Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Check out these spaceship figs

They're scratch-built from balsa and cardboard and I think they're pretty cool. More importantly, I think the technique used to produce them looks like something I could do myself. I've been pouring over the Starship Combat News miniatures pages a lot lately because I'd really like a couple of fleets of figures for some hot ship-on-ship action. But which figure line? The various Trek lines are kinda expensive if you want to field a large fleet. The official Star Frontiers ships are rather large for use on a Starmada style hexmap and only a handful of designs were produced. Brigade sells some excellent figures. I particularly like the new Yenpalo aliens and the two new EuroFed models are the best faux-Star Destroyers I've ever seen. DLD Productions sells a single fleet called the Vin'Grun that looks pretty snazzy:

I also like the designs from Force XXI, but that shop is currently closed. I believe the owner's reserve unit was activated or something like that. Studio Bergstrom has released a neat new fleet of bioships called the Hive, so I guess I could put together a Vin'Grun/Hive war, but two alien races duking it out kinda lacks the pizazz of Earthmen versus bug-eyed monsters. One crazy idea I had was to go with Star Frontiers for my source material, but update the looks of the ships by using a different figure line. Xtreme Hobby's Cold Navy line could fit the bill. The quasi-Klingon lines of the Kharadon vessels could fill in for the Sathar while the good guys could be represented by the Mauridians.

But designing my own ships might be a hoot. And if they turn out well Pat might be able to help me make castings of them so that all my destroyer look alike or whatever. I like the idea of having my own unique vessels with my own races. When it comes to wargaming the puppetmastery of designing scenarios and fluff motivate me just as much as the fun of actual play. And Starmada makes design ships and races with individual identities a snap.

Starmada has been my spaceship game of choice for several years now, but recently I've had a bit of a crisis of faith regarding it's basic movement system. It's non-vector, hex-based, using a movement point system. That makes plotting ship movements easy as pie, but the system has some basic simulation flaws. First, ships can make all sorts of crazy movements in a single turn. Where they sit at the end of turn one does very little to predict where they will be at moving on turn 2. Second, movement is non-vector. Let me quote Aramis, writing on the Citizens of the Imperium boards: "Not having a vector movement system makes it a wet-navy sim, not a space sim. Space vessels simply do not use an MP-system like movement mode."

And then there's the big bugaboo of space games: 3-D movement. Talking about vectors and 3-D movement and such puts you on the path that leads to Ken Burnsides' Attack Vector, which might best be described as a game that combines the simplicity of totally-realistic vectored 3-D movement with the elegance of Star Fleet Battles. Still, Starmada has rules for 3-D movement and vectors, so I'm gonna re-read those sections sometime soon. And then there's Starship!, a game that makes 3-D movement a central component and combines that with some great looking figures.

The largest ship in that shot is over 5 inches long! Unfortunately, that ship costs almost as much as a Studio Bergstrom starter fleet for the Hive. Note the mounting of these ships. They're attached to telescoping poles that allow for six distinct elevations. I dig the looks of this S'Tang Fleet, but the Earthers (the only other fleet available) are rather pedestrian. Maybe the solution is to use the mounting poles with another set of figures.

Now you see the problem I run into every time I'm ready to take the plunge into sci-fi miniatures: too many nifty options for me to choose from.


  1. Looking at the modeling link, I think we could
    go with plastruct instead of balsa.
    Just on personal bias, I prefer plastic because it wouldn't have to be sealed. We could print out
    the pattern on card stock and spraymount the
    cardstock to sheet plastic. Also, we could just use scissors instead of xacto knives.
    If we use flat bottoms, like in the example, we could use one-part molds.

  2. I re-read the Starmada appendices for 3-D and vector movement. The 3-D rules really don't add much to the game. They give fighters a slight movement advantage and generally increase the ranges to hit a foe with starship guns. Both of which would tend to encourage carrier-based fleets. Since I'm a cruiser and escort man that doesn't do much for me. The only thing good thing gained from using 3-D would be the ability to but space hazards on the board that folks could fly under or over.

    The vector rules are just complicated enough that I don't think I'd want to explain them to a newbie at a con. So I'm basically left with either Starmada as we've played it or finding a whole 'nother rules set. I may hit the Spaceship Combat News boards about this topic. The may be able to tell me if Starship! is any good, but the most likely response I'll get is that we should be playing Full Thrust.