Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander - a short update

Still twiddling thumbs waiting for DFC Kickstarter to ship. This is something of a problem. Anticipation is very high, but at the same time there is a dawning reality that when it does land I will have a metric sh*ttonne of ships to assemble.

In the meantime I have decided to try and get the painting technique down to something manageable.

I have had a bit of an experiment with the Seattle I built earlier from the sprue given away* at the "pre-launch" in Cardiff.

Firstly I undercoated the whole thing in GW white undercoat - I don't know the name and care less, but it did give rather a good covering. I suspect I may have to review my long held GW antipathy as at the moment they seem to be doing some nice stuff as far as paints etc goes. Still a long way from buying any Space Marines though :-)

Once the undercoat dried I painted a basecoat of Vallejo German Grey with my airbrush. With hindsight the airbrush is probably unnecessary. Once that dried I went for a generous wash with GW Null Oil - really generous,

Left that to dry, then a heavy drybrush with German Grey again. Then a couple of progressivly lighter drybrushes with Vallejo light greys. For these I pinched a trick from the painting tutorial they ran at Cardiff and used a soft make up brush which helped keep it light.

All the weapons and engines were picked out or drybrushed Vallejo Oily Steel - I've ran Null Oil over the engines and will probably drybrush them again with Oily Steel - just to see if its worth the effort.

The dorsal panels wer painted with Vallejo Off White followed by some real white in thin coats where possible, and some other details picked out.

I still need to do the flight deck \ hangar - with hindsight this would have been so much easier to do before sticking the damned thing together!

So here she is - still work in progress but looking quite nice I think

And here she is with the Frigates

* if you pre-ordered £75 worth of toys on the day!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander "We DO need those Stiinking Magnets"

My previous post was about building one of the new Dropfleet Commander ships, in that instance a Seattle class Carrier. There has been a lot of talk on line about the possibility of magnetising the new Dropfleet Commander models. After a bit of shameless begging I managed to get hold of a second sprue from my mate Paul who had also attended the pre launch event at Cardiff last weekend, so decided to try magnetising the model to allow building different versions. I thought about this quite a bit. I certainly don't intend to do this a lot, but there are a couple of UCM Cruisers - the San Fransico Class Troopship and the Madrid Class which is a specialised orbital bombardment vessel, that I dont think I will need often, but having the option would be nice. As you can see from the pics below, they share the same superstructure and general layout, except the ventral positions have a large troop compartment or the orbital bombardment turrets.

These are rare specialist ships so I don't think I will be using them regularly, so it would be useful to be able to have the model do double duty. There are two much more common Cruisers that share the same layout, the Berlin Class which has a burn-through laser, and the Rio, which has a pair of heavy turrets. The Berlin has been one of the stars of the demo games I have seen, everyone loves the burn-through laser and the ability to saw a target in half, but I suspect the Rio may well see plenty of table time as a good all round mid sized cruiser. All I would need to do would be to magnetise a burn through laser and a couple of heavy mass-driver turrets and do the same with the troop pod and bombardment turrets and I could in theory field any one of four versions from the same model - sounds good.

Firstly I needed some magnets. I had some 2mm x 1mm disk magnets I used for small turrets on Dropzone tanks so they seemed to be a good starting position. I assembled the troop pod and the two sides of the main hull, then drilled out some holes using a pin vice. One tip to pass on, the turrets sit on 3mm "plugs" so take a lot of care drilling your locating hole for the magnet as you only have half a mil each way. I used a 0.5mm drill bit to create a guide hole before opening it out with a 2mm bit. I found wood bits were preferable to metal ones - no idea why but they seemed to work better.

Once drilled I stuck the 2mm magnets in the holes being very careful to get the polarity right. Another tip is to use a wooden tooth pick or a non ferrous tool to position the magnets. Its bloody fiddly anyway.

After that it was plain sailing! Actually it wasnt. The turrets on the Rio and Madrid both fit the socket fine, but the troop pod and burn-through were designed to be glued over \ on to the now redundant turret rings. This created a gap between the two sets of magnets which meant the connection was not that strong. With hindsight I could have predicted this - in fact if may be possible to glue the magnets directly to the burn-through without drilling out a hole, but that may cause other problems with the magnet detaching. In this case I dealt with the problem by gluing a second magnet to the first ensuring a contact with the one in the hull. I suspect it may even be possible to do away with drilling on the Troop Pod altogether and surface mount a 3mm x 1mm in the sockets - but I don't have one at hand, but will pick some up to try it out when the Kickstarter delivers "soon".

Once the magnets were in I assembled the rest of the model and here are the results:

San Francisco



So is it worth the hassle? I think so. The magnets give a good attachment to the various components so I can run several different options with the same model. The last step would be to magnetise the dorsal cowling to allow you to build the Moscow \ St Petersburg type Heavy Cruisers, but that is I think a step too far.  

Monday, 22 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander - Seattle Class Fleet Carrier

So one of the perks of being at the Dropfleet Commander "Pre Launch" event at Cardiff over the weekend was getting my hands on a UCM Cruiser sprue.

This is currently a rather sought after item, so I thought I should strike while the iron is hot and see how the thing goes together. For the uninitiated, Dropfleet Commander (DFC) is the new Sci Fi Space \ Orbital combat game due for release "very soon". Once it is released I will revisit with some comments about the rules but in the meantime here's one of the toys - the UCM cruiser.

When you buy the starter set you will get enough bits to make three Cruisers and four Frigates for each side - enough for an interesting game. One point about the ships is that they are plastic and each cruiser sprue contains enough parts to allow you to build any one of the cruisers in the game - that has to be a bonus. So without further ado, here is the sprue!

There is a lot on there, but before I get into the different parts I should mention just how crisp and clean the parts are - very nice.

I'm going to build a Seattle Class Carrier - something I am guessing everyone will have at least one of as it is a very useful ship. The pic below shows the main parts - the hull and engines are universal but the rest are variable depending on what you are building.

Side clippers and here are the main parts off the sprue

Once cleaned up I checked them for fit and I have to say  they were excellent

So on I went with the Liquid Poly glue. Top Tip - Liquid Poly is far superior for this sort of work than the gel stuff you get from most games outlets - invest in it and you wont regret it. Here is the finished model with all the bits attached. I'm really struggling with the camera so may have to get a better pic, but needless to say it is a beautiful model

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Dropfleet Commander Pre-Launch – Firestorm Games Cardiff 20th August

I arrived home just before Midnight having driven back from Cardiff (OK shared the drive -Paul & I took turns). This morning having had a night to think over the event, here’s my impressions. I should add I was there as a Talon – i.e. a Hawk Wargames volunteer and I was running a couple of demonstration games of Dropfleet using the Beta \ Admiral set of rules. 

The original plan was that this event would have been preceded by the Kickstarter release of Dropfleet Commander, so the public could have attended with their own fleets to take part. Due to some delays with the Kickstarter Hawk obviously thought it was necessary to change the format to more demo and painting tutorials.

I had volunteered rather rashly – we faced a five to six hour drive to Cardiff on a good day, and in the event the trip down from ‘t North was far from good – seven and a half hours in total to reach the venue. We arrived around six on Friday evening and had a good look around. I have to say we were impressed. I had attended an event several years ago in the old venue, but the new one is a quantum leap forward – massive gaming area, great facilities. Shortly after we arrived the Hawk team also came in, and we volunteered to help set up. That proved a mixed blessing as it took some time but I also got the chance to get the demo briefing so saved myself half an hour for tomorrow so we planned to have a “proper” breakfast rather than rush down to Firestorm. It was also great to catch up with some of the older Hawk hands such as Louis (fine chap) and also meet the new members of the team – particularly Liam who is now handling the Talon program.

Next morning started badly - the promised cooked breakfast at the pub was not to be as there was a power cut - so we ended up with a less than satisfying one at McDonalds. 

Arriving back at Firestorm everything went very smoothly, and it was clear to me that the Hawk Team have massively upped their game as far as organisation went. Hawk have always been good with the imagery and their presentation material, painted models, cabinets, banners etc. have always been first class, but in the past their organisation and engagement has sometimes been patchy as they were sometimes swamped by not having enough warm bodies to cover the conflicting demands on their time. This was very different. There were plenty of bodies available, and the briefing and general organisation (by James) was pretty damned impressive – dare I say professional. The demo games were tight and universally well received, and the painting and modelling sessions busy and fun. Dave Lewis gave a very good Q&A session on where they were with the game and dropped some big hints about the future direction of both DFC and DZC. The last part of the day was going to be a massive public participation game of both systems, with Dropfleet action affecting the Dropzone game, but mindful of the long drive home we left a little early, so I can’t say how everything went after that – well apparently from other reports. Sadly I was so busy I only got a chance to take a few pictures.

Was there a downside? Clearly the implications of the delay in the Kickstarter meant this was not the event originally envisaged, and the admirable insistence that no retail stock would be released before the KS backers got their pledges fulfilled meant there was no sales, however everyone was rewarded with a Frigate sprue and also anyone pre ordering more than £75 of Dropfleet through Firestorm got a Cruiser sprue as well. Firestorm Games was superb, but it did highlight the need for a similar venue more centrally located.

Final impressions. Dropfleet is going to be a winner. The rules are solid, gameplay interesting and the models beautiful. More than that, I got the impression that Hawk Wargames has finally steadied itself and grown into something more than Dave and his friends trying valiantly to cope with the runaway success that was DZC. They now have an organisation that has the capacity to deliver the product without the problems of the past, and plans and capacity to support it in games stores and clubs. Looking good for the future.