this effect.
Following this I chose various points of interest to block out in a limted colour palette of yellow, blue and red (all Citadel base paints). To be true to the toys I probably should have continued the block colouring on the weapons and props, but I went for a more ‘realistic’ dark metallic colour for these (Foundry Blackened Barrel C). The windows were done using the Space Wolves grey Citadel contrast paint.
Next up, markings. Luckily the original stickers for many of the original toys are still available. A quick visit to Vintage Star Wars Collectibles set me up with a reproduction sticker sheet for the Q Force Swordfish. I applied these stickers direct to the model and sealed them using a gloss varnish.
Finally the model was finished off with a few basic highlights and a matt top coat. I had considered a final weathering step, however something about the finish with the primary colours and the similarity to the toy range stayed my hand.
All in all I am pretty pleased with the outcome. Since I completed this project I have further refined some of my 3D printer settings, which should reduce damage when removing supports and ease the clean up prior to printing should I attempt a similar model in future.
Final touches will be to add some Q Force personel. I have some Crooked Dice frogmen that will fit the bill well. In the meantime I have to stick with ferrying the SAS boys around…
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 recently picked up an inexpensive die cast toy helicopter and have set about quickly adding it to the ranks of Baron Ironblood’s forces. This was a relatively quick and easy conversion using as it’s basis a Teamsterz Rescue Helicopter, which cost me about £4.
Taking advantage of the unseasonably good weather I was able to spray this up quickly outside using Halfords Black as a primer followed by an all over of Humbrol Crimson and then a zenith highlight (well a top down spray) of Humbrol Red.
The Humbrol sprays while being acrylics were gloss. I’d didn’t think this would look too out of place for a chopper, however it ended up being a little too shiny, so this was solved with a once over of Testors Dullcote (which also provided a good base for the details and highlights).
The toy had some decent panel lined detail, so I highlighted this using a black marker pen (designed for lining Gundam models). Windows were painted with Citadel Magragge Blue and tints were applied using a white Gundam marker this time. Other bits and pieces were painted black or silver and really that was it.
It wasn’t until after I had nearly finished that I noticed the screw holes holding the model together on one side. Had I realised from the start these would have been filled, however as a gaming piece I can live with this.
Final touch was the addition of some decals which I had picked up a few months back on eBay.
There we have it – air transport for the Baron. Scale is just about OK for 28mm scale miniatures, if anything it is slightly large, but hey, more room for Mutons!
Next up for the Shad motor pool is an armoured car based on a 1/43rd die cast Puma….
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.
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.
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.
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).
Post Apocalypse Town
Downtown New York
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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’)!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!)
I’ve been doing this Action Force in 28mm thing for a few years now. I keep getting distracted, but always get pulled back in. I blogged recently about the ultimate goal of getting a Roboskull to the table, but this reminded me I have a number of part finished other vehicles to add to the motor pool. So with a concerted effort I have gone back and revisited these.
Most of the vehicles I have previously started have been for the ‘Enemy’. I’ve kind of handled this in a couple of different ways – both accurate replicas of the toys/comics and an ‘inspired by’ approach.
The latter has basically involved me finding models and toys (in the right scale) that kind of fit the setting. For Action Force themselves this could be standard military type kit such as land rovers or tanks (concentrating on the eighties period), but for the Red Shadows I’ve thought a bit wider. So this has led to some interesting choices and conversions. Presented below are a couple of the more wild ideas I have completed, including a flying saucer and a ‘Dust 1947’ plane.
I’ve also recently gone down the ‘walker’/’mech’ route as well, utilising a Konflikt 47 resin/metal model kit from Warlord Games. A head swap for the pilot and voila – the Red Spider!
Going further back to the German World War II inspiration for the Enemy, many years ago I picked up a Tamiya 1:48 scale Sdkfz.69. I’ve recently gone back and finished this, with the idea that this could represent the ubiquitous Shadowtrak.
And this brings me back to the other of the two top level options – accurate replicas of the toys in 28mm scale. The obvious route to go down here is 3D printing – more about this later. However there is at least one off the shelf option that is (relatively) widely available.
This is a novelty gift pack / toy by Running Press – the sort of thing you normally see for sale in stands next to checkouts in bookshops alongside Harry Potter wands or small TARDIS or Dalek models. This particular item represents a Cobra HISS tank, better known to Action Force aficionados as the Enemy (and later Cobra) Hyena. The scale is pretty much spot on for 28mm scale.
This is also sometimes available from third party sellers on Amazon, and that is where a few years ago I picked up half a dozen of these bad boys. Out of the box it is coloured black and comes with a set of Cobra stickers to apply as well as an information booklet. It also has sound! Press a button on the turret and you get a slightly cartoony laser gun sound – totally unnecessary, but totally amazing.
I’ve painted these in a slightly different way than usually. As the base model is black, I wanted the main body to be red, but also wanted to leave a lot of the detail untouched (including the clear canopy in case I ever wanted to add a driver); I’ve gone down the Gundam marker route…..
Gundam markers are named for and used almost exclusively in the Gunpla (Gundam kit building) community. They come in various types ranging from large nibbed pens that apply enamel paint on application of pressure to fine tipped markers which are used for panel lining. I’ve found these to be an interesting addition to my hobby toolkit.
For the Hyena I used a thick nibbed paint pen to apply a base coat of red (leaving some of the recesses black where appropriate). Once dry (which takes a while longer for enamels) I drybrushed a light red acrylic over this to apply both a highlight and to dull down the shininess of the enamel base coat. The markings were applied with a thinner nibbed marker.
So, the elephant in the room then? Yes 3D printing. I still covet a printer of my own, but in the meantime and for those like me bereft of the hardware there are still plenty of options. There are a surprising number of 3D models of GI Joe vehicles out there (just search on Shapeways or Thingiverse). I have in the past both ordered a printed model from the former, but more recently have been able to get some files printed out by a friend.
Currently on my workbench are these two beauties – a Red Shadows Laser Exterminator (aka a GI Joe HAL) and an SAS Panther jeep (aka a Cobra Stinger). I’m going to do a detailed prep, build and painting guide on these in a future blog.
Where things are a little lacking in availability of 3D models on line is in those Action Force vehicles that weren’t based on existing GI Joe toys back in the day. What that does mean is that there is in particular a big Shadowtrak and Roboskull shaped hole in the Baron’s armoury.