All posts by fossiljellyfish

I'm a biologist who enjoys building scale models... I write popular science articles in my spare time, play World of Tanks, and publish scale model reviews in Armorama. I have decided to start a blog to show the work I've been doing; any comments are welcome. Please subscribe to the blog, and give regular feedback; this would greatly help me to improve both my skills and my blog.

Grim Skull Miniatures: Mortarion

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The world of tabletop gaming has given us better and better detailed miniatures over the years, along with increasingly detailed universes through media like books, comics and computer games. One of my favorite is…

 

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Warhammer 40K. The picture above will make it clear why.

 

There are enormous gaps in the “official” miniature offerings in the available fractions, and also what is available tends to be somewhat expensive. A lot of smaller companies spotted these gaps on the market, and started to produce similar-but-not-quite-the-same miniatures that are not available from either Games Workshop or Forgeworld, usually for a friendlier price.

Mortarion did receive an official figure by GW, and another by Forgeworld, but I did not like either of those versions. The WH30K (pre-Heresy or Herey era) Forgeworld model did not really resonate with me, and the daemon prince figure looks very different from the man he used to be, twisted and bloated beyond recognition. In case of Mortarion it is an issue. True, the Primarch of the Death Guard Legion had fallen to Chaos, and has been turned into a Daemon Prince since the Horus Heresy. However the lore makes it clear that he is the one Primarch (alongside with Magnus, possibly) who remained as close to human as possible. Grimm Skull Miniatures has issued a Mortarion model that can be used both as a pre-daemon prince Primarch before or during the Heresy, or as a full-fledged daemon-prince (essentially the same figure plus two big, leathery wings). Yes, you can say it’s just lazy marketing. However since he is the most human of the daemon princes, and fans still debate if he could even return to the side of the Emperor again, as his red brother did, there IS a good argument for Grim Skull Miniatures’ choice.

The figure- as all of Grim Skull Miniatures figures I’ve seen so far- is very well sculpted and detailed. These figures are close enough to the “official” GW/Forgeworld aesthetics, but they also differ enough to look novel and unique; frankly I quite like how most of their figures look. The overall outline of power armor mixed with twisting and turning organic shapes look the way I imagine the Chaos-touched warriors. Talking about Magnus: there is also a figure that looks suspiciously like the Cyclops, only Grim Skull took him towards the Maya/Aztec aesthetics instead the ‘traditional’ Egyptian. (I’m not sure what to feel about the overemphasised feminine figures though, but if you like Tau pin-up girls and sexy female chaos space marines, here’s your chance.)

Mortarion, or Morty for his friends, looks exactly like his description in the Horus Heresy books. A gaunt man in an ornate, baroque power armor, with a cape covering his head, and censers hanging from his armor on chains. He has his power scythe Silence, however he does not have his handgun, Lantern. This is a glaring omission of the model; the gun is a prominent feature of the Primarch. Otherwise I do like it better than the pre-daemon Forgeworld figure, or the daemon prince GW model; he does radiate a sort of dark, solemn majesty with his ragged wings and elaborately decorated, corroded armor.

He comes with a pretty nice base to stand on with a broken pipe leaking who-knows-what. (It must be something corrosive because there is a skull in it.) We do get two such pipes; I used the extra with another Death Guard figure.

The assembly of these figures is usually a breeze. I did not like the original pose, because Morty looks like a particular shepherd the way he holds Silence. I turned his arm a bit to make it look more dynamic, although the attachment point is not designed to hold the arm well at this angle. (A scythe is an unbelievably impractical weapon at any rate; at least he should have straightened it, a’la revolting peasants. I think the Death Guard really puts style over effectiveness, when it comes to weaponry.)

The big issue, however, was the wings. There are simply no attachment points where they can be glued to, and the surface touching the back of the figure is so small, it was difficult to secure them even with small wires drilled into them.

The painting stage is usually where these models are made or ruined, and I have to confess I’m not a master painter. My main interests are armored vehicles, so my skills at blending and painting small details by brush leave much to be desired. I don’t particularly stick to the “Games Workshop School of Figure Painting” with the high contrasts and very fine layering/glazing, either. Since I have the daemon prince version, I did not paint him in clean, pre-Heresy colors; he got the full grime, rust and corruption treatment.

I used Vallejo’s black primer as a first coat, and used Lahman medium to create glazes in various browns and greens. I kept adding the glazes in very thin coats until I liked the greenish-brownish hue.

The bronze parts were painted using True Metal gold first (on larger surfaces I dry-brushed it on to keep the black as shadows in the recesses), and then followed it with several layers of oxidized bronze green colors as glazes. As finishing touch I reapplied the gold on rivets, thin edges, and other surfaces where the oxidised metal would be rubbed off.

The different pipings on the armor were painted with dark blue glazes to create a slightly different color without too big of a contrast.

I was uncertain of what colors the wings should have: they look like a cross between an insect’s wing and a bat’s. I did not want them to stand too much out of the general effect, so they got mostly the same treatment as the rest of the figure. The wings received a purple glaze, and the insectoid wing structure was shaded with ochre and brown oil paint blended into the base dry; it does look slightly iridescent and chitinous.

The tabard/cloak Morty is wearing got a similar layering treatment, only in this case I used a white base and added mostly brown colors. As a chaos prince of Nurgle, the god of disease, he can’t really be expected to have a spotless, white attire. (Having one at all is pretty silly since it would get caught in everything and anything.) I added further highlights, shading and discolorations using oil paints. After weeks of drying it is still somewhat shiny… This is a good lesson on getting out the linseed oil out of the oil paint before using it. (Just put a blob of paint onto a piece of cardboard and wait a few hours… Next time I will not skip on this step.) Right now I’ll go with the “can’t you see it’s leather??” defence. It turned out a bit darker than I would like, but there it is. As I said I’m not the best of figure painters.

The base was painted similarly to the figure: several layers of dark grey and brown glazes over black primer, then a little steel and gold True Metal paint drybrushed on here and there. The rubble got a bit of a rust and dust pigments, and the bronze areas got the same treatment as Morty’s armor.

Overall I really like the results -even with my admittedly limited skills managed to make it out into an impressive renderition of this

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior Part 1.

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2018 will be the year of the Panther, probably; several companies have issued their Panther models, and two of these models have a full interior included: Rye Fields’ and Takom’s. There is also a Trumpeter 1/16 one coming out -also with full interior.

I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side; this review contains my impressions of the Takom model. Since I just moved to a different country, and not everything is set up yet, the photos are somewhat questionable quality; for that I apologise. I can already see that there will be some serious holdups during the build simply because it is a shame to hide all of the amazing interior details. Since I would like to display the complexity of the interior, this necessitates a cutaway model. I do not wish to butcher this gorgeous model, so it will take a while figuring out how to cut it up cleanly to provide a good view the interior. Another option is to wait for Takom’s upcoming crane to come out, and show the tank with the turret lifted up… If you have not yet bought your Panther yet, Takom also issued a model with optional clear parts, issued the Ausf G as well, making their range quite wide, and providing similar options to Rye Field’s offering… so you have a LOT of choices even within the Takom range.

Back to the kit… The box is enormous; the model is over 1500 parts, after all. The sprues are well protected in individual plastic bags, nothing was damaged during transit.

The instructions come in a small(ish) booklet. There are color panels showing the interior painted, and the suggested color schemes for the tank itself, but most of the steps are shown in black-and-white. The steps are clear for the most part. To be honest I did run into difficulties now and then trying to figure out where to put the tiny little parts for subassemblies simply because the drawings are small. The solution is either a magnifying glass, or, in my case, I simply took photo of the complex and tiny drawing and zoomed in on my phone. This is certainly an issue but not an insummarable one. The kit looks incredibly complex, and the whole assembly looks very daunting at first. My advice is to take it one step at a time. While the model IS complex, it is not horribly so; individual steps should not be challenging by themselves. Step-by-step, just focusing on the next steps without worrying the next dozen pages of instructions still waiting, you will slowly find that you have completed most of the tank. Despite of the complexity I did find you don’t need incredibly high level of skill to build this model. There are a lot of tiny sub-assemblies, complex parts, but the designers of this model tried to make sure that the way these parts fit would make it difficult to make mistakes; carefully placed locator pins, asymmetric joints, etc all make sure that you can only fit parts together in the correct orientation. (It IS possible to mess up, though; always check the instructions carefully.)

What I really liked about the model is that Takom tried to use PE as little as possible, and managed to achieve a highly detailed, complex kit with only 7 PE screens. Obviously, if you want to replace the side-skirts, or other parts with PE, several aftermarket companies have already issued sets for the model, but for most people I think the plastic parts will be perfectly suitable. There are also no clear parts for periscopes and whatnot, but I never actually thought they were adding anything to a model, so it’s all good…

The only extra I bought -and this one is, unfortunately, quite necessary- was the Meng Zimmerit decal set. Most Panther A-s had Zimmerit applied, so there is no way out of this one unless you want to model that handful of tanks which were left bare of Zimmerit. I have never used decals for Zimmerit, so this will be an interesting experience. (I’m not sure why Takom did not issue this model with Zimmerit -perhaps they wanted to give the modellers the flexibility. The only problem is that you are then left with aftermarket or DYI Zimmerits. Fear not: there are other Takom Panthers coming out with Zimmerit, but they were not yet announced when I bought this model.)

Step 1.

The assembly starts with the bottom part of the hull. The transmission, the torsion bars, all the small bits are relatively easy to put together. The suspension is static; you will not be able to position the swing arms, but this is how it is; the model has been made user friendly as possible by Takom, and simplifying how the suspension is built up is part of this. (The other part are the link-and-length tracks.)

Step 2.

This is a multi-part assembly of the transmission. It is a very detailed little part, and I ran into the first issue here: step 2G is so tiny, it is impossible to see where M15 and M37 goes. This is where the magnifying glass comes handy. At step 2H you are supposed to glue in the piping coming out of the transmission, but I suggest you dry fit it into the hull first, and glue the pipes in with their other ends fitted into their respective holes on the hull (step 4).

Step 3- 4.

Assembly of the hull’s bottom (the ribbing) and the sides. You are shown to glue the transmission in, but it would make painting more difficult later should you decide not to paint everything primer red. (The transmission was most likely not left in primer red.)

Step 5-6.

Addition of the sides to the bottom, with the torsion bars. These parts fit remarkably well- it holds together even without glue…

The sub-assembly at step 6 details the assembly of the controls for the driver.

Step 7-9.

Running gear… The swing arms are fixed, so you cannot position the wheels; the link and length tracks would make this impractical as well. You do get a template to position the swing arms, and the very same template is used to assemble the tracks. Important: do NOT glue F2-1 and F2-2 (the drive sprockets’ housing) before using the template as they will be in the way.

Step 10-11-12-13-14.

The assembly of the hull bottom, the driver’s and radio operator’s seats, the extra three ammunition storage under the turret, and the instrument panels. It also goes through the assembly of the firewalls in the engine compartment, and the drive shaft/turret turning mechanism. You also assemble the ammunition storage boxes around the lower hull. They are both good and bad. The good part is that you don’t need to use individual projectiles; there are specially moulded parts that fit into the ammo holes from under the box, and only contain the parts of the projectiles that are actually sticking out. It certainly makes assembly a bit more simple, since instead of multiple projectiles, you only have one part per box. However it makes painting a bit more difficult, since you can only install them from under the box. Either you finish the painting of the interior, and then glue the boxes in place, or you paint the projectile heads after everything is installed and painted. I really do prefer putting as much of the model together as possible before painting, so I don’t find this option a very good one.

Step 15-16-17

Here comes the assembly of the tracks. The tracks are plastic link-and-length types, and you need to glue the guide horns onto them (two per tracklink…). These horns are hollow, and I think it was a simpler solution than to mould the tracklinks as one piece. Takom has provided a pretty unique and relatively simple solution of this making the process less monotonous and time-consuming, but it is still far from ideal. They have moulded the guide horns in rows onto plastic strips, which can be positioned over the track links, so you can glue them in rows. (I just used an extra thin glue with a brush.) Once they are dry, you can safely remove the tracklinks… the gluing part is easy; the cutting part still takes a lot of time, not to mention you need to smooth out both faces of the guide horns where the sprue gates were located. Despite of having the horns lined up on a straight plastic part, gluing them in a straight line was a bit challenging; a lot of the horns are somewhat wobbly, and required some careful adjustments.

All in all, the idea is good, but I still prefer if they moulded the tracklinks as one piece. Even if they don’t have hollow horns.

Once the track links are finished, you can use the same template you used before to glue the tracks together; or you can use the actual mode, too. (I did not find the template very useful, but that is a highly personal opinion.)


You also add a couple of personal items, like canteens to the hull.

Steps 18-22

Detail the assembly of the Maybach engine. As they usually say, the engine is a small model on its own, and while it might sound like a cliche at this point, it is actually true. In general the instructions do a good job showing you what goes where, but some reference photos will still come useful to help deciding exactly where certain pipes go, and what angle they should stand.

Steps 23-24


You add more small stuff to the sides wall. I am not sure I like this philosophy, spreading the assembly of a part into several different steps; I would prefer if all steps concerning the assembly of a given part of the tank would be grouped together, and you did not have to constantly re-visit areas you thought you have already finished. (It makes planning much easier.)

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This step details the ammo rack assemblies on the side of the hull. The instruction manual has a couple of colored panels in the middle, which will help you with painting the ammunition, and placing the decals on them; it is as good time as any to refer to them. (Obviously it makes sense to paint all the ammunition at once, even though you were already instructed to install a couple of projectiles in the bottom of the hull. I have delayed those steps until I finished the painting of the interior.) The painting guide suggests to use a mixed load of brass/lacquered steel cased ammunition; while visually it is appealing to have both, I’m not sure how accurate this would be. I think tanks were probably loaded with one or the other type, the steel case substituting the brass later in the war due to copper shortages. (On the other hand you can also make an argument for a slow process of exchanging one for the other, while having a transition period having both.)

I also left the racks off, since it is one of those rare instances when it is simpler to paint the parts on the sprue, and then assemble them. Once the ammunition is finished and the racks are painted white I will put them together -probably towards the end of the build.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a huge box full of Panther parts, and a really diminished box of yet-to-be-used sprues.

Next will be the turret interior, and then I will be forced to sit down and seriously thing about cutting up the model. I was a perfect procastinator; did everything to be busy and to avoid making these decisions at the same time, but once the interior is complete, the time is up: some hard choices have to be made how to cut and what to cut to display most of the interior of this gorgeous model. (I might be able to get away using rare earth magnets to hold everything together, but I will not hold my breath.)

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See you on the next post.

Games Workshop – Lord of Contagion

 

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It’s really hard to depict what “Chaos” and “corruption” is; figures, artwork and even novels resort to the usual tentacles, horns, crab-pincers, boobs, and in case of the Death Guard, decomposition and disease. (There’s an awesome video explaining what Chaos really is.) In this latter case I actually think they were right on target; these new figures -except for the silly blob-daemons all over- are pretty cool. They truly look corrupted and frightening. After doing the Chaos Rhino I was looking for another Death Guard figure to paint.

I have to admit I do not know anything about this particular figure, its stats and how it’s supposed to be played; I bought it on Ebay because I liked the pose. (I think it’s better than the Typhus models.)

The painting went reasonably simple; I decided to try using glazes. I created the glaze using ordinary Citadel paints and lahmian medium. I primed the model with Vallejo German grey primer, and then started adding layers upon layers of green mediums (and some brown) in different hues to depict the filthy, corroded, corrupted armor. The cape got a similar treatment using mostly browns with some green; once I got a nice base color I added streaks of oil paints directly from the tube. Once I was happy with the overall effect of the armor, I added dark brown pin-washes to add depth to the model. I painted the brass parts with Citadel Tin and dark bronze; the edges got some Vallejo True metal gold, and then a very thin varnish of turquoise to depict oxidated bronze. After the turquoise varnish I highlighted some edges with gold again.

The fumes of the figure were painted with different brightness of green: starting with a very bright, very light green, and building up darker and darker colors, with the light colors showing only in the deep recesses. As the last touch I rubbed some black pigments on the most protruding parts signifying smoke.

The pipe was an addition from Grim Skull Miniature’s Mortarion model (it came with two pipes). The base will need some work, but for now I declare this figure done.

I think it turned out pretty nice for an armor modeller. Milage may vary.

Tankfest, 2018, part 5. Baking outside

 

There were several vendors in tents selling replica weapons, army surplus and scale models. There were several food vendors, too (selling for surprisingly reasonable prices), and a lot of heat-stricken people wandering about. Since it was Friday, the program was only a “dress rehersal” for the main events of Saturday and Sunday; regardless, seeing (and hearing) these tanks was pretty impressive.

I never thought the clicking of the tracks would be louder than the engine’s roar… these things are loud.

It was also very interesting to see how small the IS-3 was compared to the other heavies; however what it lacked it size, it made up for it with smoke… the engine was belching white diesel exhaust like nobody’s business.

As I said it was really hot. If I recall correctly, the Centurion actually had to wait in the arena a bit so it cooled down before it could go back to its parking spot.

I probably should have taken a couple of videos, too, but I wanted to enjoy the show. When you are taking photos, you already focusing on something else; I did not want to compound the issue with switching between photos and video, too. Probably should have given the camera to my ever patient wife, but she was actually enjoying this part of the festival.

There were people dressed in historical uniforms, actual tankers, and tank restorers mixed with us, mere mortals.

 

 

Later in the afternoon there was a demonstration of infantry-tank tactics in WWII. An M4 was attacking a German position with a PnzIV defending, but since it was only a rehersal, the soldiers were just strolling next to the tank. This, and the lack of pyrotechnics made the show distinctly uninteresting…

Needless to say, we did not mind the short program. The interior of the museum was really inviting with the airconditioning on.

 

 

 

Tankfest, 2018, part 4. The Tank Restoration Area

Well, this is one of the most interesting areas of the museum, and if my information is correct, it is normally closed for the public. Except on Tank Fest!

Lots of spare parts, lots of tanks and other vehicles in various states of direpair… things you can’t usually see: T14 Heavy Tank, Conway tank destroyer and many other vehicles I have only heard about.

The only problem was room: it was difficult to squeze through the tanks and take half-decent photos. The exhibit is also so very useful as a reference for scratches, faded paint, paint chips, oil stains, dust and rust.

 

 

Wargaming set up a World of Tanks event here: you were allowed to play thirty minutes on a press account, and you got a code for a Churchill III, a T-shirt, and a backpack. (Not very sturdy ones, but still.)

I managed to try the FV4005 (presently grinding for it), and the Defender -to see how OP it is. In my hand it was not very… Unfortunaltely I had no time to try the rare, or never released tanks also in the garage of the account.

Oh well.

 

Keep an eye out -more photos are incoming.

Tankfest, 2018, part 3. Tigers and Panthers

 

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The Tiger exhibit. Lots of Tigers…

Tiger 131

 

Ferdinand

 

Tiger II (Henschel turret)

 

And finally, the Panther (which is in another part of the exhibition)

 

Tried to take photos of scratches, oil leakage and damage. (Obviously they are museum exhibits, but they still can come useful.)

 

Keep an eye out -more photos are incoming.

Tankfest, 2018, part 2. -the cutaway tanks

A cool exhibition of a Centurion cut in half, along with a somewhat corny video of a tank maneuvering and shooting on the range.

A cutaway T-55… this is something I’m definitely going to do. I mean I did try to do one before, but I always held back of fear of ruining the model. Not any more… The new MiniArt T-55A Mod 1981, here I come. (I really like the idea of cutting away the side of the hull by the driver.) There are other examples, too, for inspiration.

Assorted thanks sitting around. Black Prince, Comet, Archer, Panzer IV, The Penis Tank, and the rest. A WoT wet dream.

An armored plate with some projectiles sticking out…

 

 

Keep an eye out -more photos are incoming.