Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Sci-Fi Salvage Crew, and Six Reason to Support a Kickstarter

At the club we often trade projects, and here's a look at one such transaction. My end of the deal included this small chem station terrain piece and a yet-to-be-finished vehicle. The figures below are Pat's side of the deal. I based them up and gave a thorough review of these guys more than two years ago, so it was high time to actually get some paint on these models. A project exchange seemed like the perfect chance to finally get this diverse crew of space salvagers painted up.

Like the Van Saar, this crew also gets its own cigar box carrying case. I've really enjoyed converting these into classy storage for miniature warbands.

Let's open it up shall we and see what surprises Pat has in store for us?

First off, we have an Alpha Forge Salvage Crew member, Reaper Chronoscope's "Rosie Chronotechnician" and a Rezolution "CSO Classic Field Engineer." The Salvage Crew member is out of production, but the others are still available. The Field Engineer is a particularly good bargain. He and most of the CSO Classic figures from the Rezolution game retail for only $3 each, and that includes some nice sci-fi troopers.

I love all the gear on these guys. Rosie doesn't even have a gun, and it's up to the gamer whether the instrument in the Engineer's hand is a weapon or hand tool. It's rare to find so many unarmed sci-fi figs, but they're great for a ship's crew.

The next six figures are from the "Salvage Crew" line. Originally made by Alpha Forge for the Star Mogul game and later re-released by Mega Minis, they represent six fantastic reasons to pledge for the the Salvage Crew Kickstarter that is wrapping up this month.

When he closed the doors on Mega Miniatures and sold off its masters and molds, owner Johnny Lauck kept a batch for himself, and now they're available through this Kickstarter. It may be one of the last chances to get ahold of these figures, and it's certainly the biggest bargain they've ever been offered in. The $30 buy-in includes shipping and currently gets you 27 miniatures! Here's the breakdown so far.
  • 15 Alpha Forge Salvage Crew (modified from separate head models to single piece)
  • 5 Demonblade Games figures (some with minor mods, mostly removing mutations)
  • 5 Multi-part droids from Alpha Forge 
  • 2 Additional droids 
I'm a fan of both these lines of figures, was glad when Johnny got them back in production the first time and am very pleased they've got another another shot here.

So here's a taste of what's in the Kickstarter. Note that the figures below are the previous versions that had separate heads chosen from a random selection, so they are slightly different from what's in the Kickstarter. Also I've done a bit of modding that I'll note where necessary. The bases and angles may make their heights irregular, but they're all solidly heroic, averaging 28mm from sole to eye.

Here's the SAW gunner, a crew member security guard and salvage tech.

Like Rosie and the engineer, I love that the technician has some heavy cutting equipment and a torch that leaves it up to the player whether he's armed or not. With a chunky assault rifle (boltgun?) and a shotgun on his back, the guard could easily serve as a bounty hunter in Necromunda.

Here's the last of the crew. The trenchcoated leader has a Pig Iron head. The woman with the center is a missile launcher trooper in the Kickstarter, but I've swapped in a Heresy Miniatures assault rifle.

There's nothing too interesting on the back, just a nice assortment of packs for stowing salvage. I probably should have removed the brace of missiles from the lady, but they could be some sort of salvage.

There you have it. a very nice flavorful salvage crew. I've got a couple more working-class sci-fi crew figures like these. Hopefully I'll find some way to con Pat into painting them and grow the team a bit. I've got a soft spot for these kind of rag-tag space travelers. The sort of folks who just want to survive in the 'verse, find a crew, find a job and keep on flying.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Figures You Forgot: Shadowrun

Here at Chicago Skirmish Wargames we're always looking for rare and lesser-known lines of miniatures. At a Little Wars paint-and-take table a couple years ago, I painted up a couple of Shadowrun miniatures. I was just wasting a bit of time at the convention, but when I got home I found out that these figures were spot-on 28mm figures.

Compared to many -- perhaps most 28mm ranges -- that have inflated "heroic" proportions, these figures are very close to true human proportions. Here are the three figures I painted up compared to a Games Workshop Imperial guardsman who is exactly 28mm from sole to eye.

They are based on Proxie Models bases (edges blended in with filler) which are about half as thick as Games Workshop slottabases. When the Shadowrun miniature with its integral base is glued on top, its sole comes to almost exactly the same height as a model based on a slottabase.

I don't have all the info, but apparently in the mid to late 90s these were made by Ral Partha for FASA, and they are still available from Iron Wind Metals. At about $4 each, they're fairly average in price, but this month they are on sale. The sale price is closer to about $3 each.

Though the mediocre pictures don't do the figures any favors, this line of miniatures has about 200 sculpts, including all manner of humans, supernatural creatures, monsters, and other races in the typical 90s-era cyberpunk style that Shadowrun was so well know for. The line even includes a variety of motorcycles and trikes.

 Lastly, here's a bit of history. In the early 90s Grenadier produced a line of Shadowrun miniatures. Slightly smaller in stature, with far fewer figures in the range, they are nonetheless very characterful sculpts if you can find them now that they are unfortunately out of print. The three basecoated models in the picture below are a "Metahuman Gang" pack I picked up some time ago. The figure on the far right is (I think?) a Dwarf from the currently available Ral Partha/Iron Wind Shadowrun line.

And there you have it! A trip down memory lane, as well as a history lesson.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Post-Apocalyptic Tuk Tuk Auto Rickshaw

I found this little gem a couple weeks ago and couldn't resist it. Here's how it looked originally (not my pic, but mine was identical except that this example is missing the windshield).

After disassembling the model and ripping out the seats, I set to work mixing it up a bit. The gas tank became the new front wheel fender.

The vehicle is roughly 1/35 scale, so I had to build up the level of the drivers station floor with tubes from Robogear mech missile launchers and various other stowage, topped with a grated bit. Note the two levers for tank tread steering.

In the rear bed all it needed was a similar floor grating and some stowage.

More stowage on the starboard side.

And on the back, I finally found a place to use this awesome Ork backpack that's been on my workbench for quite a while.

Here's a shot of the sun-faded canopy.

And another shot of the whole thing.

Here's a pic with some 28mm figures for scale. As you can see, this thing is pretty big -- almost a sort of small land-ship.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Paint for Old Friends: Necromunda Van Saar

I've got a blast from the past for you today in the form of my new Van Saar gang, which I just completed after collecting them off and on for many years. Further down I'll also go over a couple of nifty wargaming products for the gamer on the budget: brush-on matt varnish from Winsor Newton and plastic scenic wargaming bases from Champ Industries.

These Van Saar figures represent one of my earliest gaming purchases back in the mid-1990s. Memory is fuzzy, but I may even have purchased the gang before I bought the actual Necromunda game. Just looking at the box gives me warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings.

Unlike many of my other early gaming purchases, I painted these guys quickly, though to a standard that I find slightly embarrassing today. For some reason I've recently become rather taken with the idea of playing Necromunda, even though it's nearly a decade since the last new Necromunda product release and more than a year since the miniatures were unceremoniously dropped from the Games Workshop catalog.

Luckily, over the years I've managed to gather up enough minis for four factions, So my old gang went for a swim in paint stripper and I dug out a handful of other Van Saar and assorted scum models and got to work.

Most the gangers are stock with a few exceptions. Here are a few converted figures. The first ganger here is one of the multi-part Van Saar figures released later in the game's history. He has a Van Saar head, but hands from plastic Imperial Guardsmen and a Heresy Miniatures sniper rifle. The rifle is not really a practical or common weapon in the Necromunda game, but it can easily serve as a lasgun or autogun and is really an admission that these figs will see battle in games outside of Necromunda. The heavy is a Heavy Stubber gunner with an Imperial Guard flamethrower. The hose to the tanks in back is a piece of guitar string.

These next two are also multi-part Van Saar plastic figures. On the left, I've given her a head from Alpha Forge Salvage Crew (formerly sold by Megaminis) and a Warhammer sword hand. The fellow to the right has a new hands from plastic Imperial Guardsmen and a Rogue Trader-era Space Ork plasma gun, one of my favorite Games Workshop bits of all time. (I'm currently trading for more if you've got any…)

A quick word about the multi-part Van Saar who were released eight years or so after the originals: It's always nice to be able to add some variety to your warband, but in many ways these figures represent a missed opportunity. They do not have any of the slender grace of the original figures. The details are chunky compared to the finely sculpted original figures. Oddly, none of the heads on the sprue have the signature Van Saar hairstyles, or facial hair.

As usual, I opted for a fast paint scheme. All the figures were primed with white gesso mixed to a grey color. then I block-painted all of the basic colors, followed by a drybrush of light grey on the hair and light green on the green sections. The bases were given a brown wash and then they were brush dipped with Minwax Polyshades Tudor Satin.

To cut the shine from the Minwax, I varnished them with Windsor Newton Galleria Acrylic Matt Varnish at full concentration with no water added.

It was my first use of this particular brush-on varnish and I am completely sold on it. After years of searching, I have found my brush-on varnish! It's cheap, has low odor and it cuts all the shine in a coat or two. Eight ounces (250ML) is just $8 at my local art store! I've read online that you should use thin coats to avoid clouding the miniature. I found that it dried flat in just a few minutes and I was able to touch up spots I missed quickly.

However it does stay tacky for a while. If you plan on doing any painting over the varnish, it's probably best to leave the figures to dry thoroughly first.

Now let's see. What's in this cigar box?

Why it appears to be a Van Saar gang!

Let's take a closer look... here are the Juves

Lasgun and autogun gangers. I'm very pleased with the way the dark crimson color came out on thier weapons. I'm going to do more of this in the future.

Other gangers


Leaders and close combat gangers

The figure with the bandana is actually a Scum figure, but since he's already wearing half of a Van Saar body suit and the appropriate facial hair I decided to paint him as one of the gang. This is the other Scum figure that came in a pack with the Scum above. One of my favorites, this independent fellow is definitely not a permanent part of anyone's gang.

All the figures had their slotta tabs trimmed down to a peg under each foot and were based on Champ Industries plastic scenic bases with small holes drilled for the pegs.

They are excellent bases with crisp casting and none of the drawbacks (flat bottom, bubbles, flash, etc) that one gets with resin bases. They were originally created for the Rezolution: Dark Tomorrow game and are now available direct for the ridiculously low price of 30 cents each! The only drawback is that each of two themes only has 4 different sculpts.

However, they're easy to modify and really simple to work with! One wonders why more companies aren't making plastic bases.

There you have it. My first Necromunda gang gets a new lease on life and some more useful products for the thrifty gamer. I'm not done with Necromunda either. I've got the figures for Escher and Cawdor and maybe Delaque and Orlock gangs as well.

Lastly, this figure just came to me from Tim a week ago.

With his flamboyant outfit, lack of insignia and bulbous head, I though he was a Genestealer Cult character. However it turns out he is an Imperial Psyker. Necromunda has rules for Wyrds (psychics) and I think this guy will be perfect!

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bloodbath in the Nanotech Dustbowl

Last week we gathered to play a few more games of Nuclear Renaissance. I wanted to get more experience with the game's close combat, so I crafted a scenario to push opponents in that direction. The game takes place in our home brew sci-fi setting called the Galactic Frontier.

I came up with a new planet for this game -- Fornasis II, a barely habitable desert rock that orbits very close to the sun in the Fornacis system. The surface is hollowed out and barren from decades of mining and prospecting, battered by gale-force winds and scourged by high temperatures. Remains of mining camps and processing stations dot the landscape, though, still stocked with raw ore, valuable equipment and other, more mysterious bits of scrap.

At some point in the not-too-distant past, an industrial accident at one of these mines unleashed a horde of mining nanobots into the atmosphere, and this hazy death cloud now infests most of the abandoned facilities on the planet's surface. Exploration and salvage is only possible for the best equipped (or most insane) prospecting teams.

Our game took place in one such ruined industrial site. Captain Endarson, leader of a Maersk-Tesla Corporation survey team, met a space prospector who implied that one particular abandoned mining camp seemed ripe for the picking -- if the raid could be accomplished quickly. Captain Endarson decided to pull his team off their scheduled route to make a fortune in black market plastrium. Unfortunately, he was not the only person gunning for a quick score...

Greybeard's scavenging team traveled the outskirts of the galaxy looking for tech to trade. When they heard the rumor about Fornasis II, the team hoped this would finally be the last score that made them rich beyond their wildest imaginations. 

But Fornacis II was not entirely uninhabited. Years ago a starship carrying a group of mysterious mechanical creatures crashed onto the planet. They have been scouring the industrial sites on the planet, seeking plastrium and spare parts to repair their ship, and will suffer no competition in this regard.

This was basically a deathmatch scenario. We doubled the move distances in Nuclear Renaissance to represent the terrifying time crunch, and halved the shooting distances to represent the deadly fog of sand and nanobots.

The first turn of the game was uneventful as forces moved slowly into position.

The mechanical warriors crept through the abandoned ruins toward the survey team.

Here, a member of the survey team lines up a shot on a scavenger.

A robot warrior moves into a defensive position. 

Bob Kneely, the scavenger sniper, prepares to fire, while Dr. Bewm looks in two directions at once.

Steve Dave managed to kill a dude with his steely glare. Don't look into his eyes!

Uh oh. Steve Dave is in trouble. 

After a few turns, Captain Endarson and his men were decimated. The Maersk-Tesla Corporation will need to muster a search party to investigate their last known coordinates in order to to recover the corporation's gear and property. 

The robots and scavengers fought bravely for a few more turns until we had to call the game at the end of the evening. The mechs were not consumed by the nanobots, but the tech introduced a virus into their systems which deactivated them. They stand motionless on the sand-pitted surface of Fornacis II, their metal skin slowly corroding in the swirling sand and grit. There were no survivors. 

All in all, this was a fun scenario. I think we need to adjust the starting locations to keep everyone equidistant. Mike and I ended up ganging up on Karl's survey team. The doubled move rates certainly helped us get into close combat faster, but the halved shooting range did not make an appreciable difference. I enjoyed the frantic, bloody pace of this game. Nuclear Renaissance plays very well without any vehicles, and I hope to try additional scenarios in this vein in the future.

-- Josh, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member