Death’s Head in 28mm scale, yes?

One of the great joys I take from my gaming and modelling hobby is the ability to mash-up all different aspects of my favourite pop culture into something I can play with on the tabletop.  This is one of the reasons I love 7TV so much.  As well as having a decades long obsession with cult TV and movies, I’m also able to use the flexibility of the game to introduce some of my favourite comic book and toy characters from my youth.

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Comics crossovers are common now, but when I was eleven this was the most exciting thing EVER!

I was born in the mid-seventies and so most of my childhood was spent growing up in the neon lit, shoulder pad wearing, verging on nuclear apocalypse, 1980s.  Comics were a huge part of my youth, but not perhaps in the way they were for other generations or in other parts of the world.  Superheroes were never really my thing.  In the early eighties the UK was culturally still living in the shadow of the second world war.  The war generation was very much still around and this was reflected in the popular culture of the time.  I had loads of toy soldiers (in the Action Man / Action Force / army men vein), war films were ten a penny on TV and in the cinema and the weekly adventure comics for boys were pretty much all focussed on war!

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Some recent eBay purchases through which I have been attempting to relive my youth (and get gaming inspiration of course!)

I existed on a weekly dose of Battle, with the occasional foray into Victor or the self contained Commando books (still going strong today).  Then things started to change, Marvel UK started gobbling up those toy licenses, including the ridiculously popular Transformers.  These were usually full colour comics on proper paper (unlike the war weeklies which were produced on standard newspaper stock).  Unlike their American equivalents, the output from Marvel UK titles like Transformers was weekly.  Most of the content was reprinted from the US titles, but due to the higher frequency of publication soon original UK content was required to fill the gaps.  It was here that some of the best characters and writing in the Transformers title occured.

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Anyway this is a hobby blog, so what has all this to do with tabletop gaming?  Well, as I alluded to above, I love taking some of my favourite characters from back in the day and dropping then into a game.

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Therefore I present to you Death’s Head, the freelance peacekeeping agent (don’t call him a bounty hunter), who first graced the pages of the Transformers UK comic, before spinning off into other titles (including Doctor Who, Dragon’s Claws and his own eponymous title, before eventually ending up facing off against some of the giants of the Marvel Universe).

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A legitimate WTF moment for me in the 80s (before the phrase was invented), was the brutal slaying of my fave Decepticon Shockwave at the hands of Death’s Head.  (Marvel Transformers UK, amazing art by Geoff Senior.)

Originally a Transformers sized mechanoid, he was eventually shrunk down to human size following an encounter with the Time Lord known as the Doctor (yes more crossovers!).  It is the human sized Death’s Head I am working with here.

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The Doctor shrunk Death’s Head down to human size using one of the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminators.

As a Marvel character the easiest way to get hold of a figure was to look at the Heroclix range and success there is one available.  I picked him up off eBay a couple of years ago, but it is only recently I’ve managed to get round to deciding what to do with him.

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My starting point – a pre-painted Heroclix model

As a Heroclix figure he came pre-painted.  Often the Heroclix sculpts are great and only let down by a poor paint job.  In this case I was fairly happy with both, but in order to add some more defintion and match up with other tabletop miniatures I may be using alongside him I decided on a ‘splash on’ of Army Painter Dark Tone Quickshade.  I applied this by brush, being careful to soak up any excess before leaving it to dry for a day and then giving it a once over with Testers Dullcote.  I’d already removed the figure from it’s original ‘clix’ base and added to a standard 30mm round base which I then did a basic drybrush and flock job on.

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Re-based
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Post Quickshade, pre Dullcote
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Close up showing the shading effects of the Quickshade Dark Tone dip I painted on.
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Finished, matt coated and based, ready for the tabletop.

Now the figure was done it was time to think about the statistics.  I used the excellent online 7TV Casting Agency app to create a profile card.  I based this on the ‘Mean Machine’ profile from the 7TV Apocalypse set (itself a homage to a certain time travelling Austrian cyborg type chap).  Using the rules for customising stars and co-stars from the 7TV Apocalypse Producer’s Guide I switched a few stats and special effects around and have ended up with the following:

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For those of you who are interested in the ‘recipe’ for this, here are the steps I took from the base ‘Mean Machine’ profile, following the customisation rules.  Note that the starting point in terms of ratings cost for the base profile was 10:

  • Renamed Star Quality from ‘Ill Be Back’ to ‘Freelance Peace Keeping Agent, yes?’ (no ratings cost)
  • Removed Military Training special effect (reducing ratings value to 9)
  • Decreased Body stat from 5 to 4 (reducing ratings value to 8)
  • Increased Mind stat from 2 to 3 (increasing ratings value to 9)
  • Added Loner special effect (increasing ratings value to 10)
  • Replaced UZI 9mm attack with Grenade, Electrical attack (no ratings cost)
  • Renamed ‘Steel Grip’ attack to Hand Power Axe (no ratings cost).  Death’s Head had a nifty range of switchable hand weapons.

I’ll be making the profile downloadable from the 7TV Productions Facebook group shortly.

In the meantime this has got me thinking about how to mix in some bigger ‘mechanoids’ in with the standard 28mm scale 7TV figures I am using.  Cue both Wizkids and their new range of unpainted pre-primed Transformers and my 3D printer…..

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Wizkids Transformers miniatures painted up (with 28mm scale figure for comparison)
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Is a possible revenge match on the cards?  Shockwave (scaled to the Wizkids Transformers size and so 28mm scale compatible).  Printed on my resin 3D printer.

 

Cthulhu Death May Die Miniatures

Just prior to Christmas I picked up a copy of the newly released Cthulhu Death May Die board game by CMON.  This was another case of miniatures, rather than game driving my purchase decision.  In fact it was yet another case of thinking ‘oh I could use them in 7TV’, 7TV Pulp to be precise.

Cthulhu Death May Die

I’ve played quite a few Cthulhu themed games and continue to quite regularly with my weekly board gaming chums.  Favourites include, Mansions of Madness and the epic Cthulhu Wars.  The general consensus in our circle when Death May Die was launched originally on Kickstarter some time ago, was that although it looked nice and had the usual high quality components and miniatures that CMON regularly knock out, the theme and general approach seemed a bit too ‘shooty’ and not ‘investigator focussed’ enough for the setting.

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Although shown as 3D renders here, the minis themselves are very close to this quality

Fast forward and I am browsing the posts on the 7TV Productions Facebook page and see a size comparison of 28mm scale Crooked Dice minis and the one-piece pre-assembled plastics from Death May Die.  The size is almost spot on, maybe a touch larger than 28mm, but certainly not too noticeable.  The sculpts themselves are lovely, with a nice mix of character models, minions and monsters.  Way back in the day I went in heavily on the original Zombicide game and expansions.  I have to say in comparison to this, the quality of the minis that CMON are producing for their board games has improved leaps and bounds.  Clean and crisp, with none of the old problems of thin bendy bits or soft detail.  There is the usual issue when using board game miniatures with skirmish wargames that your troops or minions tend to be all of a single or limited number of poses, but I can live with that.

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Cultist with tommy gun

With 7TV Pulp having a very much Cthulhu inspired theme as one of its genres I took the opportunity not only to pick up the core box of Death May Die, but also a few of the expansions.  There are some really nice big monster models here that I hope to be able to use with the upcoming release of the 7TV Menagerie of Terror card set.

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Cultists

The miniatures themselves are all one piece or pre-assembled in a quite hard PVC plastic which has made painting relatively easy.  Using mostly contrast paints over primarily a white undercoat I have started so far on the minions and monsters with a view to ploughing through these and spending more time on the character models later.

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Ghouls

While I will probably give the actual game a try at some point,in the meantime I am cracking on with the painting, including the big fella himself…..

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Cthulhu
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Cthulhu

 

A Steampunk Pinky Ponk

Or “Adventures with airships and 3D printing”.

The 3D printing aspect of my hobby is both a source of great joy and great frustration.  I started off last year with no experience at all and ended the year with two 3D printers, an even bigger pile of unpainted models and a new level of zen-like patience I would never have though possible.

For all the great stuff that I’ve been able to do there are times when I just want to throw the damn things out of the window.  I made the decision last summer to invest in a resin printer (Anycubic Photon S).  This has been utterly fantastic (so far) – the quality that I have been able to get at home printing out miniatures is in my opinion a game changer for the industry moving forward.

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Anycubic Photon S – my new favourite

As an aside it has been interesting to note how the industry is starting to adapt to this new technology.  Patreon seems to be a very popular route for digital sculptors for tabletop games.  I have gone down the rabbit hole a bit with this recently and backed some amazing creators, many of which are pumping out quality designs for print at a heck of a rate.  In fact some of the ‘traditional’ miniatures companies are also seeing the value in this – I’ve recently subscribed to both Titan Forge Miniatures and Bombshell Miniatures patreon campaigns.

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So the older (larger) FDM printer (Creality CR-10S) has now been put purely on scenery and vehicle printing duty and is still doing a good job.  However (and back on the subject of frustration) I have had a lot of breakdowns recently, much of which I am putting down to the hammer I have been putting it through.  I have noticed an unspoken law that seems to dictate that only one of my printers can be working at any one time!

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I’ve been getting some beautiful results from the Photon.  These retro sci fi bits will be added to my ‘Flash Gordon’ project

Moaning aside I have recently been working on some airship models I have printed.  These are nominally for use in games of 7TV Pulp (I fancy doing an inter-war sky pirates type thing), but these would also be useful for steampunk or even fantasy type games.  In fact the two models I have picked up were really designed for the latter (think Age of Sigmar’s ‘air dwarves’ or Dungeons and Dragons Eberron setting).

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‘Warhammer Steampunk Air Dwarves’ (probably not their actual name)

The first vessel was obtained from Dark Realms via their Patreon campaign and was made available to patrons during October last year.  This was printed almost exclusively on the FDM printer with some of the smaller parts being done in resin.

The print time on this was long, probably 80 plus hours in total.  The model went together OK once printed.  I was a bit over aggressive on some of my support settings and there was a bit of warping on some bottom layers leading to some slight deformities in detail (note the top of the doors).  That said, as a gaming model I am pretty pleased with how this came out.

I didn’t spend too much time cleaning the model up (I’d probably invest some more time on sanding and smoothing out the layer lines if I did this again).  However I did use a heat gun to remove some of the wispier bits of plastic filament that are often left over after a print.

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In addition to the blimp connector, the rudder and wheel (not shown) were also resin printed.

The blimp and ship parts of the model were assembled seperately and undercoated in black primer.

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For the blimp a simple block colour paint job was applied.  The body of the ship was painted primarily with diffferent brown shades from the Citadel contrast range.  This worked really well on the wood grain panels that make up most of this part of the model.

It was a case of painting on some Army Painter Quickshade Dark Tone.  I went very heavy with this, partly to give it a really dirty ‘steampunk’ luck and partly to smooth out some of the surfaces.

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When using Quickshade this bit is always messy, you have to wait until the subsequent stages to see the benefits.

Once dry (after 24 hours) this was tidied up, specifically successivly lighter shades of grey were applied to the canvas parts of the blimp and the metal work was rehighlighted and some rust effects applied.

I applied a mix of decals (I have gone for an Imperial German / Great War style), and then painted up the port holes using a white base over which I applied a blue contrast paint.

The base was supplied as a file with the rest of the model, so this was printed and then painted and adorned in such a way as to try and hide it as much as possible to give the illusion of flight.

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Blimp, ship body and base were all then put together.  Despite a desire to try and magnetise the blimp connector to the deck this wasn’t possible due to the weight of the components.  Therefore a bit of drilling and pinning was done to hold the whole thing in place.

I’m really pleased with the finished result, despite the fact that it has been pointed out to me that the design shares some similarities with the ‘Pinky Ponk’ of In the Night Garden fame.

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Possible inspiration?

I mentioned at the begining of this article that I was working on a second airship model.  This one is from Titan Forge Miniatures and I will cover this in a separate blog.

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The Titan Forge airship, work in progress.

I’ve also been alerted to the fact that there is a Kickstarter launching soon for 3D print designs for fantasy airships called Skies of Sordane and this is certainly something I may just get involved in….

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Cobra Commander Heroclix conversion

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….

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The original model (minus base)

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.

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Cobra Commander – arch enemy of GI Joe (or Action Force, if like me you grew up in the UK)

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).

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Ready for painting.

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.)

Introducing Cobra Commander
Baron Ironblood is reborn as Cobra Commander (from the pages of Battle Action Force comic).

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.

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The Commander will see you now.

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).

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Have throne – will travel

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….

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Wizkids ‘Deep Cuts’ unpainted Marvel Heroclix miniatures.

 

Action Force Hovercraft (3D Printed)

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.

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Footage from a previous episode. Z Force troops led by SAS Force’s Eagle face off against the Black Major (7TV).

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.

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AF Hovercraft data file from the pages of IPC’s Battle Action Force comic

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.

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Cover art from the amazing Palitoy Collector’s Guide available from BloodfortheBaron.com

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).

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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:

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Underneath all that stringing is a rather nice print.  Stringling easily removed with clippers and a heat gun (and since eliminated by some mucking about with settings)

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%.

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A cleaned up model (sanded and supports removed) prior to undercoat

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.

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Patching up the props!  I’ve since worked out some less destructive support settings.

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.

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Post clean up and priming

 

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Halfords grey primer is my current ‘go to’ spray can undercoat

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.

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Post airbrushing (various Vallejo Colour Air greys) and the still wet Citadel black contrast paint applied to the skirt

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.

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Block colours applied

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.

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Reproduction Action Force toy stickers.

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.

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The finished model with stickers applied.

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…

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SAS force troopers (Crooked Dice 7TV X-Commandos with head swaps).

Legions of Mongo – The Skull Crawler!

For some time I have been working on a ‘pulp science fiction’ set of miniatures and models primarily for gaming with the 7TV ruleset.  I’ve previously blogged about the excellent range of ‘Flash Gordon’ style figures from Cold War Miniatures, including their wonderful 3D printed rocket ship.

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Coming soon from Crooked Dice

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).

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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.

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The ‘out of the box’ model

The model was first removed from it’s Heroclix base using a hobby saw (and a bit of blunt force).

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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.

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The finished Mongo Skull Crawler

Apocalypse update – Garden centre gore

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.

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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.

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