Denizens of the spaceport or crocodiles in space!

I’ve been 3D printing a lot of spaceship models recently and have also started pulling together a few ideas for a spaceport table setup to use them on.

The aim here is to pull together a 4′ by 4′ table for playing science fiction based games on (obviously) using primarily the 7TV rule set, but also with half an eye on the upcoming release of Stargrave by Osprey Games.

Thematically I am trying to keep the terrain generic enough to be used across multiple sci-fi settings including games inspired by or directly set in specific fictional universes. Star Wars is the obvious choice here (certainly based on my recent hobby activity), but I also aspire at some point to do something with the Gale Force 9 Aliens miniatures I recently bought and additionally the Future Freedom Fighters 7TV Programme Guide from Crooked Dice . I certainly have a work in progress ship for this one!

I’ll be doing an article on my Scorpio build soon.

However initially I wanted to be a bit more freeform in the way I populate my (as yet unamed) spaceport. I particularly like the idea of a far future setting with no particular overarching story, more a freely adaptable ‘make it up as you go along’ approach if you like.

I used to read a comic called Starblazer in my youth (and have recently started collecting old issues again). These were self-contained 63 page stories (from DC Thomson, the same publishers of the more famous Commando comic). While there were the odd recurring characters and settings, it was pretty much something different each time (albeit with a heavy recurring vein of spaceships, aliens and lasers running throughout).

Some of my Starblazer collection

In fact some years ago Cubicle Seven released a role-playing game based on these comics which I am lucky to have in my collection. Called Starblazer Adventures – The Rock and Roll Space Opera Adventure Game, this effectively provided a sandbox for creating your own settings and adventures in a ‘generic’ science fiction setting. One of the suggested settings within the book is referred to as ‘The Cosmopolitan Era’ and is described as…

The Cosmopolitan Era or ‘Who Elected the Guy with Two Heads’ is set around the rise and fall of galactic civilisation – thousands of strange alien races share every corner of the galaxy with mankind who is now just part of the melting pot.

Chris Birch and Stuart Newman, Starblazer Adventures, 2008, Cubicle Seven

It is this feel exactly I want to go for in terms of miniatures with which to populate the spaceport initially. Luckily there has been an explosion in the availability of science fiction miniatures (that are not Warhammer 40k) recently, particularly in the field of 3D printing.

A mightly tome that is not only a RPG rulebook but a useful and interesting reference guide to the comics

My initial spaceport denizen comes from Titan Forge Miniatures and was originally released as part of their monthly CyberForge Patreon, but is also available via MyMiniFactory. Crocko Bo is a cape wearing, big gun wielding space crocodile man, and that is really all you need to know about him.

Crocko Bo by Titan Forge Miniatures (Cyber Forge)

I printed him in resin alongside a base that was also released as part of that month’s release and started off with a white undercoat. From that it was mainly a Citadel contrast based paint job for the skin tone, with additional detail picked out using coloured metallics from the Scale75 range. Rather than go with a metallic look base I stuck with the method I have been using on my Star Wars stuff recently and went for an ‘industrial grey’ colour scheme, primarily via drybrushing.

Keeping on the ‘aninals in space’ them, next up is a ‘Tortle’ by Manuel Boria (also available for download from MyMiniFactory ). I took a similar approach with this chap, again sticking with contrast paints for the skin tones and webbing with used metallics elsewhere.

Back with Cyber Forge and next up is a rather squat gentleman. This is Harry Stone – in my setting he is a space marshall travelling onbaord frieghters and passenger ships providing extra security (for a price). Another fairly simple paint job which I over complicated for myself by trying to do a desert camo pattern on his combats. In the end I think this worked OK, and although he probably as designed was intended for a more Cyberpunk setting I think he will fit in OK.

Finally we have a few models from the recent Novus Landing Kickstarter by EC3D Design.

First up a group of human soldiers called ‘The Alliance Patrol’ which I am using as my port authority security detail. These printed really nicely and I went for a white undercoat here followed by contrast. The difference here is that I tried an all over shade of dark tone wash before applying the contrast layer. This work particularly well with the yellows and whites I concentrated on for their colour scheme.

Finally also from the Novus Landing range we have an alien arms dealer. Again I went with a dark wash over a white undercoat to start with and this really helped particaulrly with the orange of his spacesuit in terms of getting a suitably quick and effective shading. One thing I will say about contrast paints is that they have made me more likely to consider painting colours I would have previously avoided, in particular white.

One thing you may have noticed with the miniatures above is that they are all 3D printed. I am not restricting myself to just 3D prints, it just seems to be the way things have gone so far on this project. It is perhaps at this point worth pointing at that Wayne at Tangent Miniatures has recently aquired a license with EC3D studio to supply physical copies of the miniatures from Novus Landing. These will be cast in metal and the first few packs should be available soon from the Tangent website. (Coincidentally I will be producing the resin masters for these for the mold making process, part of the reason I chose these miniatures to test print for this project.)

In terms of next steps I have more miniatures to print, have various ships in various stages of completion and have also started on the actual terrain pieces. This includes the part 3D printed, part scratch built port authority control tower. More of which soon…

Port Authority control tower under construction.

Star Wars Legion Imperial Shuttle 3D Print

There are many iconic spaceships in the Star Wars universe. One of my favourites has always been the Imperial (Lambda Class) Shuttle, originally featured in Return of the Jedi.

In part this is because it is a clean classic design, but primarily it is because I have a soft spot for the original toy version. Now I never had this, but I do distictly remember the TV ad (probably because this was one of the last things to be released in the original toy line).

Any how, I have wanted a centrepiece model for Star Wars gaming for a now while and some time ago came across a set of STL files on Thingiverse. The issue here was that I wanted to do this Legion scale so from the off this was going to be a long project in terms of print time.

The model as available for download would not fit on my print bed when scaled up to the size I wanted (and I wasn’t keen on the suggested way of splitting the file on Thingiverse). I therefore spent some time ‘re-cutting’ the model in Meshmixer in order to come up with parts that would both scale up and fit on the print bed. From a scaling perspective I dropped a Stormtrooper model into the slicer alongside the cockpit to try and get an approximate scaling factor. I know I am bound to be asked at some point what the scaling was, but to be honest I cannot remember I’m afraid.

Scaled against a Stormtrooper model from Skull Forge Studios – for info the build size of my printer is 300mm by 300mm

In the end I cut the model into seven parts – main hull, cockpit, fin and then each wing split in two.

How the cockpit section looked before removal from the print bed. I used eSun PLA+ filament.

The printing on this took a VERY long time. My Creality CR-10S FDM printer has a relatively large build area and even with the model split as I did I totalled the time at approximately 22 days!

Once printing was completely I needed a way of adequetly assembling the model. I’m no expert in 3D modelling, so when cutting the model up I did this very simply with ‘flat cuts’ – I’m sure someone more skilled would have been able to create pegs and or plugs to align the model parts. I went somewhat old school here however and got the hobby drill and a few wooden kebab skewers out in order to do some traditional pinning.

Green stuff was used to gap fill and the whole model was given a good going over with sandpaper to smooth out any layer lines from the printing process.

Sanding was completed during and after assembly of the individual parts.

A comment on the 3D model itself at this point. This had been designed to have foldable wings, and I was keen to maintain this feature. However the truth of the matter is that as a tabletop ‘scenery’ piece it would be for the most part in landing configuration with wings folded up. The kebab skewers were used again this time thread through the model to provide the ‘axle’ for the folding mechanism. Due to some variance in the tolerances of the print I did have to realign some of the holes in the wings in order to get these to fit.

In addition, there was no means of holding the wings in this position as part of the 3D model itself, so again the drill and some cut down kebab skewers were the answer to the problem.

The 3D design also missed a couple of features of the original ship. While I could live without the wing cannons, I really wanted to do something to add in a landing gear and ramp. There is something very iconic about the scenes in the film where first Vader and later on when the Emperor emerges from the shuttle.

After studying some reference photos I realised that the landing gear of the shuttle comprised of two legs mounted mid way down the hull. The key here from a modelling perspective was finding something that I could get it to balance on while keeping the shuttle stable as gaming piece on the tabletop.

A brief scan of the bits box resulted in almost the perfect parts for this. Originally from the Mantic Deadzone scenery set these small ‘stumps’ (originally the base of some sort of cannon) were perfect. I then positioned these in such a way that the shuttle with wings folded up would balance perfectly.

A perfect bits box find
The painted landing gear – I trimmed off the nub on the top prior to fixing these to the model and then highlighted

At the same time I found a similar suitable piece from my spares box, again part of a Mantic scenery kit. I was keen that this could be opened and closed and after a quick visit to my daughters Lego collection I ‘borrowed’ a few bits to fashion a hinge. A small square base was then used to hide the visible Lego.

I actually added the landing gear and ramp after I had begun the painting of the model, but for the purposes of narrative I’ll cover the painting process now. The assembled model was given a once over of grey Halfords car primer with the intention that I then airbrush on successively lighter shades of grey.

Undercaoted shuttle (with Star Wars Legion Emperor’s Royal Guard)

It soon became apparent that this would take way too long. The undercoat colour was close enough to what I was aiming for, so I simply stuck with this while I picked out some of the panels with a darker grey. I tied the whole thing together with an overall drybrush of light grey, concentrating particularly on edge highlights. The cockpit was painted black and then given a coat of Games Workshop Nuln Oil gloss wash to give it a shiny appearence. The images below also show the ramp attached and in place.

The engines were painted white and then given a blue contrast coat, followed by an off-white drybrush highlight.

The final touch was to add a few subtle decals (the Galactic Empire was never much for strident liveries). I happened to have a couple of left over Imperial symbols from a Bandai AT-ST kit I had built a few years ago. I placed a couple of these on the cockpick as well as on the main fin.

And there we have it, probably one of the longest hobby projects I have ever done from start to finish and another reminder that while 3D printing is an excellent addition to the tabletop hobby it comes with a signficiant requirement for patience. At some point soon I intend to setup the shuttle with some of my recently painted Star Wars miniatures in order to take some additional photos, but for the time being I am calling this project done.

I have to say that one of the most enjoyable bits of this project for me was the additional kitbashing on top of the 3D printed model and this is something I have taken to the extreme in my next big spaceship project, more of which soon….