Tutorial: Sculpting a Broken Asphalt Base

In this, my first tutorial for Stone Tower Reviews, I am going to teach the process I use to create realistic looking asphalt/concrete.

Sorry for the abrupt ending. This was my first time using DaVinci Resolve and I accidentally truncated the last clip.

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Review: Dropzone Commander Post-Human Republic Starter Army by Hawk Wargames

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Miniature: Dropzone Commander Post-Human Republic
Manufacturer: Hawk Wargames
Price: £35.00
Material: Plastic

Disclosure: The Dropzone Commander Post-Human Republic starter army featured in today’s review was not provided by the manufacturer. I received it by winning 3rd place in a painting contest hosted by Battle Bin at the 2016 CMON Expo. No one requested this review… I just thought the kit looked cool and wanted to write about it.

Special Delivery

    Parts List:

  1. Neptune Medium Dropships (3)
  2. Ares Battle Walkers (2)
  3. Phobos Battle Walkers (2)
  4. Phobos weapons options
  5. Juno A1 APCs (2)
  6. Juno A2 turret variant (2)
  7. Immortal infantry(4)

Is it weird to start off by saying that the plastic these figures are made of feels really good? It’s super-dense, decently flexible, and handling it is slightly pleasing in a tactile manner. It also holds fine details very well and is easy to clean with needle files. Really good plastic.

Of the different units contained in the starter army box for Dropzone Commander, I have to say that the dropship is my favorite design. So, I’ll be starting with it.

Glancing at the box I expected the main body to be two halves that fit together, clam-shell like, but I was wrong. The main body is almost a single piece with a spine that fits into the bottom. This design results in a model that is sturdier and more durable than I suspected. This also means there are no seams to worry about as the spine slots into the main body.

Dropship top

The wing turbines and tail engine are also well designed, are easy to put in place, and offer a wide range of poseability options. However, the large pins of the turbines that affix to the body look a bit out of place. The rest of the dropship’s design is very sleek and streamlined, but these are very bulky. But, I don’t see how they could have done it differently without either restricting poseability or making the pins thin and in danger of breaking.

dropship underbelly

The gate tag on the nose of the ship is an area of small concern. Improperly removing it could leave a divot in the nose that would require filling. Using my sprue cutter left behind a very shallow divot that I was, thankfully, able to sand away.

Due to the precise nature of the design for all of these miniatures I found that you have to carefully remove all mold lines where parts will join. Not doing this can result in some gaps. Even after removing the mold lines along the back of the dropship’s spine, there are gaps at the tail end and where the front of the spine connects to the cockpit. Because they aren’t visible from any normal playing angle I elected not to fill them, but you might feel differently.

With how well all of the other parts of this kit fit together I was a little disappointed with the clear connector that links the dropship to the flying base. I was hoping the fit would be tight enough that it wouldn’t require glue, but this is not the case. You will have to glue the connector to the dropship, but because it’s clear be sure not to do this until after you have completed painting.

mech

Next up are the Battle Walkers. The only thing that differentiates the different types of mechs are the weapon arms. Assembly is quite easy, except for attaching the legs to to the body. This is only a little challenging as you are attaching to round joints. This means you could pose the legs any way you want, but getting the legs even so it stands straight requires care. Also, the feet don’t bend in any way, so positioning them in an action pose might look a little stiff.

mech backThe gate tags on the legs are quite annoying as they destroy some detail. There are numerous little horizontal lines along the back of the legs where the tags exist. This problem is compounded by the mold lines that also run through these areas, which turns these little details into frustration. I’m probably just going to smooth down the back of the legs because it’ll be too much work to save these details.

All the parts fit together snugly, so it would be possible to leave the arms unglued so weapon sets could be swapped out on demand.

The APC was the most challenging build in the kit. It’s not hard, but be sure to let one side of the vehicle fully adhere to the baseplate before affixing the other side. I didn’t do this the first time and broke the glue’s hold when I tried to put the other side in place.

TankThe construction is good with two notable exceptions. First, the positioning of the ramp on the sprue means it is difficult to remove without damaging the top edges of the ramp, which can leave you with a gap in the final assembly. Second, the top of the vehicle leaves a noticeable seam along its entire edge.

The gate tags on the treads, combined with the mold lines, means a lot of tedious and careful filing is needed to clean them up. Thankfully, only the front and back angles need to be done as the majority of the tread will be sitting on the table. This means you can get away with only cleaning part of the tread.

The two turret options are a tank turret and what I assume is a laser turret of some sort. The laser option leaves you with something akin to an American Starship tank, but with a much thinner turret.

My biggest complaint about the APC, however, is that it looks too much like a regular tank as it doesn’t share many details common between the dropship and mech. Sculpting on a cockpit bulge, similar to the other models, would go a long way in bringing visual cohesion to this unit. As it currently exists the only way you can identify that this tank belongs to this faction is the picture on the box.

The infantry with this army are a huge disappointment. All the excellent work of the other models stand in stark contrast to these blocky, ugly, unimaginative things. I know they’re wearing power armor, but that’s no excuse for the laziness of design at work here.

immortalsThey truly look like the first pass at futuristic soldiers in a high school level 3D art class. The poses are so static there are electric charges coming from them. Honestly, I can barely believe they come from the same company. The heads are so small in scale to the rest of the body that it would be laughable if it wasn’t such an overall tragedy.

Comparing these troops to the box art makes me wonder what happened. Either different troops were used or the painter is a master at contrast because the painted troops on the box look infinitely better. In fact, they look good! So, if they are a different product, I feel cheated. If the paint is responsible for the transformation, then the painter did a phenomenal job and should be commended.

My personal opinion is that they are different models, but I can’t prove it.

Okay, enough of that diatribe.

These figures were quick and fun to build and they look like they’re going to be a lot of fun to paint. There is a great mix of open areas and great little details on each of these figures (none of these comments apply to the infantry).

Speaking of painting, the directions even come with a list of colors if you want your army to look like the box art, which is always appreciated. I plan to go a completely different direction with a lot of OSL on parts that I’m going to make all sci-fi and glowy, but there’s a great freedom to these miniatures for fun painting compositions. The mechs and dropships look like they’d work well with a dark eldar type of bright color scheme, but would also work equally well with more realistic military colors.

The directions themselves are very clear and concise.

Overall, Dropzone Commander’s Post-Human Republic box has been a very fun set to build and review. Good designs coupled with easy assembly always make for a good time (again, infantry not included). Whether you’re looking for a new wargame to try or just a fun set of futuristic vehicles, I’d suggest giving these products fair consideration.

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I was planning to do tutorials, but…

When I was planning to create this site there were plans to produce some tutorials, video and written, to accompany the reviews. But, then my wife and I decided to put our house up for sale as we need more room for us and the kids.

Almost all of my hobby stuff is currently packed up. The only items available to me are what I could fit into my mobile painting station, which is mostly paints, brushes, and a small selection of miniatures.

The first tutorials I had planned were sculpting terrain and bases and then doing some painting on what had been created. This has been put on hold pretty much until we get settled into a new house.

However, I am trying to come up with ideas of painting tutorials I can do with what I have on hand… the only issue is that the first ideas I’ve had are for topics better covered by tutorials that already exist.

So, for now, tutorials are on hold. If a good idea suddenly springs to mind I’ll do it, but it might not happen any time soon.

Review: Bonnie Steampunk by Another World

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Miniature: Bonnie Steampunk
Manufacturer: Another World
Price: €10.50
Material: Resin

Another World is a relatively young miniatures company I had not been acquainted with until I received some of their product. It’s equal parts a blessing and a curse that there are so many boutique miniatures companies; a blessing because fresh work can be great and a curse because it is easy to get lost in the crowd.

The main premise of Another World seems to be making an eclectic assortment of miniatures from various genres, most of which are female. This first review is for Bonnie, a steampunk girl with a gun.

    Parts List:

  1. Body
  2. Right hand with gun
  3. Standard slot base

The business model of Another World is to do limited runs in resin of their figures along with unlimited metal castings. This review is for the resin version.

At first glance Bonnie reminds me of a cabaret girl due to the bustle dress that is draped open to reveal her legs. Heeled boots climb to just below her knee and details sculpted on her upper thighs leave the painter open to decide if they are garters or if she is wearing stockings.

BonnieThe dress has some fantastic fine details. The corset boning is delicately sculpted with just enough detail to be seen without the grooves being too deep. All of the lace work along the hem of the split skirt and everywhere else has a very nice consistency in the way it was sculpted and communicates the idea of lace quite effectively. Even the tiny laces on the corset are well cast!

Credit: Another World
Credit: Another World

Her hair is sculpted well enough to give a nice wavy texture without being overdone. I wish the same could be said for the face. While all the details are clear and well cast, it lacks any sort of character. It looks like they wanted her to sport a smirk or wry smile, but the effect is so subtle that it gets lost. A skilled painter might be able to bring some life out of her face, but it will be a challenge.

The disconnected right hand will be challenging to affix. The bit of wrist is very small, meaning pinning is a challenge. As a competition piece you could probably get away with just gluing it on, but it will be a delicate joint.

Outside two very small sections of flash under her arms I couldn’t find any areas that needed cleaning. Even when I removed the gate from the gun hand there was very minimal cleanup needed. Casting quality is excellent.

My biggest issue with this figure is that it comes off feeling a bit crude. This feeling can be partly attributed to the ridiculously over-sized breasts, but the overall composition comes together in a way I don’t like.

By contrast, the Rotten Belles from Wyrd pull off the cabaret style in a superior thematic way. They show a lot more skin, but do so in a way that doesn’t leave me with a negative feeling. Part of this is because there is a better, more cohesive design that combines their attractiveness with a repellent monstrous nature. Bonnie just feels like she’s provocative just to be on display.

Another problem is that Bonnie isn’t selling the Steampunk genre. Sure, she’s wearing Victorian style clothing and is carrying a weird looking gun… but that’s it. By contrast an extremely lazy search revealed two more steampunk women-with-guns that have a superior grasp of theme.

It also doesn’t help that this figure reminds me of the Steampunk Jen Haley miniature I reviewed years ago, which I think is probably the best version of this archetype you can currently buy… and for only a few dollars more than Bonnie.

From a technical standpoint Bonnie is a success that deserves some praise. The details are crisp, the fabric work is excellent, and the hair is very well done. Learning how to sculpt character into a figure is the next step. Once Another World gets this down they will be producing some excellent stuff.

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Review: Draconid Warrior by Dark Sword Miniatures

Review of the Draconid Warrior from Dark Sword Miniatures.

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Miniature: Draconid Warrior
Manufacturer: Dark Sword Miniatures
Price: $14.99
Material: White Metal

Powerful, intimidating, ferocious, and just plain cool. Those are the adjectives that come to mind whenever I think about partially draconic characters from fantasy. Almost everyone has their favorite version of one. For some it’s the Dragonborn race from Dungeons & Dragons or, like me, the Dragon Disciple from Neverwinter Nights. Finding a good looking miniature for this type of character can be challenging. Is Dark Sword Miniatures’ Draconic Warrior a fitting choice?

    Parts List:

  1. Body with integral base
  2. Wings
  3. Head
  4. Tail
  5. Right hand with sword
  6. Left hand with sword
  7. Left hand with shield
  8. Belt knife

When it comes to dragons everyone has their preference. Eastern vs. Western style, dragon vs. wyvern, etc. There’s a lot of wiggle room depending on who you’re talking to and how specific their opinions are on the matter.

The first feature that jumped out to me on the Draconid Warrior was the design of his head. Too many of Reaper’s draconic characters have what I consider to be a snake-like head; it says serpent to me, instead of dragon. Here we have a proper dragon’s head that looks regal and deadly. It’s teeth are bared in a ferocious snarl, with each one perceptible in clear detail. The scales along the lower jaw are crisp and the bony protrusions well defined.

full kitThis level of crisp detail is evident in every piece of the kit. I could not find a single instance of detail that was not clear. Even the eyes on the head are well defined, which is impressive given the way they are set deeply inside the skull. Often in cases like this the eyelids lose some definition, but here they are easily visible with the naked eye, providing excellent guides for painting.

Nowhere could I find an example of significant mold lines and nowhere did these mold lines cause any problems for the sculpt’s details. One of the largest mold lines I could find was on the main body itself. It is clearly visible traveling across both arms and shoulders. In the majority of sculpts with this kind of mold line, running across armor with raised edges, you commonly find that the mold line interacts with the perpendicular edge, leaving a small glob. This is most likely caused by wear on the mold at that location. Here, however, there is no such issue. The elements come together with no extra deposits of metal, no loss of detail, and no added problems to cleaning out the corner where they meet.

Mold lines are smallI found a few areas of flash, mostly on pointy areas of the miniature. There were some small areas between the upper and lower horns on the head. Because of how close these elements are they were a bit tricky to clear out, but the flash was thin enough that my hobby knife was able to clean it with a bit of time. There were a few other areas like this: the tips of the wings, tips of the swords; but none of them were difficult to remove.

The biggest problem this kit has are the gate tags, of which there are a few. The one between the edge of the Draconid’s kilt and the integral base is the largest of them and, because of the position of the legs, is tricky to snip off at a good angle. Mine snipped away easily at the kilt, leaving behind very little I needed to file down, but the base was a different story and will require a little more effort to smooth away.

Tacked FrontThe tag on the shield came off on its own with the slightest amount of wiggling, but the line of roughness it left behind required some care to clear away. This is because it is immediately below some of the runes sculpted around the shield’s edge. Slow and careful filing is required to keep those details intact. Now, this is a non-issue if you’re not planning on using the shield.

Tacked BackWhile tacking the miniature together for a test fitting, I noticed that the tail had a very wide gap between it and the body. Filling that gap well will be an involving task due to how well the scales were sculpted. There’s a lot of detail there that could be lost.

The wings also had a slight gap along the top edge, but it can be filled much easier.

Overall, this is a very good miniature. I prefer the realism shown in this type of draconic sculpt to the more cartoony or serpent-like items available elsewhere. Reaper does have some miniatures that emulate this same style, and for less money, but they don’t have the same level of crisp detail or high quality shown here. If a half-dragon is what you’re looking for, you’d have a hard time finding a better one than this.

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