Monday, October 15, 2012

Kit review: HelDrake Part 1

Initial thoughts:

HelDrake box art
The HelDrake has been a model I’ve been dreading and dreaming of since I first heard of Chaos getting a “Dragon” more than a year and a half ago. The idea of a Chaos dragon is an enticing one, and combine that with 40K Dark Goth... well the idea of it is enticing to no end. But then I have to remind myself that this is a GamesWorkshop kit. GamesWorkshop has historically not shown to be terribly great with dragon models (The current Dragon models being the departure from this). So… we’ve got a company that’s making a mecha-dragon who has repeatedly shown itself to be largely hit or miss with making Dragon models that is going to be making a chaotic mecha-dragon… I really don’t know what to think.

So when the HelDrake was released there was no question about my getting it if for no other reason than to see how GW went about creating a “Chaos Mecha-dragon” . One thing I am going to be very upfront about is the base. I AM NOT going to use the Games Workshop flight base. I have used it on 3 other models even going so far as to modify my HellShrieker design to make use of it. And I am utterly and completely fed up with it. No matter what I’ve tried the base is only a so-so option for mounting the flying models That come to prevalence in the last couple months.  Instead I am using the 6” flight stand on a scenic base purchased from Dragon Forge Studios.  I’ll be honest, if you’re going to be building a flying model I highly recommend spending the $14 to get a base and flight stand from Dragon Forge. It will be $14 well spent. 

So, let’s get started. 


I purchased the HelDrake the same time I bought the Fiend model, which I reviewed previously.  I opened the box, and much like the Fiend and Storm Talon models I was depressed at the relatively large amount of empty space in the box. Even in the relatively shallow box, the vast majority of the model occupies less than ½ the inner space. The one and only  part that rises above that line is in fact the flight stand and even then that’s because it rests atop the other parts.
A shot of the HelDrake parts in the box showing the ammount of dead space in the box.

The model itself comprises 2 sprues. Unlike the Storm Raven model the part density is fairly high and I didn’t feel cheated on that point. It honestly does feel more like a real model with real options to it.

Construction: Day one

So I unboxed the model and washed the parts to remove any mold reside. As I stated I am absolutely refusing to ever make use of the GW Flight Stand if I can possibly avoid it. So that was the first thing I had to attend to. So I took a piece of ½” PVC piping, tested it’s fit with the acrylic rod and was happy to find it fits rather well. I quickly cut off a piece about ¼” deep and using a lump of green stuff and some superglue attached the improvised mount to the inside of the body. Using a combination of hobby knife and files I carved out the hole for the mounting rod. Since I’m working with green stuff, I need to let it dry so I went to work on the other part of the body.
I decided to mount the body on a 6" Flight stand rather then the crumby GamesWorkshop flight stand. Here you can see the PVC piping I installed in the body to accomidate the flight stand.

One thing I do have to give GW credit is numbering both the instructions and the parts on the sprue. After dealing with the Fiend model this was a welcome change of pace.  However, the early instructions for building the body are somewhat unclear with details. I’ll show you why.
The instructions show attaching the first set of wings to the main body:
the instructions are somewhat unclear about placing the winglets as it makes them appear to be lined up with the edge of the body.
The winglets are actually meant to be free floating relative to the body.

But the parts themselves look somewhat different then the illustrations. The instructions make it look like the edges of the Wings line up with the edges of the body. Looking at the parts themselves you’re left wondering if you’re building it correctly. I finally had to resort to going to the 360 spinner on the Gameworkshop site to see what that showed. The model image did show that these wings do not  actually line up with the edges of the body.

Now I’ve worked with Green stuff enough to know that when I need to wait for it to dry properly before I move on with it. And that’s what I need to do now. Leave it to set over night. So that is exactly what I did. When I returned to it the next morning the green stuff had hardened pretty well and I was able to assemble the central body. I don’t know why, but seeing the model at this stage just kind of tells me “This would make a great conversion for a Disc of Tzeentch!” I’m not sure why or what else would be needed to accomplish it, but there is that mental note for you to chew on.

So far this model is looking to be a decided step above the Fiend kit. Firstly, the instructions are a lot clearer. It’s amazing how the addition of numbers can make that work huh? The second thing is how cleanly the parts go together thus far. Excluding the winglets alignment question there’s little question about if a part has been assembled properly.

I must confess to feeling a certain air of mystery while building this kit. Unlike the Fiend, where you could already tell where everything was going to go by step two, the HelDrake is much more involved kit with many parts working on top of one another. There’s a lot of “How does become that thing on the front of the box?” about its construction.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kit review: The Forgefiend/Maulerfiend Part 3

Construction: Day two

So, I’m basically calling and end to this model at this stage. Yes I still have a couple little details to add to the model. I’m actually throwing my hands up and saying “Nope. I’m done with it.” Those of you who have seem my projects and prior review can appreciate what it takes for me to say that about a kit, but the Fiend kit… it just sucks. The construction of it is near brain numbingly simple and yet offers no easy way to allow switching between a Mauler and ForgeFiend out of the box. I can’t really tell whether the designers were brilliant in this approach and did it deliberately or heinously under skilled and got super lucky with it, but the way the kit is designed it would a very capable converter working with extra materials and a pre-understanding of the kit to modify it in such a way to successfully allow switching types between Mauler and Forge. I can say that sincerely because now, after built this kit were I to go back and build another one with the explicit intent to allow configuration swapping I would still require plasticard, plastirod, green stuff, and magnets and know what I was going to do before I began assembling the kit. But, let me complete the review.

One of the key points of curiosity raised about the kit was how possible it is to build it in such a way as to allow switching configurations. Well, not very. At first glance you’d probably think “Eh no biggie. Just slap some magnets in the neck and on the joins to allow swapping of the guns and call it a day.”

Yeah not so much. 
 The Hades canons work alright like this but the ectoplasm cannons are too heavy for these magnets I’ve used to hold the cannons up by themselves.
The other big issue is the extreme ‘staticness’ of the model. It’s completely designed to be in a very static pose either with four legs and 2 guns, or with the fists and tentacles. There’s very little customization ability out of the box.

Next time, the HelDrake.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gaming Aid: Damaged vehicle markers

I ran across this idea on the blog Ded Ard, and it was something that looked like such a good idea I wanted to give it a shot. Here's the basic idea of it: take one of those battery powered flickering "candles", cut off the plastic 'flame' to expose the LED light, and then glue some poly fill stuffing to the base around the LED. Light spray paint the stuffing with a yellow paint, then spray paint the upper sections of it with black paint to give it a smoke coming out of fire effect. Let the paint dry, turn on the base and viola! Burning wreckage markers that glow!
As an aside I'm considering a variant of this idea for making "Soul Blaze" markers. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Project Thunderhawk: Shadow Sword ready for operations!

So I finished the Shadow sword. Well finished installing the LEDs anyway. Installing the LEDs was a challenge but not one of ability. The ability to insert the LEDs and affix them to the model required only moderate modifications of normal modeling skills. The challenge was putting the wires in and making sure I didn't cross a circuit somewhere and was still able to assemble the model.

I'm sure you are wondering why I have this tagged with Project Thunderhawk. Well this was intended as a case study in practice for the thunderhawk. For the Thunderhawk I intend to install 3 circuits. 1 will comprise a series of 7 LEDs in the cockpit and embarkation deck which will be on an on/off switch. The second circuit will be installed in the Thunderhawk cannon and be controlled by a monetary switch so when I push the switch it lights up and when I release it, it shuts off. The third circuit I'm still studying up on how to build but that will be the engines.

Now in the shadowsword I installed one circuit that comprises 4 LEDs and are controlled by an On/off switch. This is the Headlights. Sounds a lot like the circuit I plan to install in the Cockpit and embarkation deck of the Thunderhawk, doesn't it?

Then there's the turrets of the Shadow sword. They light up and are controlled by a monetary switch. Just like I'm planning to do with the thunderhawk cannon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kit review: The Forgefiend/Maulerfiend Part 2

Construction, Day one

I chose to work from the side of the instructions that instructs you to build the Forgefield because if push comes to shove I’ll use a Forgefield over a Maulerfiend in my army. The added firepower would be a nice boon for me.

The main body sadly uses one of the assembly techniques I truly dislike: Halves. Literally the torso is 2 halves glues together. Though the designers did modify it a bit so it’s largely idiot proof . That’s something of an improvement. The connection points for the sprue are largely in open area so cleaning those spots is easy enough. Though there is one spot that’s right between the spines on the back so you will need a smaller file to clean that particular spot.
Some of the filing needs to be done very carefully to avoid damaging detail.
 The neck is likewise 2 halves glued together. The detailing of the Chaos pattern on the back and neck is designed in such a way as to help hide the seams in the pieces which is nice. It means it will only take a minimal amount of effort to hide the seams entirely on the completed model.

The kit comes with 2 heads versions. One is the standard “tongue lashing” head, while the other is the gaping maw for the third Ectoplasm cannon option. Of the two, I find the Ecto head to look better, but that’s only by a point of comparison. The tongue head I feel is the poorer of the two because of it’s design. It has this long lashing tongue that is extending out from it’s mouth, yet the mouth isn’t open. So either the fiend just has a giant gaping hole in it’s fangs, or it uses it’s tongue like a snake and whips it out to taste the air. The later idea makes more sense but is more at odds with the over all image and feel of the model, being one that appears to be more monstrous and bovinian… bovinian? Is that even a word?

Anyway, the tongue looks like it was intended to draw reference from the classic Spiderman villain, Venom with the long lashing tongue dripping in drool and toxins. But in all of those images, Venom’s mouth is wide open. With the mouth closed, it just looks weird. Thus I think the Ecto head looks better because the tongue head looks worse. Not because it’s actually better.

Just because I know someone wants to know.

The Mecha-tentacles are really nice and I expect we’ll be seeing lots of machine monster conversions that make use of these. The designers did a really great job by designing these so that the finished product is large, wavy and yet still fits in the box. They split each trio of tentacles into 3 segments that when assembled form a sphere that fits into the side joint on the body.

 One point I do want to point out is building the legs. For a couple reasons these things are a royal pain in the butt. The instructions indicate you should build the back legs as separate sub-units and then attach them to the body. The ankles of the legs even have jointed segments that would suggest the hooves on the back legs are supposed to line up in that particular way. What is the problem with this? Well if you assemble the back legs like this the hooves are facing out from the body, almost like the Fiend is a Lame donkey that’s frankly kicking it’s feet out.

So how do you address this? Simple. Build the legs, but don’t attach the feet to the legs until after you attach the legs to the body. That way you can make sure the feet are flat on the base.

There is another point in the instructions that I would suggest you not follow: The sequence of attaching the back plate and the vents on the back. Despite my absolute best efforts I was totally unable to align the back plate with the mounting stud, on the back, due to the positions of the spine blades so that I was forced to simply put a large glob of glue on the mounting stud and press the plate into the stud. Now this led to another issue, with the vents on the back. The plate was far enough back, but still forward of the mounting stud it’s intended to be mounted on, that it created a minor obstruction with mounting the vents. I was forced to shove the vents on hard. So what am I suggesting? Assemble and install the vents first, then attach the back plate.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Kit review: The Forgefiend/Maulerfiend

Initial thoughts

I’ve heard this guy referred to a lot as “Dinobot”. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. I can remember when the 4th edition Chaos Codex showed up. I can remember flipping through it and thinking, well I thought a lot of things about it actually. But the point I’m making is I remember thinking “Where are the monsters?” I mean it was Chaos for crying out loud! You had Oblits, Dreads that were almost as likely to attack your own units as it was to attack the enemy and you had Demon princes. Oh and we had the Greater Demon. Yeah. No comment there. The Oblits were demi-monsters, dreads were… well they were dreads. ‘Nuff said. So… the Chaos Space Marines have all of 1 type of actual monster? There was the defiler but that was very defiantly a vehicle, not a monster. This is a monster! And this is what the Chaos Marines have been sorely lacking in the “Monster” department. That is what this guy is. He’s the big-uber monster that Chaos has deserving for a while now. So yeah, I look at the promo pics of this guy and I don’t see a dinosaur. I see more of a Dinosaur from the Hive Tyrant. I look at this guy and I’m like “OHHH MECHA HELL HOUND!!!!” So lets get this review going.


So I got the kit at my local Games Workshop store… local being a 30 minute drive from work which is itself a 25 minute drive from home for me. Sorry, one of my point of annoyances with Games Workshop is they closed every GW store from Fairfax down to um… I think Norfolk honestly. So now the closest GW store is close to an hour away for me and there’s little else in the immediate area. So, I went to the GW store after work and there were my kits waiting for me (I also ordered the HelDrake which I will be reviewing at a later time). I picked up the kits and meandered for a little bit talking to folks about the kits in question. On the counter there was an assembled MaulerFiend. I wish I had had my phone or camera with me. I would have taken pictures of it. The Mauler is a big ‘un, on par with the Tyranid Monsters including the Tyrannofex. In fact I’m sorely tempted to get a Mauler and Tyrannofex just to model the two clashing in melee combat. The Field’s lashers wrapping around the throat of the Tryannofex, the Tyranno trying desperately to either break free or use it’s bulk as a weapon against the monstrous Fiend…

Sorry, was day dreaming.

Where was I? oh right. Unboxing the monster. So I got the kit home and set to work. I unboxed the fiend and laid the sprues out to get an idea of size and build. At first class it looks like a bigger, less impressive, Juggernaut model. I can’t say whether that’s good or bad. On the one hand it does help carry a unifying look to the various kits, so that if you have a bunch of Juggies next to a Fiend they look like they were made from a similar approach. But at the same time, it’s Chaos. Chaos by it’s very intention avoids conformity. So, I donno. Draw your own impressions as you see fit.

I mean am I wrong here?

I dropped the sprues into some warm water with soap to let them soak and clean off any model release. While they were bathing I took a gander through the instructions. Several people have made comments wondering about the possibilities of placing magnets in the model for the purpose of swapping parts for different configurations. Based on my glance through the instructions I think it is possible to do, so that you will have the ability to field either a MaulerFiend or a ForgeFiend, but it’s going to be rather challenging because most of the joints are ball joints. I think you would need to try and use spherical and ring shaped magnets to achieve this. I haven’t taken a ruler to the parts yet to measure it and figure out sizing. But I did some looking on K&J Magnetics and I found the R822cs-N ring magnets, and the S8 sphere magnets. Using these in combination might just allow you to make the head and arms swappable while more common disc magnets will allow you to swap out of the lashers.

as I absolutely love his bases, I've ordered a pair of Dragon Forge's urban rubble bases, both 120mm by 95 mm. One I'm ordering as a flight stand, the other as the base for the fiend. So I've got the bases on order. I'm hoping they will be in next week. I've got the parts cleaned and am letting them dry right now. I will not be able to get back to the kit until Monday, so my next update won't be until then. I'm afraid. But here is the first part of my review of the Fiend kit. So far my general impressions of the kit are very good. It seems to be a very solid model and a very welcome addition to the series.