Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vanguard Miniatures 3mm Gothic Science Fiction Line: Introduction

Although today I am scornful of Games Workshop and even more so of the company’s fanbois, the plain truth is that GW is responsable for making me a serious miniatures wargamer.

I began collecting and playing with little toy soldiers when I was six and my grandfather bought my uncle and I a couple of boxes of Airfix Napoleonic figures. I collected Airfix and (later) Atlantic 20mm plastic soldiers throughout my childhood. As I moved into adolescence, I began to play simple wargames with these using Brigadier Young’s “Charge!” rules. (In spite of being an American, then, my entry into the hobby was, ironically, very typically British. Perhaps this is why I sympathize more with the British side of the hobby today. But that’s another post.)

By the time I was ten, I had begun collecting small numbers of lead figures, most particularly 28mm fantasy and 6mm science fiction. I only seriously began to look at miniatures gaming, however, when I was finishing up college in the late 1980s.

My first attempt to build “serious” armies was using Games Workshop (Citadel, at the time, really) hard plastic Space Marines: the original “Beakies”. I got sucked into it by Karl Heistermann and Doug Shuler (pre-Wizards of the Coast career), who worked at my FLGS and had developed a simple and fun set of rules to move the boxes of marines they had ordered. (This was pre-Warhammer 40K, actually.)

Enter Adeptus Titanicus
Two years later, Games Workshop launched what was to become their entry game for their 6mm Warhammer 40k line: Adeptus Titanicus.

I can’t recall ever being so excited over a wargame release.

The game seemed to me to be pure genius: a 6mm science fiction game with a unique “look” (gothic science fiction wasn’t a thing back then) and accessible rules, which allowed me to put hordes of figures on the table? It could have been custom-designed for my likes. I bought AT and its follow-up game, Space Marine, as soon as they were launched and I haunted Pegasus Games in Madison Wisconsin, looking for new releases for the system.

I quickly painted Dark Angel, White Scar and Eldar armies. Looking back on all this, I am amazed at how affordable the hobby was back then! I had three Phantom titans in my Eldar force, even though I was a starving university student working for minimum wage. Space Marine/Adeptus Titanicus was my first completed wargame project, where I painted multiple armies and terrain and used them to set up a convention game. And, as I recollect, the game was a hell of a lot of fun.

In 1990, I emigrated to Brazil, but I still followed Space Marine at a distance. Unfortunately, there was no way to get GW products in Brazil, at the time, except through pirates — and didn’t do 6mm. I thus migrated to other manufactures, scales, and periods (DBA figuring large in my scheme of things back in those days). Shortly after the turn of the centutry, pressed for space and money (and with freight prices to Brazil being what they are), I moved decisively into 3mm for all of my periods and have been happily painting and modeling in picoscale ever since.

As GW’s prices skyrocketed and they became the company we all love to hate through market manipulation and relentless production of skub, I turned my back on them. I began to feel nothing but pity and scorn towards the people who were willing to shell out thousands of pounds to play in the increasingly overpriced “Games Workshop hobby”. Furthermore, the aesthetic GW began promoting for the Warhammer 40K universe turned me off. Originally, it was a very “Heavy Metal/2000AD” kind of look: sci-fi, unique, kind of ornate, but still “clean” looking. As the 1990s advanced,however, it became increasingly baroque and cartoonish.

The moment Space Marine “jumped the shark” for me was when Gee Dubs started producing ork vehicles that were essentially 16th century cannon on wheels with little medieval towers atop. They just looked ridiculous to me. The “no gurls allowed” aspect of the Warhammer 40k universe also got worse and worse. The background started out as a sort of tongue-in-cheek heavy metal riff: sexist, sure, but silly sexist. “Spinal Tap”, not Proud Boys. As the years went by, it became more and more of a grimdark heavy metal wet dream universe: the kind of wet dream, more over a particularly spotty and socially inept adolescent boy with a nazi fetish would have. To me, Warhammer 40k just became stupid and disgusting.

I never lost that feeling of enchantment I had with the original Epic series of games, however. Those were cute and silly and just plain fun.

Vanguard Miniatures gives me back my youth
Last July, my webfriend Mathieu posted some photos of a new line of 3mm figures. Now Mat has been attempting for some time to do 3mm Epic Gothic Sci Fi and I’ve been mostly “yeah, whatevs” because his suppliers are all on Shapeways (crap castings at premium prices) and, so far, the castings he’s been getting copied, to me, the worst of GW’s overly roccocco-style of figures.

The new castings Mat had were crisp and clean, however, and followed the aestetic that originally attracted me to gothic sci-fi (loopy enough to be unique and space-opera-ish, but not ridiculous). They were from a company I’d never herd of before: Vanguard Miniatures, out of the U.K.

The more I looked into Vanguard’s press releases, the more I became intrigued. The figures looked to be unbelievably top notch: extremely detailed and well-cast. The more I learned about them, the more that old feeling from thirty years ago began to grow in my breast. Eventually, all I could think, contemplating Vanguard’s new line was “coooooool”.

I orderd a bunch as soon as they came out, but post being what it is to Brasil (still), I had to wait until early June to get my mitts on a bunch.

So how are they?

Absolutely luvverly.

In Part II of this report, we will take a detailed look at what I consider to be the most exciting 3mm release in a decade.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

And now for something completely different... 15mm Dwarves

Twenty years ago, I got sucked into the De Bellis Antiquitatus (DBA) and Hordes of the Things (HotT) craze while I was at U.W. Madison, finishing up my undergrad degree. DBA and HotT shared the same system. They were quick play rules for miniatures that allowed one to build an army with less than fifty figures and complete a game in an hour. Indeed, at the old U.W. Wargamers Club, we'd typically play eight to twelve games a day.

I had tried 28mm fantasy miniatures before, with 1st Edition Warhamste... Warhammer, and TSR's Battlesystem. Alexandre Bubel and I even put together some respectable recasted armies when we worked for Devir Livraria in São Paulo, so that we could give kids a visual focus when we taught them about this new-fangled role-playing thing. But I'd never been able to paint up more than a half-dozen regiments or so and, since I was then living in a 30 meter square kitchette off Av. Paulista, with a wife, kid and a cat, playing fantasy battles in 28mm the "Grand Manner" was nothing more than a pipe dream.

But DBA/HoTT was another kettle of lead entirely. A game system that I could play on a coffee table, with armies and terrain that could be hauled around in my backpack?! And it's even geared for 15mm figures AND you can easily play campaigns with it?!! And the rules only cost five USD and come with over a hundred army lists?!!!

Sign me up!

With Phil Baker's marvelous system, I could not only complete armies, I could collect them. And collect them I did, because at around this time (the spring of 1998 or thereabouts), I wandered down to The Last Square and discovered Black Raven Foundy's beautiful line of large 15mm fantasy figures. Karl, the shop's co-owner, had bought them on a whim, knowing how DBA/HoTT was taking the local community by storm. I saw them on the spinner in the back of the shop and it was love at first sight for me. These figures were so detailed and beautiful that they looked like they had been sculpted in 28mm. Indeed, AFAIK, the folks at Black Raven were the first to make 15mm figs in the Games Workshop "Heroic" style. I immediately bought three packs of elves -- cavalry, pikes and longbows -- and started painting them that night.

The next year, I was back in Brazil, doing my master's at the National Museum in Rio. Throughout my master's and doctorate, I continued to paint 15mm fantasy figures and play HotT (generally solitaire), but around 2005, my tastes changed to collecting picoscale (3mm) science fiction and WWII stuff. My 15mm collection got locked away in a dozen hat boxes and it was largely forgotten, until this year.

In December of 2016, however, "The Jim Jones Cocktail Hour" (real name witheld to protect the not-so-innocent) from the infamous Frothers board, said he'd be coming up from Australia and wanted to know if I'd like any figs from Eureka. Seeing as how I'd been planning to do a Colonial Portuguese game for some time and Grumpy in Australia is the only person who sculpts Colonial Portuguese (in 15mm), I asked if he could get me some of Grumpy's figs and he very cheerfully complied.

This got me thinking in 15mm again.

So in February, when Tim Porter told me he'd be coming down to Rio and wondered if he couldn't bring me some stuff from England, I asked him to bring along some of Mark Copplestone's beautiful 15mm barbarians and dwarves.

Both Tim and JJCH are true gentlemen gamers in the old-school British style and they remind me of why I got into wargaming in the first place, back in the days of make-do proxy figures (usually 20mm plastic Airfix) and homebrewed rules. Back before official rules, official figure sets and "collectors' models" costing over a thousand pounds. Back when you'd toss a book on a table and call it a "hill"
and invite a bunch of mates over for a beer and some laughs. So it's appropriate that they seem to have gotten me back into 15mm, again. (Not that I plan to neglect God's True Scale (3mm), mind you...)

So, I'd been geeking out on Greg Stafford's Glorantha mythos for some time and I decided that I wanted to do an Iron Age rip-off... er, homage to that. I'd use all the figs I had painted up that didn't quite fit into my regular fantasy set-up to do this, plus the newly acquired Copplestone stuff. On the one hand, I'd have the Evil Empire  -- an Iron Age version of the Lunar Empire -- and on the other, the rugged barbarian alliance -- a take off on the Sartarites.

The Imperial troops were already mostly ready: a bunch of Foundry Imperial Romans acquired back in the 20th century. To them, I added a sinister scrum of chaos wizards and their mercenary barbarian retainers (who I figure come from this world's version of North Africa) as the Imperial College of War Mages. They will also be getting a group of "civilized" dwarven auxiliaries in the new future, complete with bear-mounted cataphracts.

The core of the "Army of the Free" would be my newly acquired Copplestone barbarians, backed up by hordes of Celtic warriors acquired decades ago (mostly Argentinean recasts bought on a trip to Buenos Aires in the late 1990s). As allies, they'd get my Copplestone Dwares and a Black Raven Foundry Wood Elf contingent.

Well, after a couple of weeks of repainting, touching up, rebasing and straight-up painting, the first parts of this project -- the dwarves, elves and the core of the Imperial Army -- are ready to go.

Unfortunately, I have had to use my iPad  to shoot the following photos, which is less than ideal. Still if you look at the elves and Romans and compare them to the dwarves, you can see how my painting style has evolved over the past two decades. Next post will highlight the Elves and Imperial troops.

This is a fun project which you will be seeing more of. Great thanks out to Tim and JJCH for making it happen!

 These are old Black Raven Foundry dwarves, here posing as the Clan Chieftain's picked warriors.

Old Reaper Shadowcorps dwarven berserkers, led by a Copplestone captain.

 Kind of a bad shot, but here's the dwarf chieftain. A Copplestone figure.

Here's the whole clan.


Two different shots of the stars of the show: Copplestone dwarfs. These are, without a doubt, the best 15mm dwarves I have ever seen. This is definitely what I imagined when I read LotR 40 years ago, for the first time. I love these guys! Thank you, Tim (and JJHC, for getting me back into 15mm)!

One more shot of the clan's main battleline: Copplestone dwarves.

Dwarven standard bearers. Again, these are old Black Raven Foundry.
 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

3mm Mechas and Pico Armor Forum

For those of you who don't know, 3mm figure vendors Pico Armor have revamped their site. They now have a "War College" forum, which is already quite active.

This post is in response to a comment made on that forum that we need O8 to produce some science fiction mechas. While that would be great, it made me realize that a lot of people out there probably don't know that there are already many options for SF mecha-type vehicles. So I decided to drag out some of mine to show what is available and how they paint up!

These were done bit by bit over the last 10 years or so, as I've learned more about how to paint and base 3mm figures. Every one of these groups has about 10-20 mecha: I've just grabbed a handful here to show the variety that's available.

First up, the oldest group, the Red Army.






These guys have two kinds of figures: 5 five Dream Pod 9 Fleet Scale Heavy Gear minis and a 6mm Hound Dog walker from Ground Zero Games "Dirtside" line. I have repainted these twice, each time to make the red more vibrant. You'll notice that one of the DP9 figures has had its missile launcher chopped off to make a recon variant. This was then given to the DP9 figure in the second row to make a missile-heavy support mecha.

Here's the second oldest group, the Tan Army:





These figures are more DP9 and Ground Zero, except this time there's a small recon mech added in from Ground Zero's Full Thrust space combat line. It's tiny, comparaitvely speaking, and in my rules it jumps around a lot and has excellent stealth. These have also been repainted to make the tan stand out more.

The third army I painted (but never completed) are the Blues:




These have even more Ground Zero walkers and two different types of battle armor from Iron Wind Metal's Battletech line. These are perfectly proportioned for 3mm mechs, as you can see, and there are literally dozens you can choose from on Iron Wind's site -- enough to do your own 3mm Battletech, if you so wish.

The next army, chronologically speaking, was the Grey Army, which came in two groups, the first composed of GZG Hound Dogs (not shown here) and the second of these guys:



Those are 15mm Robot Legion Velon Skirmishers, from Blue Moon's Aliens line. They have been suitably modified with railguns and a support missile launcher. Behind them stands a Recce Trooper Drone from DP9's Eden range. At this scale, it's either a Warhound-esque light titan or a superheavy mecha. I find it complements the Velon Skirmishers quite nicely.




This is my newest army: the support battalion for the People's Revolutionary Army on Smade's World. These are also DP 9 figures (fleet scale Terran frames, this time) and they illustrate well my current painting and basing scheme: as bright and clear as I can get!




Finally, here are a selection of command stands. These have regular O8 figures on their bases so you can see how they compare. Note the dark green command stand: that was how I was painting before I realized that one needs to go as bright as possible on these figures:



So there you have it! These are just some of the options open to you if you want 3mm mecha. The Iron Wind battle armor line is particularly diverse. I prefer the DP9 and GZG stuff myself, but that's just my taste.

I do hope that O8 will eventually get around to making more mecha, but as you can see, we are spoilt for choice as is.

And there are so many other figures that can be kitbashed into mecha as well. Here's one from the Risk: Legacy boardgame. It's crappy soft plastic and doesn't hold detail well, but I modified it into a gun-carrying construction mecha for my guerrilha forces:



This should give you an idea of what can be done even with toys and game pieces!



Friday, August 19, 2016

New Sci Fi Game Board

Here is an "alien world" set up I am doing for quick and dirty science fiction games in 3mm. I wanted something cheap and cheerfull and simple. Hills are "wedding cake" style with dunes sloped on one side. They are both made out of foam core, covered with artist's PVC gesso.

The boards themselves are just MDF slabs covered in gessoed canvas, bought at my local art supply store. The forests are bits of loofa sponge, flocked with various colors. The Alien Idol is some kid's cereal prize I found on the street and re-purposed.




The Jerry Lundegaard of Wargaming

Sane Max over on Frothers UK pointed out the now-obvious resemblence between The Miniatures Page's Bill Armintrout and Jerry Lundegard from Fargo. I thought it deserved to be remembered, so...




Sunday, September 20, 2015

First 3mm Ogre Miniatures Game

Here are some pictures from my first 3mm Ogre Miniatures game. The conventional armor is all Oddzial Osmy and the Ogres are Plasmablast conversions. The scenario was a heavy Combine armor strike against an extended Paneuropean front. The Combine's goal was to destroy the city at mid-table on the Paneuro baseline. They almost made it.

I used my home-brewed drone and mine rules. They seemed to work fairly well. The mines in particular slowed the Combine down a turn and led directly to the Pansie victory.


 The table at start, as seen from above.



The Combine forces: Ogres Mama Spank and Nervous George (with a full compliment of drones) are accompanied by a heavy armor battalion and a GEV strike company.


The Pansies stand ready with an entire heavy armored battalion with an infantry battalion and a howitzer battery in support.



The Combine hooks right and the Paneuropeans scramble to meet them.


 Game over, man. The Ogres eventually grind to a halt in the Paneuropean minefields just in front of the city.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

3mm Ogre Miniatures Project Moves Along


I've mostly been concentrating on 2mm and 3mm Napoleonics this year, following the release of Blucher. That doesn't mean I haven't had time to paint up some Ogre Minis, however. Here's an overview of what's been done with the Paneuropeans so far...
 

Here's the better part of a Paneuropean armored battalion near a city. Tanks are all O8 except for a Plasmablast cybertank in the back left.





Here are the Ogre/GEV conventional unit types I have so far:





Going from right to left we have power armor, a light tank (actually a French AMX-90 with plasticard side skirts added on), a heavy tank, a GEV, a GEV-PC, a Missile Tank, a Mobile Howitzer and a Howitzer (kit-bashed from plasticard and the spare cannon barrel that comes with the mobile howitzer).

I still need L-GEVs and Superheavy Tanks.


A close-up of the light tank and the heavy tank. The heavy used to be my "lights", but I decided to change this after hearing Mathieu Moyen was going with British Scorpions as his Lights. The O8 "Aliens Universe" tank is too much like a Combine Heavy to want to use it for anything else. And that's when I realized that I have a bunch of AMX-90s going unused. I cut thin plasticard strips at 2mm x 8mm and glued them over the treads. Sure enough: they look acceptably sci-fi and their size is spot on.




Above , we see a howitzer battery and the command troop of the 1st Polish Lancers. In the back left, you can see a cybertank, made from a Plasmablast 6mm Marhaf Legion model. This is going to be a cybertank destroyer in my Ogre-inspired miniatures rules, Luftpanzer. 


A city, made out of Spartan Games discontinued "base" pieces for their space combat game. Also, some Monopoly City pieces. All gluesd down to a CD base.



 I can't recall if I posted these before. This shows how I converted a Plasmablast tank into an Ogre.

Well, that's it for now! Hopefully this project will be up and running by Christmas!