28 January 2012

Rebel Minis HAMR - converted and painted

My 15mm Mecha Battles project is starting to come together.  

After it sat on my shelf for months, I finally completed this Rebel Minis Earthforce HAMR Support Suit:  

This one had just the slightest bit of conversion work before I painted.  I ended up cutting the barrels off the included gatling guns... they worked well on the Earthforce aircraft, but I wanted something a little heavier on this mech.  I looked at a few Combat Wombat brass barrels, but ended up using the barrels from some spare Rebel Titan HAMR support guns.

I think this mech works really well alongside my Ravenstar Studios Thunderfoot (and Rebel Titan Marines and Kremlin MANITOU suits).  The HAMR is going to be the support option in a three-mecha platoon.  Work has begun on the other two - they are going to use the more conventional arms and rifles off the Earthforce Recon HAMR sprue.  That will give me two core combat units for my first mecha army: the platoon of HAMR suits, and the Thunderfoot - which is a mecha platoon in itself.


27 January 2012

Growing a Skirmish Force into a Full Army

One of the greatest strengths in 15mm Sci Fi: it can be used for games of every size.

At its heart, 15mm is still a battle scale.  But in the last few years, it has grown by leaps and bounds as an option for small (5-10 figures per side) narrative skirmishes.  For awhile, I tried to separate my "skirmish" forces from my "armies."  I've realized this just isn't necessary - a skirmish team might be a great elite unit in a larger force.  So I started matching character figures and elite units to my larger armies.  This month I did just the opposite - took a skirmish force and expanded it into a full-sized army.

These Laserburn Redemptionists were my first few Shadow World figures - featured in the Blasters & Bulkheads article series on Dropship Horizon.  In the still-unfinished background, these represent the elite semi-religious warriors from the Shadow Worlds - a distant region of the galaxy feared for its study and use of mysterious alien artifacts.  I envisioned these figures to be part of an elite inner circle - basically taking the role of the Sith of my unnamed space opera setting.  

A few months went by.  I picked up a ton of goodies from Ravenstar Studios' new Land Core 15mm range.  I was mainly interested in the mecha, but the Stalker walker tank really grew on me.  I was lost for a paint scheme until I saw the Shadow Worlders sitting on my shelf.  Then it hit me... if these guys are the "not-Galactic Empire" in my own universe, why not give them a "not AT-AT" for their vehicles?  In Star Wars, the AT-AT is as much a weapon of terror as it is an armored tank/transport.  The Stalker looked very intimidating when sitting next to my Old Crow, Rebel, and Combat Wombat tanks.  Not a proxy AT-AT, but something that fills the same role and creatively uses the same core idea.  So I tried giving it a similar paint scheme to my earlier figures.

The results?  Well, the colors are bit over-the-top, even by my standards.  The two tone look is pretty cheesy - it might have worked better with just the purple or just the blue-gray.  Or maybe I should have used a camo pattern that incorporated both colors.  But you know what?  It grew on me after a few days, so I decided to develop the army further and see what happened.  The next step, now that I had chosen my vehicles, was to get more boots on the ground.

I still had plenty of unpainted Redemptionist figures... but I really like using them in the role of the elite inner guard.  So what should I use for the Shadow Worlds' rank-and-file infantry?  A look through the lead pile (which had grown after my GZG Christmas order arrived) presented a pretty good option: Islamic Federation infantry with helmets. 

These are great old figures.  Their helmet and weapons work anywhere from near-future to retro pulp to space opera.  And they are ideal cannon fodder for the Redemptionists - very little armor and not a lot of special equipment.  I thought they mixed together quite nicely.

I painted two packs of Islamic Federation infantry.  I'll organize them into teams of eight (just as they came), which can break down into teams of four (the squad support weapon in one team, the heavy weapon in the other).  Combined with the Redemptionists and the Stalker tank, I now have a core army to use in larger one-off games.  Or blend both types of games in a campaign - use the Redemptionists alone in special missions, and then the full army for direct conflicts.  

This is pretty much all the figures I'll need, though a third pack of Islamic Federation isn't out of the question. But a higher priority is adding a second Stalker tank, and then grabbing three Stalker-variant APCs once Ravenstar makes them available.  I just need to decide if I'm going to pain that second Stalker in the same color scheme as the first, or try something a bit less... extravagant.  


19 January 2012

Gonna need more cocktail sauce...

Thanks to my big Ground Zero Games Christmas order, I now have some much-needed reinforcements for my Crusties army.  I grabbed one of the heavy walker, a two-pack of the light walkers, and a pack of the new armored infantry.

I went back and forth a few times about how to paint them.  I used P3 Cryx Bane Highlight as the main weapon color for my previous Crusties, with the occasional Vallejo Heavy Red detail.  

Since the armored Crusties didn't seem to have any skin (shell?) exposed, the gray and dark red seemed like the obvious color choices.  But then I was afraid they'd be too close of a match for a recently-painted Ravenstar Silverback mecha, which are Vallejo Gory Red with a few P3 Cryx Bane Highlight details.  I second guessed my colors even more after I saw (and fell in love with) the bright orange scheme featured on Gunner's Wargaming.  But ultimately I decided to go with the Cryx Bane as a base color and limit the Heavy Red to the weapons and backpacks.  It wasn't bad, but needed another color.  I ended up using Vallejo Goblin Green on the weapon "fins," some small details on the backpacks, and on the helmet lenses.  A quick touch of black Wonder Wash and some base texture completed the figures.

I'm not convinced the green details are bright enough. I might get something brighter (Vallejo Fluorescent Green maybe) and touch them up later.  But they are ready for the game table, and match pretty well with my earlier Crusty infantry.

More importantly, this palette should work fine on the Crusty walkers.  But I swear... Next time I make a new army -  I really need to make sure I stop using the same few base colors. :)


15 January 2012

2012 Painting Log - mid-January update

As a way to keep focused on my "one finished combat unit per week" goal for 2012, I'm going to try to update my painting progress a couple times per month.  Since the first of the year, I've finished:

  • Khurasan Space Demons - a pack of Warriors, a pack of Nymphs, and a Colossus.
  • Laserburn Scouts - two Bikes and eight Scout figures
  • Assorted Ravenstar Land-Core goodies - a Thunderfoot and a Silverback mecha (painted for the review article on Dropship Horizon), a Coyote jeep, and a Stalker walker tank.  Here's a teaser pic of the mecha:

Not a bad start to the year - I'm ahead of my goal.  But I did have some time off work around the holidays, so a head start isn't going to hurt anything.  Looking ahead... my Christmas order from Ground Zero Games arrived on Friday.  Here's what's on the table from that shipment:
  • A pack of Hammer's Slammers infantry.  I'm going to ignore the buzzbomb-launcher figure for now and focus on the other sculpts.  I intend to use these as bailed-out vehicle crews for my Aurora Group corporate security forces.
  • Two packs of Islamic Federation infantry.  My plan is to use these as the core of a new army - one based upon my Shadow Worlder Blasters & Bulkheads skirmish force.  The skirmish unit (made of Laserburn Redemptionists) will be the elite inner circle of Shadow World armies - these Islamic Federation troopers will be the rank and file.  I'll use Ravenstar Studios' quad-walkers as the vehicles in this new army.
  • A pack of Armored Crusties.  For my Crusties, obviously. :)
  • Four packs of New Israeli infantry.  No fancy plans here - I'm just going to turn them into red Spartans to rival for my green Rebel Droptroopers.
I'll splash in a few terrain projects along the way, just to keep things interesting.  And the odd civilian and mercenary figure to flesh out my small skirmish games.  


12 January 2012

Painting Tutorial - Khurasan Space Demons using Metallic Sprays

One of this year's stocking stuffers from my wife was a small order from Khurasan Minis.  There were a few new items inside (including some Control Battalion that I'm dying to paint), but mostly it was reinforcements for my Space Demon army.  I already had two packs of Assault Warriors, one pack of Hammerheads, and a Queen.  This order gave me a pack of the second-pose Assault Warriors, a pack of Nymphs, and for my larger games, my first Colossus.

Since we're having a very warm winter here in Iowa, I broke out the Testors Metallic sprays and got my new bugs onto the battlefield.  Just like my previous Space Demons, I'm using the ultra-quick paint scheme pioneered by Cacique Caribe over on TMP.  Here's a breakdown of the process.

Step One - File, Assemble, and Base

As usual, Khurasan's minis require very little cleanup.  The Nymphs just needed a bit of filing on the bottom, and the Colossus went together quickly.  I spent a bit more time on the Assault Warriors.  One of the poses has a cast base which is larger than my 3/4" fender washers, so it needed a bit of trimming.  I also took a little time to make sure the heads went on at a few different angles, and I reposed the soft tails to add some variety.

Step Two - Undercoat

Honestly, this step is optional.  But I've found that it does help to get an even coat out of the metallic sprays, so I used my white Armory Primer on the figures.  It also helps me to find any small bits of flash or mold lines that I missed the first time around (in this case, there was just a little bit of flash in the armpits of a few Assault Warriors). It also helped to seal the Colossus together - my superglue was old, and the legs kept falling off when I first assembled it.

Step Three - Metallics

The fun part - giving some life and distinction to the Space Demons without any real effort.  When I painted my last batch, I used Testors Arctic Blue for the Hammerheads, Burgundy Red for the Queen, and Turquoise for the Assault Warriors.  I wanted the Nymphs to be "extensions" of the Queen herself, so they received the burgundy paint. The Colossus has some little recesses in the shoulder that could be some type of acid spray, so I tied it together with the Hammerheads.  

A note on the metallics: I learned that they have a much longer drying time than other Testors or Tamiya sprays.

Step Four - Wash

Once the sprays were dry, I set the figures out on some Universal Painting Trays (those mockup credit cards that keep showing up in my  mailbox) and, working in groups of six, brushed an undiluted wash over the entire figure.  I used GW Badab Black on my earlier models, but this time I used Secret Weapon Heavy Body Black.  The Secret Weapon washes are very good for this sort of work, as long as you remember to keep shaking them.  The Heavy Black is also a bit stronger than the GW wash - it only took a single coat to finish the Nymphs and Assault Warriors.  The Colossus took a few coats to get all the recesses on the belly, so I worked on the Nymph and Warrior bases while the larger model was drying.  

Step Five - Base and Seal

Nothing fancy on the bases - painted Model Master Euro Gray onto the bases, flocked them with dark gray gravel, sealed with thinned Elmer's glue, and drybrushed with Vallejo Heavy Bluegray.  The figures themselves were sealed with Wonder Wash Black, which gave them a nice and glossy finish.  

That's it - a quick, painless, and fairly inexpensive way to make a Space Demon army.  There are plenty of colored metallics on the Model Master brush-on range, if you don't want to spent the extra cash on spray paints.  And the army would work just fine with a single color - I just like seeing the difference between an Assault Warrior and a Hammerhead from tabletop distance. 

Play a game already!

I've played a couple quick FUBAR games with the Nymphs and Assault Warriors since painting these.  But I still haven't used the Colossus in a game.  I plan to run a scenario where a Colossus is hiding underground and ambushes a passing convoy.  When the convoy is stopped, other Space Demons will converge on the damaged vehicles, and the convoy personnel must hold out for extraction.

So what's next for my Space Demons?  Well, I really like the Nymphs - perfect little swarming bugs.  I thought about mounting three per 1.25" base, but singles on 3/4" washers will work better on my Space Base tiles.  I might try to add one to my Queen's base, just for decoration. 

The Colossus is a terrific mini.  A second one would make my Space Demons into a pretty formidable opponent, even against tanks and mecha.  

04 January 2012

An "instant" Special Forces patrol

I have a simple hobby goal for 2012: paint one unit per week.

Okay... Obviously  I have more goals than that.  But we all have to start somewhere.  Especially when the lead pile is already  taller than I'd like, and I still have three Christmas orders that haven't arrived.  Hopefully this goal will help me get through the pile just a little bit quicker.

My lead pile featuers tons of small potential forces (1-2 squads at the most), mostly because I like buying a pack or two at a time to see how much I like the sculpts.  In one corner of my storage container, I noticed some of the old Laserburn Imperial Scouts from 15mm.Co.Uk.  They are pretty detailed, but I went with the ol' "wash over bare metal" approach.

Works for me!  Now that they are painted, I see these are really great old minis.  Too bad there aren't more poses available.  But this still works for just a couple odd fire teams, or would be fine if they were based 2-3 per stand for Alien Squad Leader or Valkyrie.  The recipe for painting them was pretty straightforward:
  1. Two coats of Secret Weapon Blue Wash
  2. Vallejo Heavy Bluegrey on the weapons and backpacks
  3. Vallejo Bronze over the visors
  4. Model Master Euro Gray base with two colors of railroad ballast
When I bought these minis, I ended up with four of the standard Scout (which, I believe, is armed with what Laserburn calls a Heavy Laser Rifle?), two with Launchers, and two with Conversion Beamers.  The visual difference between the launcher and rifle is pretty limited, so I painted them the same color.  I may not even give them different stats in a larger game.  I ended up repainting the Conversion Beamers with Vallejo Heavy Brown to make them stand out a bit.  I could easily do the same with the launchers, if I end up wanting them to have different stats in the majority of my games.

I also picked up two of the Scout Bikers with the order.  I really like these - and they would also be ideal as Light Vehicles in Alien Squad Leader, or as an alternative to the Bulldog Jetbikes in Valkyrie.  I also noticed that these are clearly what inspired the old plastic Epic Imperial bikes.  15mm.Co.Uk does offer a version of the bike without the rider.  It would be pretty cool to have eight complete Bikes, and eight riderless ones to go with my eight dismounted Scouts.  I'll definitely add more bikes to my next order.

The bikes are basecoated with the same Model Master Euro Gray as the bases.  I may go back over the bikes with solid black, then lightly drybrush with the gray and repaint the lighter details.  Or I may try a brownish wash (something like Secret Weapon Sewer Water) over the base to see if that adds some contrast.

Either way, a few hours' work provided some nice upper-tech troops.  These could be used on their own in a small skirmish game, or be added to a lower tech force as special operators.  I deliberately painted them in colors that will match my Rebel Minis Homeguard and HAMR suits, just to add a bit of flexibility.