Monday, December 20, 2021

Skips, Dumptsers, and Related Rubbish

The alternate title "Down in the Dumpster" was rejected a touch too trite and a bit tropey much.

Modern urban scenery in the 25/28mm scale can be quite the challenge to locate, especially when one has determined to build a flashback to Philadelphia in the 1970s.  Did plastic trash bags exist in 1973? (apparently, yes. My old dad used to use paper shopping bags by economic choice, and those old TV averts - showing the soggy bottom falling through - bring back real childhood memories.)

What about dumpsters/skips? I remember my father taking me to one, in the mid-70's that was enormous, probably about 20', but to an eight year old, it looked like the whale what swallowed Pinnochio. It was painted red, had some steps to a metal platform, with rail guards. This was not some public dispose-all, this was on a gated site, where Dad knew the security staff.

Dad had some boxes of shredded paper he wanted disposed of...I know, that sounds a bit shady, but I think he was just blessed with a surfeit of caution...shady caution.

Anyway, my dad had me stand at the base of the steps, where the "start/stop" buttons were, while he cast in the box and indicated I should press "start". As I did, I ran up the steps, to see the great. steel piston slowly extend and press the box, crush the box, into the dark depths of Pinnochio's whale.

Unfortunately, in hindsight, I'm realising that was a compactor not a dumpster, and was probably from a customised shipping container with the engine, piston and platform purpose-built and added on. I haven't been able to find one in 28mm, or indeed ANY scale.

Which leads me back to skips/dumpsters.

The larger dumpster/skip is from Studio Miniatures. The smaller came out of a model train set. I'll need to find the manufacturer's name, becuase I like it better and would like to find more...

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Crucible Crush - Nice Minis, Once You Get Them...

Late in 2019, a new line of miniatures was teased by the redoubtable Bob Murch, of Pulp Miniatures. Originally at home on the Pulp Miniatures page, the Black Sun line of Weird Viet Nam War eventually moved to Crucible Crush Miniatures. Crucible is managed by Lee van Schaik, nephew and son of the RAFM van Schaiks, and the connections to RAFM are apparent from even a brief glance at the various miniature lines offered.

For starters, Black Sun is a set of rules and campaign setting for Viet Nam Weird War, set in 1968. Of course, with my current fixation on 1970's street skirmishing, my interest in the project was immediately piqued.

While I'm not much taken by the Viet Nam setting - thus the GIs and VC are of little interest to me, likewise neither are the rifle-armed Adaro/Deep Ones (if they were armed with spearguns or eldritch magic weapons that looked like spun coral or metallic driftwood, I would change my mind) - my main
interest is in the Children of Hastur.

Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

Illustration by Robert Price

Hastur the Unspeakable is reckoned the brother of Great Cthulhu, and awaits imprisoned beneath the lake of Hali, either in or near the Hyades. Hastur was created by Ambrose Bierce, expanded upon by Robert Chambers, adopted by H.P. Lovecraft and fleshed out by August Derleth.

Crucible Crush has released three sets of the Children of Hastur.

Some Black Sun 28mm figures from Crucible Crush Miniatures arrived in the post one fine day last year, and I was, and remain, well pleased with them. Sculpted by living legend, Bob Murch, these figures are excellent. Three packs of miniatures were ordered: The Children of Hastur group. Three sets of un-armed and rifle-armed Hippies. Various states of mutations are shown, none, almost none, tentacles galore. There is an excellent "Charles Mansion" in jeans and freaky beard, a rich, daddy's girl "Tanya" in headband and SMG, and a number of other, less remarkable but well sculpted extras.

For Crazy Charlie, I removed a cluster of short tentacles from back of his right shoulder, as being just a trifle much. He's chanting from an Unspeakable Tome, anything more is just dotting a capital I.

The Hippie with the pistol originally had an M-16. He was converted using a an pistol available from Crooked Dice. Crooked Dice seems to be the only miniatures company who had the stroke of brilliance in adding an extra hand weapon or head to the base of their metal figure sprues.

The order was late in coming, well over a month. Once I emailed CC, Lee v. S. was quick in shipping it out - so quick, in fact, that a miniature was left out and a duplicate miniature included. I'm an odd duck, in that I would like what I've paid for, so I shipped the odd miniature back, with an explanation and a printed PICTURE, from their web store.

Almost another month goes by - I actually have no reason to expect my parcel ever arrived, since the address is shared with another business, but I email anyway.  They replied that they thought my replacement went out in early July - I inform them that it's quite possible; some of my parcels did go astray, disappearing into the black void of Camden County, NJ.

So, Lee kindly offered to send another. Which arrived.

And was the wrong miniature, again.

There's a point one just stops, and this was it. Perhaps they regretted that particular mini - a Black Panther "militant"?  The game industry is busy tying itself in knots over "woke" alleged-players.

But, no, as an email reply to my inquiry assured me there was no agenda, political or otherwise, they'd just got it wrong, twice.  They did assure me they were doing their best...

That's good to know, and a bit bad at the same time. "I did my best" is an admission of failure, it's what Dad or Granddad or "Coach" told us when we lost to the other team. It's what we tell our boss, after we skew the pooch at work, hoping s/he won't fire us.  To claim one "did their best" is to acknowledge your "best" isn't really good enough. Failure wasn't for lack of trying, it was for lack of doing.

The answer is, to do better, and the remedy is to review your processes and locate where and how the errors are occurring, and fix them.

Maybe the packer is doing six orders at once "to save time".  As a university student, I hand packaged for an Aerospace supplier, and we were told NOT to work on more than one order at a time, because any time saved would be lost "times ten" in straightening out the error, and we could possibly lose the customer. "People can get parts anywhere" my boss once said. "We have to offer superior service to keep them buying from us."  That was 30 years ago, and they're still in business.

In the end, the missing figure finally showed up - Lee van S. said it was a matter of personal pride, and to his credit, he stuck to it until he finally got it right.

Animation: 5

Detail: 5

Proportions: 5

Variety: 4

Overall: 4.75 out of 5...Ω

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Night Stalker in 28mm


No urban game set in the 70s, which included supernatural elements, would be complete without including a certain newshound who, in the opinion of his editor, "looks like he just came from a road company performance of "The Front Page."

The character is question is, as you have doubtless already concluded, one Carl Kolchack, reporter and journalist, and associate of the Independent News Service.

An excellent proxy model can be found at Pulp Figures, in their "News Hounds" pack, which also includes a potential Obstreperous Editor, plus sundry other Front Page folks.

For 7TV1 purposes, I would use the "Investigative Academic" profile, and purchase 3 Luck points. Our Carl always seems to be able to pull himself out of the fire...Ω

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"Tide's up. Time to stay alive..."

Yes, admittedly..."Ghosts of Mars" was a fairly disappointing film - especially at the time of release. However, compared to what's being turned out nowadays, that movie is now classic cinema gold.  Recently, having viewed a dvd version, I decided to paint up one Desolation Williams.

I used the RAFM miniature Karl Unger, from the USX Modern Day Heroes line, which had been loitering around my painting table for nearly a year, as the basis for my Williams - the weapon was easily  swapped from the stock, and there was no other modification necessary.

Aside from the Martian Red Desert Camo pattern, the colour palette for the character is very narrow - black undershirt, black webbing, black gloves, black boots. Yes, John Carpenter was quite burnt-out in anno 2001...

There's actually no scenario from "Ghosts of Mars" that I'm eager to play - it's just 'Zombies meet Wild West on Mars' which doesn't really interest me, tactically. That said, if I can find miniatures suitable for "Uno, Dos, and Tres", I'd paint them up to complete the posse...


Saturday, February 6, 2021

Old School 28mm Sci-Fi Terrain Round Up

 "Shh! Wait!...Can you feel that?..."   It's 28mm Sci-Fi, and it's coming back to life...

I've noticed a trend over the past few years: 15mm Sci-Fi is waning (not dying, just waning - Don't Panic©) and 28mm Sci-Fi is again gaining ground. To mix metaphors: The pendulum has swung full circle.

Disclaimer/Claimer (Sorry/Not Sorry): When I do an overview/review, I invariably ruffle some feathers - that's the nature of reviews, because they reflect individual tastes, preferences and opinions. I do not review items outside my area of interest i.e. WH40K.  I just don't like it, I don't play it, I don't review it or anything directly associated with it, and that's that. That said, Hail the Emperor, He Suffers for Us.

Neither am I beholden to any of these companies under review: I don't get review samples, I don't want review samples, and I decline review samples. The only exception is, if something is included in a regular order, as a freebie - then I review it if it takes my fancy. I remain a Free Agent.

I need to include this disclaimer because there are people who feel that some manufacturer-suppliers are entitled to special consideration, simply because these vendors make stuff these people especially like. That's alright for some, but not here. Whether I like something or not, the reader is free to agree or disagree, but that doesn't change my position - unless I've made a factual mistake, whereupon I will occasionally change positions. 

Finally, defining "Old School": Old School hearkens back to a time when:

  • We played face-to-face
  • Figures were rules-agnostic, made of metal, (or resin, in the case of terrain) and painted.
  • The Content was neither video-game nor anime derived, nor so aesthetically inspired.

Acheson Creations
A neat line of Sci-Fi scatter terrain. Including pipelines, furnishings and small buildings. They are reasonably quick in dispatching your purchase, and I've always had good service from them.

Amara Plastic Mouldings
Amara has their Future Zone line of moulded styrene for 28mm. One of my favourite pieces is the Fortress Wall Section, which has appeared in my 15mm Stargrunt Games as well as my 28mm VSF games.

Armourcast Terraform Terrain
Produces an excellent variety of Modern/Near Future terrain, alien plants, ruins. One of my very first  Sci-Fi terrain purchases was from Armourcast. The old Lance and Laser and Mega Miniatures Salvage Crew line have found their home there.

From 2000 to 2005, after they lost the WH40K license, and associated business, they branched into "Steampunk", where they flirted with some arguably off-beat designs, like the Steam Buddha and Steam Mushroom (and the wargame application for these are...what again?), while abandoning the higher-demand items like the Grizzley Steam Walker - probably because the moulds had worn out, and they didn't want to deal with the expense of making new ones.

Ex-Armourcast Steam Walker - Sic Transit Gloria 

Armourcast also make Cinematic effects and Bases.  Now, these are undeniably cool, and I have a couple of the latter- that said, Cinematic Effects is a niche line and is somewhat over-represented on their website. As an inheritance from the previous owners, I suspect it's intended to service diorama enthusiasts, and not gamers. That said, if you need an "Attack Hamster Muzzle Effect" Armorcast is your go-to guy.

In 2007, the company changed hands, though it's sometimes difficult to judge whether Armourcast is a company moving forward, or one whose best days are behind it. Despite any perceived erosion to their previous reputation*, the new owner/operator has spun off a new concept,  to breathe life into the "same-old, discontinued" line, and so created "Ginfritter's Gnomish Workshop". There are new items being added, of a quirky, humourous nature, that you won't find elsewhere.

*In case of any doubt, I can pull up the relevant TMP threads. Again, nota bene.

Black Cat Miniatures - An assortment of furnishings, set dressing, et al. Very handy for the odd bit no one else make. Reasonably quick dispatch.

Crooked Dice Design Studio
A plethora of crates, set dressings for The Village, 1960's-style control panels, even a Secret Base where you can Hideout and destroy your favourite Star Trek franchise. 

Knights of Dice
Based in Australia, Knights of Dice offer several lines of SciFi buildings, some of which can certainly be classified as Old School style. Their Easy District has a certain Blade Runner feel, with acrylic "neon" signs for good measure. Their Invictus line is a bit more "gothic", but would fit with a game set in the Riddick universe, and their Sandport Hydra line would make a good Arrakis or Tatooine.

My caveat with Knights of Dice is, their buildings span 28mm-35mm, which can be a trifle biggish for 28mm. That said, the workmanship is excellent - with multiple layers that give the buildings depth.

Mantic Games
Despite my aversion to plastic minis, I'm less fussy regarding terrain. Mantic do a series of Sci-Fi Terrain Crate sets, and their Industrial Accessories set has proved especially useful for my purposes

Miniature Building Authority
MBA also has a small, newish 28mm SciFi line, of just under a dozen. It's mostly greebles and bits & bobs, but there is a nice Flux Capacitor that's fairly unique. MBA's Shanty Town line is useful for you post-spoc fans. I've had good service from MBA.

Sarissa Precision
While MDF usually falls outside my definition of "Old School SciFi", Sarissa Precision deserves an honourable mention, due to the clean, futuristic lines and Old School design. I have an entire farm from Sarissa. Some of their stuff looks like Blade Runner, some of it looks like Saturn 3. With their System 28 SciFi line, you can re-create Hadley's Hope from Aliens, and that's good enough for me.

Scotia Grendel
Has some 60+ entries in their Sci-Fi Terrain line, including those awesome pillboxes that I use for 15mm SciFi games. Also futuristic doors, cryo chambers, control panels (one of which has a three-ring binder on it - how Old School can you get?) and xeno-eggs.

These are another 28mm-35mm scale product. I have only one item in TT Combat's SciFi Utopia range, and that's their Geodesic Domes set. It looks very neat - as I have yet to assemble it, I'll need to wait before I can give it an honest review.

Geodesic Dome from TTCombat

Honourable Mentions

The following may very well be the best thing since sliced bread - only, aside from searching their websites fairly often, I haven't had the opportunity to purchase much, if any, of their relevant stock. 

Black Site Studio - Post Apoc, Arcology, and a Blade-Runner-esque Zaibatsu line. A lot of Out-of-Stock items...when will suppliers learn that this is almost always seen as a bad sign by browsing shoppers?

Rebel Minis - 28mm Fenceposts and UAV. Hopefully, they will expand their 28mm Sci-Fi line.

Warlord Games - I've included Warlord as the Elephant in the Room, because I haven't quite forgiven them for Doctor Who. That said, I've been very, very close to purchasing their Freedom Colony Outpost, because it's unique and very future-y. I do have some Frostgrave miniatures, via Northstar Figures, and they are very good.

Closing Thoughts
This list cannot be compleatly exhaustive, and there are some smaller startups offering "one-shot" terrain items which may, or may not, fall under the Old School Sci-Fi umbrella as I'm using here - that said, feel free to offer additional suggestions, in the comments, if there's something you think I've missed....