Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Face of the Great Green Devil

The other fork of the path leads right up to an evil-appearing devil face set in mosaic at the corridor's end. The face has a huge O of a mouth; it is dead black. The whole area radiates evil and magic if detected for. The mouth opening is similar to a (fixed) sphere of annihilation, but it is about 3' in diameter - plenty of room for those who wish to leap in and be completely and forever destroyed.
– Tomb of Horrors

I own two terrain pieces that represent the iconic Face of the Great Green Devil. The first piece is part of the Tomb and Traps Set from the D&D Miniatures Icons of the Realms line (Tomb of Annihilation Premium Set).

This is a really great sculpt, and looks very close to the original artwork by David A. Trampier. The horns are a bit too wide, and the mouth is not the same shape (as it seems to be based on more recent artwork), but those are minor quibbles.

Unfortunately, I didn't really have much use for the other pieces in the box, so I don't think I got as much value as I would have liked from the purchase, considering the cost of the set.

The second piece is a Wall with Demon Face from Fat Dragon Games (DRAGONLOCK Ultimate Dungeon Expansion Set 8).

The model consists of two files, one for the face, and one for the dungeon floor. I only printed the face using white PLA, which took just under an hour on my machine.

The print came out pretty good despite my not going down to the recommended resolution suggested by Fat Dragon.

The horns on the 3D model are a lot nicer than the D&D miniatures version, but it obviously lacks a lot of the detail of the pre-painted model.

I will use putty to smooth out the layer lines, and add some of the missing details, so it needs a bit of additional work after printing, but if you already have a 3D printer the price of the Fat Dragon model can't be beat.

Anyway, I wanted to talk a little about the module, because S1 has received a lot of criticism for having BS instant kill traps from the likes of John Wick and others. The Green Devil Face is typically singled out as an example of the unforgiving nature of the module in particular.

However, I find it odd that anyone but the most careless of adventurers would have been killed by this trap. It radiates both magic and evil if examined by the appropriate spell. Even if you weren't suspicious by nature, just checking the mouth with a pole or the like would make more sense than leaping in head first.

In any event, part of the problem lies with the vague way in which the Sphere of Annihilation is described.

A sphere of annihilation is a globe of absolute blackness, a ball of nothingness 2' in diameter. A sphere is actually a hole in the continuity of the multiverse, a void. Any matter which comes in contact with a sphere is instantly sucked into the void, gone, utterly destroyed, wishes and similar magicks notwithstanding!

– AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide

Now to me, this description meant that whatever came into contact with the sphere was forcibly pulled into the void, and once fully inside it disappeared forever (unless you happen to be Ash Williams, in which case you would just climb back out).

Other people have viewed the Sphere of Annihilation as disintegrating whatever passes the plane of the sphere. In this type of situation, if you foolishly decided to test the opening with a hand, you would come back with a bleeding stump, which could be fatal, but does not have to be with the marvels of magical healing.

If someone was really foolish, and climbed in head first, I'm pretty sure that as his lifeless body slumped to the ground after his head was disintegrated, that nobody else would be interested in going into the mouth.

In any event, I played this module a long time ago, and the trap was a no-brainer to everyone in our party. We did make it all the way to Acererak where I think we ended up losing to the lich after a huge battle, so in my experience I would hardly characterize S1 as being a module that just railroaded you into one instant kill trap after another.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

4-Tonner in a Tin

The AT-105 Saxon is a cold war era armored personnel carrier. It was intended to provide rapid transport for troops from the UK to reinforce BAOR units in the event of attack by Warsaw Pact forces.

There have been several resin and white metal models of the Saxon in 1/76 scale, but up until a couple of years ago, there was nothing in 1/72 scale.

The first 1/72 scale model of the Saxon was a diecast car made by Toyeast Ltd. as part of their Tiny City product line. The particular vehicle was a Hong Kong Police PTU Vehicle.

This is the 2017 release of the model –
the 2015 release was PTU 90

Their most recent release from earlier this year is a Saxon in ISAF livery.

Armada Hobby has also released a series of resin Saxon APCs this year, but at over triple the cost of the diecast model, I'll stick with the diecast models for now.

Anyway, here is my lineup of Tiny Saxons.

PTU 94 (ATC64104) and PTU 91 (ATC64112)

PTU 94 is the second release of the standard HK Police Saxon. The first release has the markings for PTU 90, and is probably difficult to find nowadays.

PTU 91 is a Tiny VIP Club member exclusive, though it was available in retail at just a slight premium compared to the regular model. It has a platform over the roof, but I'm not sure what purpose it serves.

PTU 95 (ATC64110) and PTU 96 (ATC64384)

PTU 95 is a limited edition, and PTU 96 is a 7-11 exclusive. The models are identical except for their markings. The only other difference besides the roof number and license plate number, is that PTU 96 carries the HKPF emblem on the armored cowl over the radiator.

These models [counting PTU 90 which I don't own] account for five of the seven Saxons used by HKPF. The models are quite nice with decent detailing, though they are missing the spotlight and smoke grenade launchers that are mounted on the cupola.

The last two models are military vehicles.

UN (ATC64021) and ISAF (ATC64229)

These models are identical to the police versions, except they have a machine gun in place of the dome light on the roof.

Most of the pictures of Cold War era and UN Saxons that I have seen show them without the radiator cowling. The cupola looks a bit high, but it's difficult to determine when comparing to photographs taken from ground level.

My ISAF vehicle was defective, and was missing the rear steps. [looks like the ISAF Saxons just don't have this part period] The plastic parts can also be a bit fragile, so it's best to handle the models by holding the sides. I think I cracked the ramming bumper when picking the model up by the front and rear, but luckily I have some extras of the ISAF Saxon since I bought them on sale for half off.

The models are put together using screws rather than the usual rivets found on diecast cars. This will make it easy to remove the hulls for stripping and re-painting.

Overall, these are nice diecast models that are entirely suitable for wargaming. I'm not sure how useful they are as a base for conversions for scale modeling, but there are some very skillful people out there who have done more with even less of a starting point.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


The glass-encased Gyrosphere is a fictional amusement park vehicle used in the Jurassic World movies.

They remind me a lot of the Le Bar Cars (aka Leswing Car, Happy Car, or Leisure Car) produced in China for use in amusement parks (although I'm not sure if they're used in any actual amusement parks anywhere).

Anyway, Matchbox makes a toy of the Jurassic World Gyrosphere (MB1112) which I picked up at a local WalMart when I saw it on sale for 94¢.

The Gyrosphere measures about 33mm in diameter. It differs from the movie vehicle in that the dome is tinted blue, and the side doors are opaque instead of being clear.

I was unable to find any official dimensions for the vehicle, but it looked pretty close to being 1/72 scale based on pictures from the movies. Certainly the seats in the Matchbox Gyrosphere look okay for 1/72 scale passengers.

I did find out that the acrylic dome used for the movie prop was 87" in diameter, which would make the Matchbox Gyrosphere close to 1/67 scale. That's close enough for me.

If I can find additional Gyrospheres at 94¢, I will pick up a couple more to try some modifications. I'd like to see how easy it is to take one apart to add some passengers, and also to recreate the doors in clear resin.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Wood golems and fungi

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to reduce the amount of unpainted lead that I owned by challenging myself to finish one miniature a day. I was able to keep my streak going for about a week and a half, before the demands of real life took priority again.

The first group of miniatures in this post are my wood golems. The ones that I painted (left) are the Large Construct (FGV305) and Medium Construct (FGV303) produced by North Star Military Figures for the Frostgrave game from Osprey.

The two other wood golems (right) are the Mage Knight Wood Golem (Rebellion #063) and the Pathfinder Wood Golem (Maze of Death #13).

The next group of miniatures that I painted are produced by Alternative Armies for the Fightin' Fungi game from Ganesha Games.

The miniatures (from left to right) are the Master of Mushrooms (FIFU028), Zombie Fungus (FIFU011), Goblin Fungus Zombie (FIFU024), Sporeling (FIFU015), and Puffball Spore Bomb (FIFU032).

The majority of the miniatures from this line are big, but pretty much any of them can be used for 1/72 fantasy gaming, depending on your tolerances.

In the future, I might get some more of the small miniatures, and maybe some of the larger fungi without weapons.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

It looks like the 1/72 Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte from Modelcollect has hit the shelves and started making its way into the hands of modelers across the world.

I'm conflicted about buying this model because on the one hand, it is just ridiculously massive, but on the other hand it is just ridiculously massive.

Video of moving suspension on Modelcollect Ratte.*

It seems to be priced between US$80 to US$140 from various retailers, and there is also a separate Weapon Set Pack running about US$60 that allows the addition of various wunderwaffe on the rear deck of this behemoth.

I've found one Korean unboxing review for the kit so far.

For the moment I'll postpone any buying decision until more reviews and build reports start to show up. I'm thinking that this model is just calling out for a motorization kit.

* For those of you who don't do the "Facebook" thing, you can find the moving suspension video (and others) at Toyland Hobby Modeling Magazine.

Monday, April 30, 2018


Modrons were introduced to AD&D starting with the Monster Manual II, and quickly earned a reputation among some players as being, stupid, useless, or both stupid and useless.

Their creation was supposed to have been inspired by the novella Flatland, in which modrons would probably be classified as inhabitants of Spaceland.

I became interested in them only recently, after listening to the audiobook version of The Metal Monster by Abraham Merritt. In the story, a group of pulp era adventurers encounter an enclave of sentient metal beings in the Himalayas. The description of their city with marching ranks of metallic beings really evoked the imagery of modron society for me.

If I ever use modrons in a game, I plan on basing them after the Metal People from the novel. The three forms of the Metal People are sphere, cube, and pyramid (analogous to monodrone, tridrone, and quadrone).

The rulers of the Metal People are dubbed "The Metal Emperor" and "The Keeper of the Cones", and can be likened to heirarch modrons (although unlike heirarch modrons, they are just larger versions of the base forms).

The ability of these metallic beings to join together as a gigantic metal monster is a feature that I would add to the otherwise lackluster repertoire of modron special powers.

In any event, the D&D Miniatures Icons of the Realms line contains three modron figures - the Monodrone (Tomb of Annihilation #10), the Duodrone (Tomb of Annihilation #19), and the Quadrone (Monster Menagerie III #18).

In the Monster Manual II the monodrone is said to be small in size, and about 3½ feet [tall?]. The specifications are not clear, but if the stated size refers to the diameter of the body, it would be fairly close to 1/72 scale.

I decided to convert one of my monodrone figures by giving it the arms from a duodrone. It reminds me a bit of Atlas from Portal 2.

The original duodrones were rectangular in shape and stated to be 4½ feet long. The current duodrone is shaped like a barbell, and has a face that looks like the deckman robots from Battle Angel Alita.

I'm not a big fan of the duodrone in general, and cut the figure up to use as parts for conversions.

Quadrones are listed as being medium size, but typical illustrations show them being roughly similar in size to monodrones. This is also reflected by the size of the miniatures.

I took the duodrone that I cut up, and made it into a quadrone. The plastic that these miniatures are made of responds amazingly well to CA glue.

Based on canonical D&D art, I would say that these figures are too big for 1/72, and the monodrone is probably over-sized even for 28mm. It's not an issue for me though, since I am open to having modrons of different sizes, and will blend my modron backstory with that of the Metal People from The Metal Monster.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

PSC T-55

PSC released their first 1/72 modern tank model in the form of the T-55 as part of a "willstarter" pre-order program (200 pre-orders and they will produce the kit).

These are quick build models designed for wargaming, with three tanks in every box. Optional parts allow you to make the T-55 (Soviet or Polish), T-55A (Soviet, Czech, or Polish), or the T-55AM2.

The details on the parts are on the chunky side, giving the models a toyish look. Also, if you look closely at the parts, you can see layer lines, suggesting that the original pieces were probably created using 3D printing technology.

The tracks are pretty disappointing, and I'm not sure that there is any easy way to make them better looking. The rear drive sprockets also look to be somewhat oversized.

The turret is missing the ports for the coaxial machinegun and telescopic sight. There is also no IR searchlight for the commander's cupola (if anyone with the 15mm version of this kit wants to sell their extra searchlights, please contact me - I think they might work perfectly as the commander's searchlight in 1/72).

The rivets on the cupolas are enormous, and the DShK is very chunky. I also don't think that the T-55A loader's hatch is correct for the Czech version. In most of the pictures that I found, the hatch was more like the one designated for the T-55 in the instructions.

The loader's hatch cover also seemed to be rather unusual, being particularly thick, and with a lip around the edge.

The round shape seems okay, but most pictures seem to show that the cover is either flat or slightly domed.

For some tanks, the cover was also more "D" shaped, but there was no option for this type of hatch cover in the kit. Since my plan was to build a T-55A of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps, I decided to start off by modifying the loader's hatch cover to reflect this appearance. I used a circle template and etched an arc with my scribing tool.

The arc should have been wider, so I had to file it down to a flatter shape after I cut the cover in two. I also thinned the plastic down a bit, though it's probably still too thick.

After that, I assembled all the major parts of the tank (which probably took less than 10 minutes), then took some comparison shots with a Hobby Master T-55A (HG3315).

As far as the two tanks compare, the hull of the Hobby Master tank is about 1mm wider, but they are pretty much the same length. The PSC tank actually looks shorter, but this is due to the turret being set further back on the hull so that the barrel of the cannon is 2mm further back.

The Hobby Master tank has a rounder turret, while the PSC tank has a more egg-shaped turret. I do not know which one is more accurate.

Despite the various deficiencies that I mentioned earlier, I still think the PSC models are well worth getting. They are sturdy models that are great for wargaming, and definitely look the part of a T-55. There are a lot of spare parts, and the D10T barrel is particularly nice (it really comes in handy if you have any Ace T54/T55/Type59 models with their poorly shaped guns).