Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cataloguing Extraterrestrial Life in 15mm

Following on from the previous post, the Dropship Horizon exobiologists have been busy cataloguing extraterrestrial life in the known universe. And have identified four broad classes of 15mm aliens.

1) Bipedal near-humans

These are aliens who appear to closely resemble us humans. But perhaps for their skin colour, a few bulges, minor alterations to physical features and more or fewer toes and fingers, etc. these guys are like us. These include: Critical Mass Games’ Mercs, Kaamados and Praesentia; Ground Zero Games’ Kra’Vak and Alien Mercs and Greys; Rebel Miniatures' Kurgens, and Grey Aliens amongst others;’s Grey Aliens, Shia Khan, Octopods, Ghoulani, Froogs and Zidhe, etc; Blue Moon aliens including the Arlocks, Shivan Sisterhood, Aquans, etc; Eureka Miniatures' Ventaurians; Khurasan Miniatures’ Chewk and Vacation Aliens and; Zombie Smith’s Quar.

2) Anthropomorphic aliens 

These are Earth animals that appear to have been “uplifted” and now run around blasting up the galaxy like a bunch of naked apes with advanced tech. These include: Khurasan Miniatures’ Felid, Garn, Ursid, Karkarine, Myzontid and Orca;'s Draccians; Critical Mass Games' Protolene Khanates and Astagar (snakemen); Ground Zero Games’ Crusties; Stan Johansen's Blarad; ArtCrime Production's Hadai; Irregular Miniature's Reptilians and Space Goatmen; and Traveller War Hounds of Sirius, Car Leonis and Dracos produced by RAFM.

3) Bug life

Similar to anthropomorphic aliens (perhaps a subclasification?), there is alien life out there that has a passing resemblance to Earth’s insect life. These include: Ground Zero Games’ Ixx; QRF Alien Bipeds; Khurasan Miniatures’ Vespulid and Space Demons (possibly) amongst others; Battlestation's Zoallans; Spriggan Miniatures’ Spugs, Brigade Models' Cimexians; Highlander Studios' Space Bugs; and Micro Panzer’s Raivaui Swarm.

4) Intergalactic weirdness

At the weirder (more alien!?!) end of the spectrum there is: Khurasan Miniatures’ Vornids (triffids / ambulatory plants), Cnidarian, and the wonderfully alien Molch extensions and emissaries; Moonfleet (ex Peter Pig) Phugs; Battlestation's Canosians, Xeloxians, Silicoids, amongst others, and;’s Creegan Doom Spores and various aliens in the SHM Range.

You may disagree with our classifications and we may have missed a few 15mm aliens, but the Dropship Crew are interested to know if you have a favourite 'type' of alien and more generally what kind of aliens you would like to see in the future from 15mm sci fi manufacturers!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Extraterrestrial life in 15mm and the Preponderance of Humanoid Aliens

We can be reasonably confident of the existence of extraterrestrial life given the vast size of the observable Universe and, though our understanding of extraterrestrial life may be in its infancy, we can be reasonably confident it won’t look like us.

Sci fi shows such as Star Trek and Babylon 5 (with the exception of the Vorlons and the Shadows) have often been criticised for 'aliens' who are just humans with pasties on their foreheads and a particularly extreme expression of a particularly aspect of human culture. Partly this was down to budget limitations, the special effects available at the time, and partly it was down to the imaginations (or lack thereof!) of each show’s creators.

The issues that have limited the types of aliens we have seen in some TV shows should not limit the types of aliens we game with should they? What limits aliens in the miniature world is the sculptor’s imagination, an alien’s ‘cast-ability’ and saleability to the sci fi wargaming community.

So why do we have such a preponderance of 15mm aliens that could easily be a human in a rubber suit? Could it be that sculptors are more familiar sculpting human dimensions and find it easier to then give it a protruding alien head, extra fingers and the like rather than design an alien from scratch?

Perhaps the buying public are also more familiar and accepting of aliens with ‘human’ dimensions. Do humanoid aliens sell better than ones based on other dimensions, or is it just that the non-humanoid aliens currently available just aren’t as good?

The Dropship Horizon Crew would like to hear what you think, and also what sorts of humanoid and non-humanoid aliens you like to see sculpted in the future!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Building Armies from "Incomplete" Lines

Dropship Horizon editor Eli has started some very lively discussions at TMP recently. Two topics in particular have been inspirational to me - sample alien infantry packs and "complete" lines of minis. In the latter, Eli suggests that armies of the future (especially alien armies) simply may not fight in squads of riflemen with heavy weapon support - and that we need to break away from the model of 20th-21st century forces in our sci-fi games.

These topics have been discussed before here on Dropship Horizon (SAW Debate and Fire Teams). So here is my take on this topic, building somewhat on what Eli and Mark have discussed.

A complaint heard from 15mm gamers is that there are many good minis, but they won't be playable until the lines are "complete." I'll look at two example product lines, both from Critical Mass Games.
The Protolene Khanates range represents what most gamers would view as a "complete" line. You can purchase command, rifle infantry, support weapons like heavy guns and snipers, and even some close combat troops for gamers who like a little melee in their sci-fi games. If I was to sit down and create a FUBAR army from this range, it would look something like this:
  • Command Squad - 2x leader from Hunters Command pack (one converted with a comms antenna or with some kind of medical markings), 1x Hunters with Rifles, 1x Hunter with Particle Cannon
  • 3x Hunter Squads - each with 1x leader from Hunters Command Pack, 5x Hunters with Rifles, 2x Hunters with heavy weapons
  • 2x Predator Squads - just use two packs of Predators as-is
Pretty straightforward, right? 44 infantry - great for a platoon-size engagement. Add vehicles to taste and you have an army - suitable for anything from Traveller Striker to Alien Squad Leader to 5150 to Tomorrow's War. Exactly what the majority of 15mm sci-fi gamers seem to be looking for - the definition of a "complete" product range.

But hey - before we check out, let's see what else is on this particular website. What about that little section labeled Mercenaries? Say, what do we have here?

Well check those out. Neat sculpts, cool looking weapons. But there are no other packs? Where are the heavy weapons? The commanders? The close combat specialists? The vehicles? I can't possibly buy these and be expected to create a complete army out of them, can I?

Why not?

Let's take a close look at these troopers. Their armor and weaponry wouldn't be out of place in any military space-opera setting. You could easily see these fighting against Imperial Clone Troopers, or even against the Centauri Republic from Babylon 5. They are carrying energy weapons that could be far more advanced than an opponent - even the pistols might have a 24-30" range on the tabletop. The second and fourth weapons could easily be heavier weapons - one anti-personnel, one anti-tank. Or maybe one is a short range weapon capable of placing many shots, while the other is a long-range sniper rifle that is equally suited for tanks as it is troops? And command - you have a figure with an enclosed helmet. It's easy to imagine that each squad leader has one of these helmets to communicate with other squads, vehicles, or the battlefield commanders. And the army commander himself? Could be on a starship in high orbit, could be sealed in an IFV, or his army could be so well trained and equipped that designating a "commander" on the battlefield doesn't amount to any change in stats or usage.

Six packs of these would yield thirty high-tech infantry - easily a match for the more conventional Protolene Khanates mentioned above. But what about vehicles? My first instinct would be some of the goodies in the Kaamados section, but those are still a bit more conventional than I'd prefer. Let's find something advanced and intimidating to match our high-tech infantry. Two options come to me for this. The first is the Alien AFV/APC set from Old Crow Products.


Since these aliens are a bit smaller in stature, I'm going to go with the GZG stuff to match them. Though the Old Crow vehicles are also pretty great in this role - I may later match them with a Critical Mass Astagar (snake-men) army. But the GZG stuff looks like a good match to the Ygs. Just a few of the light tanks are probably all you'd need on the battlefield (especially since you can make two variants with the different gun barrels). Or if you want to mechanize these guys, the light APC might be big enough for five of these diminutive aliens. Or the heavy APC could carry two teams at once.

So there it is - two complete armies. One is made from a conventionally-minded "complete" infantry range, and the other is made from a simple one-off pack of aliens. Folks, do you really want to just keep playing World War 2 in space? This is sci-fi - your imaginations are probably far more limiting to you than the actual selection of infantry and vehicle models. In fact, the pose limitations might force you to be even more creative in finding ways to get an army to the tabletop. So my challenge to you - pick a "limited" range of infantry (human or alien), and tell us (in the comments) how you can use them in a complete army.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Hammer's Slammer Boot Camp Event

Another lovely write-in for an event that sounds like it will be a lot of fun.

The first Hammer's Slammers Boot Camp will be held on Saturday 3 September in Dulwich, south London.  There, gamers will be able to meet the authors of the Hammer's Slammers: The Crucible rules and been guided through practice games using the South London Warlords' award-winning armies and terrain. Also Old Crow Models, Ground Zero Games & Pireme Publishing will be there with exclusive discounts on Hammer's Slammers products.

For further information and to book, head over to

Many thanks,
Andrew Hubback
Pireme Publishing

Friday, 22 July 2011

Gaps in the Current 15mm Sci Fi Market

15mm sci fi has grown rapidly in recent years with some excellent new ranges and releases but there are still a few gaps in the market. Things the Dropship Crew would like to see include:

1) More aliens!

Khurasan Miniatures and Critical Mass Games have produced some excellent aliens. But we’re greedy for more! CMG’s Merc range has a great Mass Effect ‘feel’ and we’d love some of these aliens to be expanded into platoon sized forces. We’d also like to see more civilian and non-combatant aliens as well as avians, squid-based lifeforms and other ‘weird alien life forms’ for use in skirmish games. Sci fi shows have often been criticised for 'aliens' who are just humans with pasties on their foreheads but there should be no such restrictions when sculpting aliens with green stuff.

2) More robots!

Ground Zero Games produces some nice robots and drones but no one produces generic android droids in the style of Star Wars or I Robot.

3) More generic (or not so generic) crew figures!

Ground Zero Games produces some nice civilian and crew figures, as do a few other manufacturers, but I wonder if a manufacture could produce some 15mm Starfleet Universe crew under licence from AmarilloDesign Bureau?

4) More civilian vehicles!

There are a few civilian vehicles available such as those in the Laserburn range produced by but there’s a gap in the market for more civilian ground and hover vehicles.

5) More dropships!

A number of manufacturers such as Rebel Miniatures, Combat Wombat, Old Crow and GZG are producing some nice dropship models but there are currently no 'alien dropships' or utilitarian landers not based on aircraft designs like the Union and Overlord dropships from the BattleTech setting.

6) More terrain!

There are some excellent shanty and slum buildings available from Battle Works Studios and GZG, as well as some nice utilitarian buildings from CMG and Old Crow, but there’s a gap in the market for buildings that take games beyond the 'early colonist' period with some high tech, high concept sci fi buildings in the style of Antenocitis  Governance of Technology or based on ‘alien’ design principles.

7) More high technology forces!

The focus of most manufacturers seems to be 'hard' or 'near future' sci fi. The upside of this is that there is lots of choice but the risk is that this could make ranges fairly 'samey'. There is a gap in the market for more high technology human and alien forces.

The Dropship Crew would like to hear your thoughts on what opportunities there are for new and interesting 15mm sci fi releases!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Brigade Models Summer Sale Continues!

The Brigade Models summer sale continues and now includes 15% off Brigade's 15mm, 6mm and Squadron Commander ranges (excluding rule books). It begins today and runs until Sunday the 24th of July. So if you fancy adding some of Brigade's 15mm range to your collection, now is the time to grab a bargain!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Incoming! Critical Mass Praesentia RAL.

Those of you who have checked out the Praesentia RAL from Critical Mass GamesCritical Mass Games webstore recently will have noticed that both Craig and Dale now have Twitter feeds. The beauty of Twitter being that photos of WIPs, in particular, can be can be released pretty much as they’re taken.

Fortunately for us, Craig was able to take a little time out from a frenetic pre-release schedule to expand upon the fairly terse Twitter commentary surrounding the immanent release of the Praesentia RAL.

"The pictures show resin castings of the Praesentia Assualt RAL from Critical Mass GamesRAL to be released, these resin casting are pre-production pieces, with the final miniatures being cast in metal. Dale just likes showing off what can be done with resin. It does however mean we can show people what the finished pieces will be like before they are actually finished, and I can get on with painting some for the website. It should be noted that the bases on the finished models are much thinner than those shown here, thick bases on masters is just a quirk of our processing.

"The Praesentia RAL represent our first foray into a completely digitally sculpted infantry miniature. The main reason for choosing the RAL for this process was to achieve a clean, smooth, manufactured look to the design of the model. Charles Oines, who did a fantastic job creating these sculpts, was briefed on two types of RAL.

"The RAL Infantry are the basic robotic infantry of any Praesentia force and are lead by the Praesentia Enlightened. The RAL Troopers are a simple construct, indicative of the anthropomorphic form, and therefore adaptable to terrain in combat, and easily recognisable to most other races. There are 9 variants of RAL Infantry being released, 6 with Rifles and 3 with Heavy Weapons. These are all single piece castings and scaled to 15mm foot to head.

"The Assault RAL are the heavy hitters of the Praesentia force and are equipped with phase shift generators for transporting themselves around the battlefield. They are commanded by the Praesentia Phase Shifters.

Praesentia Assualt RAL arms
"Charles was asked to give these miniatures a brutal look, a cross, if you will, between the attitudinal posturing of gorillas, and the loping gait and stance of Marvel's Beast. What is unusual about these miniatures is that they are multi-part. There are 6 body variants being released, and 5 left and 5 right arm variants, as well as a separate jump pack. Now the bodies themselves look quite tall and thin but once those arms go on, the Assault RAL really come alive. You can create a wealth of awesome and dramatic poses and the bulk and subtle posing of the arms really give them that brutish look the brief tried so hard to emphasize. I spent hours fiddling about with these before finally deciding to get the glue out. Each Assault RAL is a four-piece model and stands around 20mm tall."

The RAL are due for release on 22nd August 2011 in the following packs:

Praesentia RAL Infantry w/rifles 1 - 8 figures, 3 poses (PRAL1 - £3.70)
Praesentia RAL Infantry w/rifles 2 - 8 figures, 3 poses (PRAL2 - £3.70)
Praesentia RAL Infantry 3 w/heavy weapons - 8 figures, 2 poses (PRAL3 - £3.70)
Praesentia RAL Phase Shifters 1 - 6 figures, 3 poses (PRAL4 - £3.70)
Praesentia RAL Phase Shifters 2 - 6 figures, 3 poses (PRAL5 - £3.70)

They will also be available in platoon deals for the Critical Mass company level rules:
Praesentia Enlightened Platoon Deal - Contains: 39 figures, 3 Unique Praesentia Enlightened, 27 RAL with Rifles, 9 RAL with Heavy Weapons, 1 30mm x 30mm Command Base, 9 x 40mm x 30mm Infantry Bases (PSPT2 - £14.99)

Praesentia Phase Shifter Platoon Deal - Contains: 21 figures, 3 Unique Praesentia Phase Shifters, 18 RAL Phase Shifters, 1 30mm x 30mm Command Base, 6 x 40mm x 30mm Infantry Bases (PSPT3 - £12.99)

Praesentia RAL and Assualt RAL from Critical Mass Games

It’s exciting to see the mysterious Praesentia developing and expanding as a figure range. From the little that has been revealed so far, we seem to have indications of a high-tech society with, possibly, few martial individuals, and relying on semi-autonomous droids and drones as force equalizers.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Convert a Wargamer to 15mm Sci Fi Week! - The Results!

A few weeks ago the Dropship Team decided that, as a bit of fun, the week beginning Monday 11th July would be Convert a Wargamer to 15mm Sci Fi Week!

We challenged ourselves, and you Dropship Horizon readers, to attempt to convert a wargaming buddy to 15mm sci fi sometime during the week.

You may have organised a game, shown off your collection, started a discussion about the merits of painting and collecting 15mm sci fi, but whatever you did we'd like you to let us know how you got on! The Dropship Crew will also share some of their own experiences.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ravenstar Studios going 15mm!

Chris at Ravenstar Studious has announced that he will launch his new "Land Core" range of 15mm miniatures later this year. He says that he "will mostly be making tanks, vehicles, landing and troop carriers, and of course Mechs, lots of mechs." Sounds like great news to me! Read the full announcement here.

The first minis previewed are a grav tank, an APC, a scout car and a large mech. I'm especially fond of the sinister, slightly pulpy looking mech. For some reason I can see it go well together with the Khurasan control battalion...

Ravenstar Studios is probably best known for their excellent starships (that I still haven't got around to ordering yet though!) but has made some impressive looking mecha as well.

In any case, looking forward to see what Chris has in store for us!

Friday, 15 July 2011

S6 Engineering Closing its doors

The Dropship crew was saddened to hear that UK based producer of sci fi wargames scenery and accessories S6 Engineering has announced on it's website that:

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I am no longer accepting orders with the exception of the Gruntz Opaque tokens which I will continue to offer for a limied period.

All pending orders for other items will be fulfilled shortly.

There may be limited runs of new items offered from time to time - keep an eye on Dakka Dakka for announcements.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

What Are the Odds?

The other night we were playing a game at Walt's and this freaky roll of the dice stopped us all dead in our tracks....
We waited to see how the die was going to fall, but it didn't. Weird.
The event changed the focus of our game. We started talking about The Odds.

These are not trick dice!
The Dropship Crew has been busy looking at (and even playing some!) of this season's new game releases. In short order we have been tempted by Galactic War One, Gruntz, 5150: Star Army and the preview of Tomorrow's War. 
Wow! You got some choosin' to do! So many flavours, so much delicious detail & crunchy goodness. How to decide? What to play? I always look at the dice under the hood.

How Games Get Stuff Done
Since the day I first opened my blue-box edition of D&D I have remained curious about how and why a game designer chooses and uses the dice mechanics for their game.

Consider for a moment how games get things done.
Dice are tools, they do the job of randomising numbers. We can do a lot of work with just d6. If making straight rolls of 1-6 with a d6 is like using a hammer, rolling a pair of them must be the hammer and chisel combo. Entire game families are built on the solid foundation of the bell-curve running from 2 -12 on 2d6.
If d6 are so darn good, why bother with all the other types of dice? If we can agree that dice are tools, lets accept also that there are some jobs that won't get done very well using just a hammer, or even a hammer and chisel.
Nothing wrong with a hammer, I like hammering, but there is a lot to be said for other types of work as well....

But I want more granularity? Why not! There is a 16.67% chance of rolling any one single number on a d6. On a d8 it's 12.5% and for d10 it's a 10% to roll any one number, all the way. The more sides to any die, the smaller the percent chance of rolling any one number and the finer the 'granularity' or greater potential for detail in your game system.

I was an Early Adopter of Multi Die-type Games
When you roll a pair of dice the the percentage chance of rolling any number along the range (say between 2-12 on 2d6) is distributed; you are more likely to roll some results and less likely to roll others. That's the bell-curve at work.
Now, lots of detail is great for some people and pure hell for others. The designers' holy-grail is to find the balance point for fun and detail. They need to choose dice mechanics that work well.

Yes, I find the mechanics inside the games we play fascinating and mechanics will definitely influence my choice when it comes to buying a new game. The rich coating of fluff may be inspiring and also important, but not as much as how the game actually plays.

More Tools
I have found a truly excellent tool that allows us to explore dice mechanics for ourselves. Check out SmallRoller, it's free, freely distributable and fascinating. It's been a long time since the Fnordistan Dept. of Software Engineering blog has been updated, but this bit of code is worth the visit.
With SmallRoller you can recreate pretty much any dice-roll called for in a game, displaying the probabilities as percentages well as a cool Probability Chart. Highly enlightening and useful for players as well as designers of games!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Brigade Models Has Ambitious Plans for 15mm Sci Fi!

The Dropship recently caught up with Tony Francis of Brigade Models to hear about some ambitions plans for the company’s 15mm sci fi range.

Tony - Our 15mm range has been a bit static lately and we're currently considering where to go with it. Our models may be a bit on the small side compared to some other 15mm sci fi ranges. To that end we've decided to rescale the range to be more in line with other manufacturers. New models will be scaled around 20% larger than the current range, which hopefully will make us a bit more compatible with everyone else!

Initially we'll be concentrating on two new forces, converting the Neo-Soviets and Pacific Federation  models from our 6mm range to the larger scale. These are two of our more popular 6mm armies and provide a real contrast between high-tech grav vehicles on one hand and near-future, clunky tracked equipment on the other.

We also plan to go back and remaster the existing models at the larger size. This is a long-term aim as we have quite a substantial range, but we think it will be worthwhile. Some of the older designs will get a restyling at the same time. We're currently experimenting with digital sculpting and, if we're happy with the results, then the whole 15mm range will be created that way. Initial work has shown that we can master a model such as a 15mm tank much more quickly than by the traditional way.

I'm hoping that we might see something new by the end of 2011, or failing that in the spring of 2012.

The Dropship will bring you news and pictures of Brigade Models' new 15mm sci fi as it becomes available!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hotz Mats Changing Perspective

Once again Eric Hotz has changed the way we look at felt gaming mats.
Two new and innovative products were added to his shop this week!

First up, 2-D Felt Craters. Crater artwork, airbrushed to give a convincing 3-D look. Perfect for any scale.

Available in all the Hotzmat colours, these are that perfect sort of terrain that looks great yet requires the minimum amount of space for storage.

But the real surprise this week is the custom Ocean Front Game Mat....

This was a custom order; an 'ocean front overlay' that can be placed on top of a regular mat, creating a dramatic beach-head setting for any game.

From the Hotz website: "The customer... ordered the two mats at the same time, which made integrating the two mats easier. The ocean front mat had to merge with the terrain features (the craters) on the dirt planet mat."

If you are interested in ordering one of these custom mats, check out this link & contact Eric.

SPOTLIGHT - ArtCrime Productions

ArtCrime Productions have exploded on to the 15mm sci fi scene with some very nice looking miniatures. So the Dropship Horizon crew tracked down head honcho Jimbo Burrell to bring you some exclusive intel.

Dropship Horizon: How did you get into the hobby and your chosen method of figure design?

Jimbo: Miniatures have been an interest of mine for over 25 years! It started with historicals but I fell in love with sci-fi being from the Star Trek/Star Wars generation. I worked off and on for Reaper Miniatures and helped design the CAV universe. This is just a natural progression for me to create something I can enjoy and be proud of. Our primary design style is of course 3D but we also have some great models being done by PF. People told me that infantry in this scale couldn’t be produced using 3D modelling; well I guess they were wrong!

Dropship Horizon: Are there other manufacturers or designers/sculptors you particularly admire?

Jimbo: Well having worked on CAV for so long I got to work with a lot of great modellers such as John Bear Ross and Niel Nowatzki. Currently models from Phil at CMG are really great, and Khurasan has some awesome models as well. I think 15mm has a great future, and we chose to do this scale to be part of that future.

Dropship Horizon: So what can Dropship Horizon readers expect from ACP Games in the future?

Jimbo: Well our little team hope to add more to the 15mm gameing universe in the near future! Our website is right around the corner and we will have a forum where players will be able to ask questions, let us know what they would like to see and post ideas for new models. Our future plans include our game Valkyrie, designed by Mike Rushing (with assist's by Glen Welch). We also have plans for a minimum of five alien races, starting with the Makat cyborgs, then onto the Hadai and the Va-lyn. We hope to do infantry, mechs and vehicles for all the races!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Scatter Terrain – Pitcher Plants (part 2)

Where we got to last time
Last time, we cut up drinking straws and chopped up DVDs. Gluing the straws to the DVDs with PVA, we coated the rest of the DVDs with a water/PVA mix and sprinkled on some sand for texture. Our goal is to create alien Pitcher plants for use as scatter terrain. Once everything was positioned and glued, some quality drying time was in order.

Drop da Bomb
Undercoated pipes
The PVA was dry by the next morning, but I only had time during the following week to undercoat the terrain pieces. I use a small cardboard box as a spray box when spray-painting as otherwise the spray seems to go everywhere. Placing my terrain bases in the paint box, I spray painted them black with a cheap black paint I had bought at the hardware store. Done and dusted in seconds – I have become a real convert to spray painting undercoat. Once blacked out, I again left the terrain pieces to dry.

Bom da Base
Red sands take shape
Chris’ Red Planet terrain board article inspired my choice of colours when I finally came to paint up my scatter terrain. Using my old Military Miniatures Red (similar to Games Workshop Blood Red, though not as thick), I filled the brush and dipped it in water before painting, essentially creating a red wash that I then applied to the black undercoated base. As you can see, the overall effect is a seemingly random bright and dull red base, depending upon how much water is mixed with the paint at any one point of the painting. If the colour you get is too bright, just add some more water to thin the paint. If it looks too anaemic, then add more paint.

Stone Cold
Stone fields of MarsBy the time I had worked my way around all the bases, the first ones I had painted were starting to dry. Breaking out the Tamiya Dark Grey (any dark or stone grey will do), I then dry-brushed the larger sand particles. This creates the illusion of a stone field scattered over the finer red dust. Of course, I could have just PVAed on a scattering of grit, but PVA often leaves a glossy residue when it dries. This way, I could decide exactly how much stone I wanted and how much I could leave as red dust.

Pitchin’ Plants
Pitcher plants
I then had to decide what colour to paint the plants, themselves. My first versions of Pitcher Plants were painted Dark Angel Green with Catachan Green lips. Green on green looked alright close up, but was fairly dull at ‘standard wargames viewing distances’ – about 3’ away. For my second attempt, when I built my Chaos portals, I again went for Dark Angel Green (I like the colour) but with Gore Red lips. These really stood out and I was quite pleased with them. As I was painting plants for a dry-world, this time around, I decided to go for a khaki trunk with Wine Red lips (both these colours are from the Gunze Sangyo Hobby Colour range of model aeroplane paints which makes them perfect for weird plants and pants for anything else). Plants and pods
In the photo, the Wine Red looks more like Shocking Pink lipstick so, I guess, that’s pretty alien. Most desert plants are dull greens and browns, and if the Pitcher plants are carnivorous, they need to attract prey; so bright colours will at least make the local fauna curious.

I sealed the open ends of the two glass beads I had added to one of the bases with a blob of paint. I then painted the beads in the same colour scheme as the Pitcher plants themselves. The beads are now either pods, or Pitcher plants on the digest part of their cycle.

Finishing Off
Finished plants With the plants pretty much finished, I decided to add a little flock to the bases. If we assume that the Pitcher plants tend to grow where there’s a little ground water on our dry world, and supplement their diets with little animals also looking for the ground water, then it’s likely that other, ground hugging plants might also be present. Using my manky glue brush, I dabbed some PVA and water mix in spots on the bases and sprinkled the sticky areas with some of my green flock.
I had intended to do this part of the process with my ‘dry grass’ flock but that, unfortunately, ran out a couple of weeks ago. When flocking with the darker green flock, less is definitely more.

And that’s about it. Plastic responds to heat in interesting ways. The ultra-thin drinking straws literally melt before your eyes, while the plastic of, say, drink bottles is a lot more robust and requires a lot more working. Experiment. Be careful. And let us know how you get on.

- David

Khurasan 2011 Summer Store is Open!

Good news everyone!  

Khurasan Miniatures is once again accepting orders, selling a shorter list of products for the duration of the summer.
Lucky for us the selection is almost exclusively 15mm Sci-fi so check it out and get those side-lined summer projects back on track!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Scatter Terrain - Pitcher Plants (Part 1)

So, you’ve knocked up your nice, new terrain board, and sliced up some styro hills. Now what? How about some scatter terrain.

Scatter terrain is just that, terrain objects you can scatter on a table top to break up Lines of Sight and generally make your table look a little less like the MDF plains of Alpha Prime and a little more like an actual landscape. Scatter terrain can be almost any small terrain feature – rocks, hedges, bushes, spinneys, etc.

This article is a step-by-step guide for making some inexpensive vegetation scatter terrain – alien pitcher plants. If you have happened by my website, you may have seen an earlier version of this particular process and, in both cases, I owe thanks to the talented folks who frequent the Terragenesis Forum for the original inspiration.

Useful tools and suppliesTools of the Trade
Our raw materials are two plastic drinking straws (in this case from a certain world-wide, clown-fronted, fast-food chain), two old DVDs (or CDs – I happen to work for a media company that goes through DVDs like post-it notes, so I have plenty of material to work with), and some builders’ sand (I have some fine sand I stole from my daughter’s sandpit about five years ago, but that is nearly gone now. I also have some coarser sand I bought recently for a concreting job – at under $NZ 10 for a 10 kilo bag, one could make an awful lot of terrain!).

For tools, we have some scissors for cutting up the straws, a pair of tin snips for cutting up the DVDs/CDs (I could have used the scissors to cut up the DVDs but the snips handle the heavy plastic better), a tea-light candle, a lighter, a pair of long-nosed pliers, a palette, some PVA or white woodworking glue, and a manky glue brush.

Snicker SnackCutting up DVDs and Straws

First order of business is to cut up the straws with the scissors and chop up the DVDs with the tin snips – the DVD plastic is tough but brittle, and tends to want to form sharp points. I try to round the corners off for both aesthetic as well as safety reasons. For the straws, I try to cut each section no longer than about 20mm, and with one end on an angle and the other flat. The section will stand on the flat end, while the angled end is important for the next step.

Burn, Baby, Burn
Burning stuff
This is where the tea-light candle comes in. The hard boyz on Terragenesis talk about using a cigarette lighter to warp the plastic straws. The only draw back is that the lighter gets darn hot. Being a wimp, I discovered that one of my wife’s candles would do the job just as well. Use the pliers to hold the straw section, as both candle flames and melting plastic are hot. You really only need to dip the straw into the flame, the thin plastic rolls and warps in interesting patterns. Hot stuff
Try warming the sides of longer sections – if you get burn through, you’ll have created a mouth.

The first time I made these, I had a bowl of water to dip the heated straws into which worked quite well. This time I just placed the straws on the paper after I finished with each one – watch for molten plastic bonding with the newspaper!

A Sticky End
Sticky stuff
I squirted a glob of PVA (or white glue) onto each base and positioned my cut straws. I use half an old Freikorps figure blister as a palette for mixing both paint and glue – the raised sides stop runoff and keep all the messy bits in one place. Mixing some PVA with water in my palette, I used my manky glue brush to paint the bases with the glue/water mix. I then sprinkled the sticky bases with sand for texture.

Glassy Eyes
Beads attached
I have a bad habit of trying to run several projects in tandem – sometimes it works and sometimes you end up with twice the unfinished projects on your worktable. Glass beads, for $NZ1.00. Had to buy these, especially when I saw a post on a blog about creating alien container scatter terrain for a skirmish-in-the-souk game. While I lined the bulk of the beads up on the bases as rows of jars, I also positioned a couple along side some of my pitcher plants as some alien fruit/seed pods/immature plants/plants digesting their captured prey.

By this time, the entire construction process had taken about three hours on a wet afternoon, including a bit of faffing around time. Waiting for the glue to dry was taking longer than I had anticipated so I packed up and called it a day.

To be continued - painting and decorating

Monday, 4 July 2011

Gruntz is here at last!

Over the last year of development the Gruntz 15mm project has grown into something special. What started out as a straight-forward 15mm Sci-fi rule-set has become something of a field manual for the new wargaming recruit. I would have no hesitation to put a copy of Gruntz in the hands of someone with little or no experience of the hobby and let them loose. Author Robin Fitton credits the enthusiastic collaboration of the Gruntz Yahoo group for this evolution. 

Gruntz presents both basic and more advanced modes of play while keeping the content very accessible. Compared to most minis rules I've encountered this is perhaps the most 'noob friendly' set I've seen in a long, long time. At the outset of the project Robin set clear objectives for the final version of Gruntz  to reach:
  • A flexible design and points system to facilitate quick creation of unit cards based on new manufacturer models or player preference.
  • Rules covering sci-fi play, including cyber or neural net warfare yet with scope for B-Movie style monsters.
  • All mechanics based on D6.
  • Profiles to match existing manufacturer models from GZG, Old Crow Models, Critical Mass, Rebel Miniatures and Khurasan.

A major factor working in favour of this project has been support and cooperation from the community of 15mm Sci-fi manufacturers. As a result, the game allows you to field the infantry (Gruntz) of your choice alongside any vehicle, support or equipment available or imaginable.

Tremendous effort has gone into creating the Gruntz Unit Builders which allow you to play with any figure, model or critter you wish and have a point cost for that unit to help you plan your games.

The mechanics of the game are very straight forward. The only dice required are d6. Six to eight differently coloured pairs of d6 would be ideal for play. Yet Grunts is a subtle enough game to satisfy experienced gamers.

Where Gruntz really shines is in the way unit information is organised. Each Gruntz squad or unit has a profile card presenting all the information needed for play. Each card can be slipped into a protective sleeve (like for trading cards) and during play any changes to the unit's status is recorded with an erasable marker.

Vehicles are robust; they might be hampered by successful critical hits, but remain effective until actually destroyed. This really looks to be a good design choice for a 15mm game where vehicles are important for fun and exciting play.

An excellent Optional Rules section allows the basic game to become much more complex. We have played with all the initiative / unit activation options. The standard game allows a new player a good sense of how their forces can work together dynamically.  The optional Alternate Activation rules are what I'm used to from most of the games I currently play and so I was very comfortable with that. But the Playing Card Activation method was new to our group and it added tremendous tension to each turn. I think we will be playing with this mod a lot.

Playing in your own sandbox is fun & it's clear that Gruntz supports that type of play. The unit builders will let you do exactly that. However, the optional Faction and Background material offer useful structure and ideas for gamers at many levels.

Six scenarios designed for pick-up or tournament play provide a handy tool to bring this game into the competitive club scene. 

On a personal note, I'm uncomfortable with 'Heroic Commanders' that have multiple wounds. But we are talking Sci-fi, and need to encompass unknowable aliens, hegemonising swarms and even powerful monsters. A flexible way to portray command structures and special units is an important feature. I think this is a good one.

For my New Israelis & UNSC, I'm happy to imagine that for the same points cost my commander 'hero' is in fact a command team, capable of taking some damage, firing some weapons & still running the show.
Gruntz offers us many options. We can play within the offered background or not. The game can be simple or complex. The setting can be hard sci-fi or more like a Culture novel or even a classic B-movie. Gruntz works to bring your 15mm Sci-fi skirmish game to life.

Gruntz 15mm is available right now via Wargames Vault.
Visit the Gruntz website to find out more.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Galactic War One unveiled

Blue Moon Manufacturing have announced the release of their 15mm sci-fi wargames rules Galactic War One  to accompany the company's exquisitely pulpy 15mm sci-fi miniature range. The Dropship crew tracked down one of the authors, Scott Pyle, to get the skinny on this new release.

Scott, Joseph Dragovich and Schuyler Hernstrom collaborated on this set of rules for Blue Moon Manufacturing's growing line of 15mm Sci-fi figures and vehicles.
A perfect-bound soft-cover book, Galactic War I weighs in at 96 pages and features colour covers and black & white interior illustrations by Chris Moeller. Layout work is by Karl Perrotton. Example unit records and a quick reference sheet, both designed to be copied & printed, round out the package.

Over the last two years of development and play-testing, Scott and Joseph's goals were to make this set of rules easy to learn, efficient and fun to play and yet allow two players to move lots of minis around the table, completing a game in a reasonable period of time. The background, concepts and flavour for the setting were very much the province of Schuyler Hernstrom.

Scott has produced three other game titles complementing Blue Moon's different minis lines, so it makes sense that Blue Moon's owner, Russ Dunaway, should call on Scott for a 15mm Sci-fi rule-set. But Galactic War I is definitely a departure from Scott's respected 'Goal System' game design; this is not a space-flavoured extension of the "Chaos In" series of games.

Galactic War I features a 3d6 opposed-roll mechanic, multiple figure basing and plays at the platoon to company level. Vehicles and walkers are a big part of the fun. A skirmish-mod allows games to be played out using the same mechanics but with smaller numbers of individually based minis. There is no campaign system, but an interesting 'Battle Zones and Scenarios' generator encourages you to fight out battles on exotic alien worlds featuring game-changing environments.

While GWI is intended to stand beside the Blue Moon line, a complete build-system allows you to stat-up and bring in 15mm minis from any manufacturer.
Co-author Joseph Dragovich has published some interesting details on his blog,check it out.
These rules are available now from Blue Moon or from Old Glory.