Monday, December 20, 2021

Speira Miniatures

I placed an order with Speira Miniatures back in April, and received the models from Sweden in July, after a lengthy stop in Illinois.

Speira has a nice range of in-house historical miniatures, but their range of fantasy miniatures all seem to be 3D files licensed from other companies. I will cover some of their historical figures in the future, but this post will primarily be about the fantasy miniatures.

The first two figures are a pair of skeletons designed by Runeforge Studios.

Like most 3D resin printed skeletons I've seen, these do not disappoint. I really think that resin 3D printing technology is ideal for making skeletons.

The next figure is a dwarf (Roteante) designed by MiniaturesOfMaddness. I requested that it be printed as an 18mm figure because I imagined it would be on the tall and bulky side in 1/72 after seeing examples posted by Sceavus.

Unfortunately, the 18mm print looks undersized to me. Rotenante looks scrawny and underfed next to the 15mm Scibor dwarf (left), and is much smaller than the Caesar dwarf (right).

Next are three female figures – Elena, Aline the Bold, and a Female Warrior, all designed by Artisan Guild. I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the Artisan Guild models. Overall, their models seem to be influenced by a kind of WoW video game aesthetic that is too cartoony for my tastes.

With respect to these figures, the proportions seem off, and the first two poses are overly exaggerated. Still, I'm guessing they'll look okay after being painted up.

The final miniatures are lamassu terrain pieces, which I believe are in-house 3D designs by Speira.

The bull-type lamassu measures 54mm to the highest point.

The lion-type lamassu measures 60mm to the highest point.

I ordered the lamassu statues because they brought back faded memories from the 90s, of a fantasy diorama that I saw at the now closed Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica.

Notables from the D&D world associated with Aero Hobbies included the owner, Gary Switzer, and the renowned J. Eric Holmes who bought his first D&D rulebooks there. Of course, by the time I visited the store, the kid at the register didn't even know what Demogorgon was.

Now that I think about it, I probably should have ordered the 28mm prints, because I seem to recall that the pieces at Aero Hobbies were larger than these 1/72 prints (but it could just be my imagination). In any event, having something closer to the scale of the lamassu that are part of the Gate of All Nations would look quite impressive.

On a side note, about 20 miles due west from Aero Hobbies, you will find a shopping center known as the Citadel Outlet, which has several lamassu incorporated into its architecture. It is said to be based on the palace of the Assyrian ruler Sargon II, and quite eye-catching as you pass by on the freeway.

City of Commerce

Friday, December 17, 2021

Homo sapiens sensu lato

The classification of early humans has been complicated at best, and the taxonomy of specimens has been termed the "Muddle in the Middle [Pleistocene]" by paleoanthropologists.

Advances in DNA sequencing have started to bring more clarity to the field, but many scientist show clear bias (whether for or against) when it comes to proposals to establish a new species, or to reclassify and retire old species names.

I am partial to the opinion that many of these hominin "species" should be more properly classified as sub-species, since it is clear that interbreeding occured between different populations of early humans that are otherwise characterized as different species.

The latest set from Linear-A consists of a group of early humans. I received the box a couple of weeks ago, and made an unboxing video over at 72chan.

The first image is of the Denisovans and a single Neanderthal.

The Denisovans are sculpted as shorter overall than the Neanderthal, but an epigenetic study by Gokhman et al., published in Cell seems to suggest they fall in between modern humans and Neanderthals in height.

The rear Denisovan hunter had a big blob of plastic filling the void between his right leg and the javelin(s) he holds, so a bit of cuttng and sculpting was needed to make him look closer to the production figure on the back of the box.

The second image is of the Neanderthals.

The first Neanderthal figure looks like it was modeled after "N" from das Neandertal Museum just outside of Düsseldorf, while the second figure might be loosely modeled after the figure of a Neanderthal woman from the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. The final Neanderthal seems to be a mutant with an abnormally huge right hand that exhibits polydactyly.

The final image is of the Homo sapiens.

A comparison of Phersu, Linear-A, and munich-Kits figures reviewed in a previous post.

I will round out the post with some metal miniatures of more archaic hominins.

The first group are 15mm Monkey Boys from Rebel Minis (RMPA4).

The figures remind me of Cha-Ka and the Pakuni from Land of the Lost. The LOTL fandom wiki suggests that the Pakuni belong to the putative Paranthropus genus (which are considered a sub-species of Australopithecus by some).

The second group are 15mm Wildmen of the Savannah by Khurasan Miniatures (Mystri Island MYST-800). The figures seem to be modeled after the man-apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey which are probably members of the genus Australopithecus.

I modifed a few of the figures by removing their weapons for more general use.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Ohh Chuma chabela mitwe

The Ruga-ruga were mercenaries of East Africa who were used as armed guards along caravan trade routes, and later employed in various European colonial militaries. Members were typically displaced peoples, and included Ngoni warriors uprooted from the south by the Zulus. They rose to prominence under the leadership of Nyamwezi chieftains like Mirambo and Nyungu-ya-Mawe.

In 1/72 scale, Ruga-ruga are manufactured by HäT Industrie as part of their WWI line, but I think they can just as easily be used for the 19th century.

The box consists of 48 figures in 9 poses, but if you look at the illustration on the box, there is a 10th pose which apparently did not make it into production.

I was originally not a huge fan of the type of rubbery plastic used for these figures, but it's grown on me because it allows me to use a hot knife to sculpt the plastic and create practically seamless conversions.

For the fighting poses, I did some simple head and feather swaps to add variety to the figures.

For the porter figures, I altered some of the baggage being carried, and also modified two figures to carry elephant tusks.

I'd like to have more ivory porters, so it may be necessary to perform the Dark Art on some of these conversions.

NYPL Digital Collection

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Lasciate ogni pensiero o voi ch'intrate

The Sacro Bosco is a 16th century garden commissioned by Vicino Orsini in Viterbo, Italy. The fantastical renaissance garden has inspired the likes of Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau among others. An interesting article on the history and significance of the garden appears in Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes and is available online.

One of the most iconic sculptures in the garden is the Mouth of Orcus, which seems to be a particular favorite of many artists. In old photographs, it is often referred to as la Bocca dell'Inferno (the Mouth of Hell).

c. 1930

Salvador Dali nel
"giardino dei mostri"
, 1948

Mostro im Garten des Palazzo Orsin
Herbert List, 1952

Il Castello dei morti vivi, 1964

A model of the Mouth of Orcus comes with the Sons of Orcus box set for Gangs of Rome.

The model does not have the inscription over the mouth, but I think it looks better that way.

VC People: Ogni Pensiero Vola
(All Thoughts Fly)

Many of the painted models I've seen are colored a verdigris green, like the studio model, but the actual scuplture is constructed of gray peperino (and covered in green moss).

I plan on using the model in a larger terrain piece, most likely set in a wall, but I'm quite curious about what the actual sculpture looks like from the top and the rear.

If I get the chance to visit Italy again, the Sacro Bosco is definitely one of the places that will be on my itinerary.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

4D 8-Rad

The latest offerings from 4D Models consist of three 8-wheeled vehicles and one tracked vehicle.

The first two kits are WWII German heavy armored cars. They are both referred to as "Cougar" armored cars in the translated text, since the same word is used for both "cougar" and "puma" in Chinese. In any event, I will use the word "puma" for the purposes of this post.

4D Model also seems to be doing OEM for a company called Pambest, who are selling the 4D kits under their Pocket P Museum brand (the marketing material looks to be styled after the Kaiyodo Capsule Q Museum series).

Pocket P Museum

Capsule Q Museum

The first model is the Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle (美洲狮裝甲偵察车), consisting of 26 parts in khaki plastic, 9 wheels in black plastic with painted hubs, 4 metal axles, and a wire antenna.

The second model is the Sd.Kfz.234/3 Puma Wheeled Armored Vehicle (美洲狮轮式裝甲车), which we might also call a Stummel 8-rad, consisting of 50 parts in tan plastic, 9 wheels in black plastic with painted hubs, 4 metal axles, and a wire antenna.

The models go together very quickly and easily, but the directions for how the axles fit onto the chassis are the opposite for the two models, and I couldn't figure out which direction was correct at first.

In the end, I think the instructions are both half-right, and there should be a pair of struts pointing forward, and a pair pointing backward.

Immediately there are several obvious issues with the models, including the poorly rendered jerry cans, and lack of tread pattern on the tires.

The barrel of the Puma is warped, and has the vents opened to the top and bottom as opposed to the sides. The smoke launchers are poorly represented, and only have two dischargers on each side.

Meanwhile, the Stummel has markings that are out of register, a poorly formed co-axial machine gun, and big, chunky steering wheels.

The models are strictly wargaming pieces, and are not the best representatives of the 4D Model offerings. They do have the advantage of tools that are provided as separate parts, and the Stummel comes with a rudimentary interior.

It probably wouldn't be too hard to make them into passable display models either, if you really wanted to.

I didn't use the wire antenna on the Puma because the instructions tell you to install part 4B, and then cut it off to leave a post for the metal antenna. If I had looked carefully at the instructions before starting, I would have just used a piece of sprue for the post, and saved the part for something else.

The next two models are modern PLA vehicles consisting of the ZBD-04A Tracked IVF (ZBD-04A 步兵战车步兵战车), and the ZBL-09 Snow Leopard IVF (雪豹 ZBD-09式 步兵战车).

The ZBD-04A consists of 43 parts in tan plastic (a green version of this model also exists), and two wire antennae.

The ZBD-09 consists of 26 parts in green plastic, 8 wheels in black plastic with painted hubs, and 4 metal axles.

Assembly of the models is very simple, but one interesting feature is the way the bustle racks for the ZBD-04 require folding before installation.

This is something you would typically do with photoetch, but the properties of the plastic used for the kit makes it possible to get a similar effect without the need for special tools, or having to complicate the mold.

I painted the tracks and wheels of the ZBD-04 before assembly because the side skirts would make painting difficult after the upper and lower hulls are connected.

The ZBD-04 has a choice of two configurations based on the parts attached to the hull. I went with option 1, but I'll probably order another model to build the other configuration.

Hatches on the hull and turret can open and close, but a bit of clean-up may be needed for the hull hatch to fully close. The barrel can pivot up and down, and the turret can rotate.

The 4D ZBD-09 is very similar to the Dragon Armor ZBL-09, albeit a bit less detailed. Both chain-guns are simplified and fixed in a raised position.

4D (left) v Dragon (right)

For both models, options are provided to have the turret hatches opened or closed. I went with the closed option for the 4D model, and open option for the Dragon model.

Dragon (top) v 4D (bottom)

The Dragon model comes with two doors for the rear hatch to allow the model to be displayed with open or closed hatch. The 4D model has a hinged door so the hatch can open and close.

Dragon (left) v 4D (right)

The only thing that was obviously inaccurate on the 4D model from what I can tell are the front mirrors.

The mirrors of the Dragon model are the correct rectangular shape, while the 4D model has round mirrors.

Overall, I would say that the models are not too bad, though they would look more like actual PLA vehicles if they were painted with [digital] camouflage. It's also odd that the national markings do not have the "八一 " inside the emblem, which makes them look a bit off.