Sunday, 5 February 2012

Heavy Metal Thunder

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away.... you may remember me talking about picking up a couple of GW Leman Russ tank models at Britcon in Manchester which would have been...what back in August of last year. The intention was to return those retro-sci-fi tanks back to their roots and convert them into steam tanks/landhips

The boys are back in town!
Now, nearly six months later, it is my great pleasure to unveil the first two units of the King Henry-class landships, HMLS King Henry and HMLS Lionheart.

These were both picked up at the Britcon bring & buy for the grand sum of £5 each.  King Henry (with the mudguards) was painted in a dazzle arctic camoflage and absolutely smothered in stowage, machine guns and 1/48 crew figures.  The other sported a more modest grey paintjo

Both vehicles were placed in a bath of Dettol to strip the paint awy and the main turrets removed and discarded.  The side and front weapon sponsons were also removed and disassembled, with the original weapons discarded.  One of the side guns was so firmly glued in that I wound up damaging the top armour by removiung it, and despite taking extra care I managed to lose one of the sponson pieces and had to carve a replacement out of plasticard.

Front Towards Enemy
 After a few months kicking around my project table, re-assembly begun.  I scratchbuilt some simple Gatling-type machine guns for all the sponsons and re-fitted them.  Holes caused by removal damage and the replacement piece were patched and filled with green stuff.  I replaced the angular Leman Russ turret with the Scrap Tank turret from Ramshackle Games' "Tridlins" range, which was just larger than the existing turret ring hole.  A 25mm round slottabase was glued to the underside of the turret, which fit inside the turret ring hole and helps hold the turret in position while allowing it to freely rotate.

Baby got back!
You can't have a steam tank without steam, so to help break up the familiar lines of the Leman Russ I added a boiler and smokestack to the rear of the tank, from the Heavy Landship Boiler add-on from Black Pyramid Gaming.  Their range also includes some Aether weapons which would have been another option for the sponson guns.

Both the turret and the boiler cost £3.50 each, so at this point we have a heavy landship model with a material price-tag of £12.  Not bad when it's double the size of a similarly priced model from Ironclad Miniatures!
The models were spray-primed black using Krylon Fusion Camoflage paint, which is apparently designed to adhere to plastics.  I then gave both tanks a white basecoat using my new airbrush - its first test (as mentioned a few posts back) The result was an imperfect, slightly blotchy coating which was just the effect I wanted.  The tracks were painted black and drybrushed silver, and after picking out a few other details in colours, it was onto the decals.

I picked up some laser printer decal paper last year and had used it with some success on the vehicles for the Big Birthday Bash game, but after watching a video by the guy from Gruntz 15mm I had a new trick to
try.  Micro-Set and Micro-Sol are two components of a single system designed to improve the appearance of decals.  Before the decal is placed, the surface is painted with Micro-Set, then after it has been placed and dried at least partly, the decal is then overpainted with Micro-Sol.  Both products are designed to soften and thin the decal material, allowing it to conform better to any irregularities on the surface and giving the decal more of a painted-on look rather than stuck-on.

Well I don't know how the products work or what-does-what, but the overall result is good.  After several coats of Micro-Sol, the edges of the decal start to disappear and blend seamlessly with the surface of the model, and the only tell-tale is that the decal surface is glossier than the matt paint below, something easily fixed with a quick spray of matt varnish/Army Painter "Anti-Shine".  The extra effort was well worth it as it just kicks the decals appearance up another notch.

Once the decals were finished and thinned, I gave the tanks a thin black wash to pick out some of the detailing on the models, and also dirty them up a little bit.  I finished with a very light silver dry-brush over all the painted bodywork, just enough to pick out the raised details a little.  I was originally going to do a bit more weathering with the airbrush, but since I'm still not used to using that, and I'm happy with how the Landships look without it, I'm ready to call these boys done.

I've heard some people argue that GW vehicles are so distinctive that it's difficult to convert them for use as something else.  A 40K fan might still recognise where the main hull has come from, but since its original design borrowed so heavily from those early WWI/interwar tanks, personally I think the added resin parts and scratbuilt guns change the lines of the Leman Russ enough that it doesn't look out place on a Victorian/Edwardian battlefield.

The King Henry-class landships will be among the new vehicles making their debuts at what I'm calling the "March Madness Melee", which is the game we'll be doing at Manchester Area Wargames Society on Sunday 4th March.