Posts Tagged ‘Aliens’

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Accessorizing the hive – Aliens game board update #3

March 4, 2012

This is an update on my Aliens game board project. I’m at a point where I’ve glued most of the magnet pieces to the game board. I’d show you pictures, but it’s not much to look at currently, just black squares on a foam board. I’m going to focus on something much more interesting, in other words the various obstacles dotting the board. These are based on magnets, and should be pretty interchangeable throughout the board. I had three guidelines for these:

  1. Quick and easy. On a quick count, I need to make 23 of these. Since I want to eventually finish the board, I don’t want to spend an hour on each, but rather be able to churn them out at a steady rate, while still having them look nice enough.
  2. Cheap. See above. While it would be lovely to have 23 exquisite resin terrain pieces, I’m trying to keep my costs down.
  3. Large enough to block LoS. In the board game, all obstacles block line of sight. Me being something of a pedant at times, I didn’t want obstacles so small that I couldn’t see them blocking line of sight.

These guidelines were easy enough to follow. So far I’ve constructed three pieces, and I’m happy with all of them.

Click for a larger version

The first one is composed of a hollow wall anchor, available from hardware stores for a few euros per a bag of four or five. I removed the screw in the middle for an instant scifi-industrial looking structure. Next I added on some electrical wire and conduit tubing, applied a liberal amount of insulation paste and left it to dry. I then sprayed everything black and gave the Alien goo two drybrush layers of grey (GW Codex Grey and Fortress Grey) followed by a black wash (GW Badab Black). The visible part of the wall anchor was given a drybrushing first with VMC Oily Steel and then VMC Natural Steel. I finally gave the Alien parts a layer of gloss varnish for a wet look and to create more contrast between the alien and the man-made. The final step was to add a few drops of Scotch universal glue gel. As it began to dry, I stretched it around with a toothpick to create strands of that sticky resin the Xenomorphs tend to leave around, the messy critters they are.

Click for a larger version

The second one basically consists of a resin container from Ainsty. I simply glued it on a piece of magnetic sheet, which I’d covered with plastic bug screen to match the game board. Some insulation paste was added to Xenomorph it up a bit. Again I sprayed everything black, and then drybrushed the container with a suitable colour (GW Shadow Grey), and painted the Alien stuff as above, with the same gloss varnish treatment. While this piece is generally more expensive than the previous one, I happened to have the Ainsty bits around already, so I didn’t have to buy new stuff specifically for this.

Click for a larger version

The third terrain piece is a very simple, cheap scratchbuild. Like all of my hive accessories, there’s a square piece of magnetic sheet. On that I glued a 30mm stainless steel washer. On top of the washer I glued a plastic base from a Mantic miniature, and covered that with a small square of bug screen. I then glued four beads in the corners to look like rivets. Once more out came the black spray, followed by painting the steel like above. There was one problem, however: guideline #3, the line of sight one. Nice enough as it was, there was no way that flat ventilation thing would block line of sight. However, as I’m a clever little monkey, I’d taken this into account! I glued some white craft wool to the grid to represent steam billowing up (sadly not too visible in the photo), and gave it a spray of matt varnish to keep it in shape. Quick, easy, cheap as chips and guaranteed to block your LoS.

Here’s a final shot comparing them with a Woodbine miniature. I think they look fine. Opinions?

Click for a larger version

 

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Hive pageant – Aliens game board update #2

February 13, 2012

After my last post I’ve received very good comments regarding the hive walls. I agree that the first test piece was lacking that biomechanic look so iconic to the Alien franchise, so I went to work on different prototypes. I bought some electrical wire (as it’s very cheap and holds its shape) and using blue foam offcuts and Tetra paste I knocked together three prototypes for hive wall styles. I’ve shown them painted, with everyone’s favourite smartgunner Drake for comparison. What do you think? They’re still lacking all sorts of lumps, holes, glue-goo, gloss varnish, ribbing and things like that, but these should give a rough idea. None of them are quite right, but I have a feeling I’m getting there. They are a bit sparse, for one, so I really need to add a lot more stuff in.

First test – While I like the spinelike ribbing on the vertical struts, I quickly noticed that the background desperately needs texture. It’s also a bit too spider web looking.

Click for a larger version

Second test – In this one I like the organic look of the tubes. It’s much too sparse, though. The addition of a simple texture to the wall makes a huge difference.

Click for a larger version

Third test – In my opinion this is the most Gigeresque of the test pieces. I like the ribbed texture on the wall. A lot of the wire was left exposed to create a smooth look. I used some heavy drybrushing to emulate Giger’s airbrushed style.

Click for a larger version

In my own opinion there are good elements in all of them that could/should be combined. I hope you’ll agree that these are much closer to H.R. Giger’s aesthetic than my previous outing. There are two styles of hive wall that I’ve spotted in the films. One is a very random, swirly, gooey one, whereas the other one is very much straight-off Giger with less “bio” and more “mechanical”.

Here are some shots from Aliens to illustrate the look I’m trying to achieve. There’s obviously a lot of randomness, as well as plenty of organic looking strands of Xenomorph resin. Of course I’ll need to leave some original walls showing through as well to create a contrast between the man-made and the alien.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Now’s the time for comments. As you can see, I’m teetering between different options so input is very valuable at this time. Don’t be afraid to be critical, either!

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Campaign building blocks

July 14, 2011

For any miniature game, you generally need the following: miniatures, terrain and rules. In this post I’ll do a bit of an inventory of what of each of those three elements I have available for Triton-4.

Miniatures

It should come as no surprise that as far as miniatures are concerned, I’m pretty well covered. As a result of both my own collecting and my Aliens, Predator and Colonial Marine miniature reviews I’m nicely stocked. I also have a few other nasties in store, which I’ll save until later. Just in case my players happen to read this.

I just received the scientists and utility crew that I ordered from Victory Force Miniatures. Joining them is be the not-Bishop from Woodbine Designs. I’ve also been thinking of ordering more inspectors from Heresy. Inspector Knuckles is already doing his rounds as a combat synthetic, and I think that with matching paint jobs the more peaceful-looking others would make for nice additions to the crew. I will need the civilian types to add some variety to the games, as they can be for example objectives (“Find the missing synths”), targets for rescue or protection (“Escort the scientists to the crashed ship”) or simply random encounters (“A feverish colonist staggers out of the jungle”).

I’ve also been thinking of investing in an APC for the CMs, probably this from Old Crow.

Shown in the pictures below is the current cast for the campaign, starting with the Marines.

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I think the photo very nicely demonstrates the benefits of a unified  colour scheme. The fifteen Marines above look like a unit. Look a little closer, and you’ll see there are big variations in body proportions, style and gear. The models in the picture above come from no less than seven different manufacturers (em4, Copplestone, Prince August, 1st Corps, Denizen, Hasslefree and GW), and yet the simple paint scheme and unified basing tie the models together nicely. There are a lot more CMs waiting to be painted, but these guys and gals are a good start.

28 mm Predators

Click for a larger version

Here are my Predators, sans the wonderful Hürn from Heresy, who sits almost finished on my painting desk. Being bigger than the others, he’ll make for a nice pack leader.

Horrorclix Aliens

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And here are as many Xenomorphs that I could cram into one picture. They’re missing their mommy, since the queen was far too big to fit in and is not yet finished.

Terrain

I’ve been working more than usual on my terrain. I currently have 16 CDs covered with jungle terrain. When I placed the first bunch on the table, I noticed that they looked a bit too sparse. This is due to the fact that I wanted to be able to position models on the pieces, as well as simply skimping on my terrain building materials. The newer ones that I’ve built are much more dense, and will be scattered around to create the illusion of a thicker jungle. I’m also intending to build small vignettes of some jungle pieces. Maybe a few skinned corpses? Chestburst animals? A cluster of eggs?

I’ve also been wanting to use a large outdoor fountain element ever since I bought it (see this post from a year back). Thus far it has seen no action whatsoever, but will surely be utilised here.

I also received a bunch of scenic elements from Ainsty – crates, barrels and the like – which I’m using to make something to represent a military camp. I’ve also just ordered some barbed wire pieces from Products for Wargamers, more supplies from Old Crow and sandbag walls from Fantascene.  The should make a nice, Vietnam war -style jungle camp. For the time being I will settle on a temporary looking camp, and as the campaign progresses, I’ll maybe add something to it, such as landing pads etc.

Here is most of my current terrain setup on my gaming boards in a few different configurations.

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Here’s the table in its entirety. I placed a Marine communications setup in the middle as well as some CMs to show the size of the table.

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Here’s a close-up of the comm setup. The dish is from a plastic toy, the pole a piece of an old GW building and the pegs around it from an IKEA bookshelf. The beacon in the middle is from Ainsty, and the barricade from a plastic army men set. The plants are aquarium plants. I’ve used different flocks to differentiate the camp terrain from the jungle. However, I’m also trying to convey the feeling that the jungle quickly creeps in around whatever the humans build.

Click for a larger version

Here’s the monstrous fountain element. It’s so big that I’ll probably need to add a third table (I have four sheets) to accommodate it. See the lone Marine for scale. I think I’ll have entire scenarios centered on this piece of terrain, since its build is very good for that. Just imagine the Marines defending the mouth of that gully, and you’ll see what I’m getting at. Or just take at this little diorama from way back when I bought it.

Rules

This section is the easiest and most complete. Flying Lead from Ganesha Games suits my needs nicely. It’s a fast-flowing system, which leaves plenty of room for narration and improvisation while also presenting players with tactical dilemmas and the like. As GG’s games use similar mechanics, I should be able to easily port extra rules from Fear and Faith, GG’s horror game.

We had our first playtest last week, and really enjoyed it. The system worked fine for what we’re going after, so I’m really pleased. We also worked that playtest already into the campaign – naturally it was the final bootcamp simulation before the actual mission.

So there, my plans so far for the campaign. Now I turn to you, dear readers. Tens of heads are usually better than one, so feel free to provide me with ideas, tips and even requests. Are there minis you think I could use? Got an idea for a terrain piece or vignette? Send them in, I’ll be eternally grateful and hopefully use them.

I’ve also been thinking of making a small tutorial on how I made the jungle pieces. Is there a call for an article like that?

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From the painting desk #10

February 12, 2011

I’ve gotten some painting done after a while, here are my two latest.

The first one is a werewolf from West Wind (see the review). A very simple, down to earth paintjob, but I think he came out pretty fine. It’s been a good while since I added stuff to my Underworld project, so maybe I’ll eventually finish that, after all.

Click for a larger version

The second one is a Horrorclix Alien repaint. Since the Aliens are based on the dire AvP movie, there are a few miniatures that are attached to scenery elements, such as columns or walls. The old stone wall didn’t really suit my Aliens, so I slapped some old bits and pieces on it, covered it with loads of greenstuff, painted it to match my Aliens and smeared some glue over it for that creepy slime look. I think the matt wall works nicely with the glossy Alien, and I’m quite happy with the way the whole thing turned out. A lot of GS went into it, though! There’s a before/after shot below, although It’s not the same model obviously. I’ve photoshopped the Alien on the right a bit, since black is a real bastard to photo.

Before/after. Click for a larger version.

Comments more than welcome, as always!

 

 

 

 

 

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Alien miniatures – a review

October 19, 2010

(Note: This is a part of a three-part series of reviews. For suitable opposition, see my reviews for Predators and Colonial Marines)

“I want to do Aliens/Xenomorphs vs. Colonial Marines vs. Predators in 28mm, who makes suitable minis?”

I can’t recall how many times I’ve run into a topic like this on various internet forums. I’ve even started a few myself. Trawling through these, the thought has every once in a while crossed my mind, that it’d be nice to have a fairly comprehensive review of different options available. Then it struck me – why not do one myself? I started with the Predators. An easy choice, since there aren’t too many different minis available, and I already had them.

The Aliens were another story altogether. There’s a lot more variety out there. In addition to the licensed stuff, all sorts of Alien-inspired biomechanical beasties can be found in various miniature lines. Getting them simply for a review purpose would cost me if not an arm and a leg, but at least a fair amount of cash better used elsewhere. With some encouragement from fellow hobbyists I did what a real reviewer would do: I contacted the companies directly, asking for samples. To my surprise, the response was very positive with most companies gladly shipping me stuff to review. The companies taking part will get all the praise they deserve later in this post.

I suppose this is enough with the introduction, and it’s time to get on with the review itself. For ease of reading I’ve decided not to split the review into smaller parts, so all will be found in this post. While it’s going to be a pretty heavy read the first time, it should also provide a fairly comprehensive view of what’s available at the time of writing. You have been warned.

Licensed products and 1:1 matches

Fans of Xenomorphs will be happy to hear that there are not only one, but two lines of miniatures modelled right on the creatures of the various films (Aliens and Alien vs. Predator to be exact). They will then be devastated to hear that both lines are discontinued and usually fetch a fairly ridiculous price on eBay and the like.

Leading Edge Aliens

Leading Edge did a whole range based on Aliens sculpted by Bob Ridolfi, and naturally the line included pretty much every iconic thing from the movies. The line is long gone by now, but the kits do come up on eBay every now and then. Stuff of Legends has a very good overview of the line, which I recommend taking a look at. I have only two figures (picked up from a convention for a pittance) so I’ll base my review on those. Both minis are from the Colonist’s last stand pack.

Click for a larger version

Even today the old sculpts look very nice, if a bit dated. The warrior is a good reproduction of the movie’s creatures, and suitably sized too, being the size of a 28mm miniature even with the knees bent. There is good, crisp detailing. As you can see, the Alien warrior’s head sports the ridged dome from Aliens as opposed to the iconic smooth one. The second miniature I have depicts a hapless colonist getting a hug and a kiss from one of those pesky Alien kids. The miniature nicely shows the “right” size for facehuggers and eggs in 28mm. Both models come on integral metal bases with some detailing.

Horrorclix Aliens

Considered by many to be THE miniatures for Xenomorph gaming, the Horrorclix Aliens are pre-painted plastic miniatures based on the ones in Alien vs. Predator (and are probably the best thing to come out of that movie, come to think of it). There are seven different variants, with two of them sporting specialties from the movie – the Alien with a Predator’s net-grid in it’s dome and another with its tail spouting acid. Three of the models are attached to different pieces of architecture, two different columns and a piece of wall. There’s one human miniature in the pack as well, unfortunately oversized.

That brings us smoothly to the size of the Horrorclix stuff. They are much bigger than 28mm, the tallest one standing at roughly 45mm. For some this might – and will – be a problem. I don’t mind. In the original Alien film, the guy inside the suit, Boladi Badejo, was 2,18 m – that’s 7’2″ to those not into metric. While this still makes the Aliens oversized, it also gives them a very menacing presence.

The architectural bits may cause some headache, but they’re also quite easily dealt with should one not want to use them. The Aliens can be removed with a little work, and mostly the poses are not too bad on normal bases. If you don’t mind doing some extra work, the scenic elements can be modified, see my example.

They come on plastic clicky bases, but are easily removed by using a sharp craft knife, which can be used to simply pop them off the bases. Even the prepainting is not too bad, comprising of a motley combination of dark blue and black, with a glossy black head dome and some detailing in silver. I’d say these models can definitely be used as-is, if you’re not in the mood for painting.

The range also includes a queen with a scenic base. You can see a picture here and some better ones sans the scenic base here.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

And here are some of my Horrorclix Aliens rebased and repainted:

Click for a larger version

Overall verdict: What can I say, these are licensed products. As such, they are a perfect match for Xenomorphs from the movies. Their limited availability and consequent silly prices make them a not-really-valid option for most people.  If you can get your hands on them, do so. The Horrorclix Aliens might be too big for some people’s tastes. As mentioned above, not an issue to me but worth noting.

That’s the official miniatures covered. Nice, expensive, out of production. Let’s take a look at alternatives, shall we?

Not-Aliens

The Xenomorph being such a classic as far as scifi-monsters go, it should come as no surprise that there are quite a few alternatives for the models available. While these are not 1:1 matches, they’re definitely close enough to use as Xenomorphs and bear an obvious resemblance. The one guys missing here are Eureka’s rendition – the Chaos Weasels –  which I believe were pulled off the market due to IP concerns.

EDIT January 11th 2011:

Blog reader John contacted me with the following information on the Eureka Chaos Weasels:

The Eureka Chaos Weasels are towards the smaller end of the 25-32mm spectrum. They are multipart, and came with metal slottabases. Some of the ones I picked up had them, and some needed plastic bases. They have great grinning smiles that I rather like. The tails in particular are bendy and poseable, if a little fragile. Chaos Weaslings, I believe, were not-facehuggers.

I’ve got some Leading Edge eggs and huggers. They have integral bases with some moulded details- creepy tendrils under the eggs, and metal decking beneath the hugger. I’ve rebased them on 25mm washers and hidden the detail. The eggs are a good size, but the huggers are a little weedy.

John was also kind enough to provide me with a few photos, and there’s one in the size comparison section as well.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Rather nice stuff, as you can see. Alas, out of production. Thanks a lot for the information and photos, John!

East Riding Miniatures – Mythic Worlds Sci-Fi Aliens

ERM’s Mythic Worlds scifi line includes a bunch of aliens, which are obviously Xenomorphs. The important development phases are represented, as the range includes warriors, facehuggers and a queen. And what interesting miniatures they are!

I must admit that when I first received these models, my thoughts were in line with the company’s name: “erm….”. Make no mistake, these models are a rather cartoony take on the Alien theme. The models are oddly proportioned even in regards to each other, the facehuggers are massively oversized, the detail is soft, the sculpting a bit crude…to sum it up, these models really don’t convey the sleek elegance of the biomechanical killing machine we’ve all come to love. And yet the models have grown on me. Why on Earth, you may ask. Let me tell you why.

The ERM Aliens to me manage to perfectly capture the nightmarish quality of the Xenomorph. When I think of Newt in Aliens, I feel that this is how she might have viewed the Aliens. As truly being alien and monstrous, covered with weird tubes, sporting ridges and spines and extending jaws and barbed tails. I might even go as far as to say that these models are a kind of an impressionistic take on the Xenomorph. While they’re not perfect depictions, they manage to capture the feel and the essence of their subject. It’s worth noting that the Alien with the inner jaw extended is pretty huge. See size comparison down the page.

Getting back to everyday stuff, the range includes four different warriors, a queen and three different facehuggers, all designed by Tony Yates. There are also facehuggers with guns available, if you should feel the need for some. The queen comes in four pieces – head, tail, body and arms. Like the pictures show, the facehuggers are oversized (although nicely in scale with the Dark Arts Miniatures birthing pods) being the size of a regular 28mm miniature. The facehuggers are in my view the weakest of the sets, as they’re a bigger departure from their subject matter than the warriors and the queen.

All the sets retail for £5.00 each and are available on East Riding Miniatures’ website. The queen (Alien Mother) especially is an impressively sized model, and at only 5 pounds a real bargain. All models are on integral metal bases. The Alien Mother needs filling with greenstuff and I suggest pinning her together as well. The photo has her on a 40mm round base.

Warriors – Click for a larger version

Alien Mother – Click for a larger version

Facehuggers – Click for a larger version

Reviresco – Alien Homophages

Starguard is an ancient (from 1974, which amounts to the same thing) scifi miniatures game, which is still supported today. To my happy surprise, the miniatures line includes some wonderful xenomorphs under the name “Alien Homophages” (homophage translates as man-eater), with extra stuff to go with them.

As with the ERM ones above, these are by no means perfect renditions, but are still appealing – especially to two kinds of gamers:

A) Those on a budget. The homophages are very cheap. The pack with five different warrior poses, eggs and facehuggers (with one hugging a separate head) costs all of $7.50. That’s €5.60  or £4.78 at the time of writing. That’s even cheaper than ERM’s stuff, which in itself is cheap already.

B) Those gaming with 25mm to “true” 28mm miniatures. The homophages stand at exactly 28mm from the base surface to the top of the head. The scale creep that’s gone on for years has seen a lot of miniatures touted as 28mm go up in size to 30-33mm. Compared to most current 28mm ranges, especially those at the heroic end of the spectrum, the homophages are small indeed.

The models themselves? I’ll be blunt: they’re fairly crudely sculpted, and the figure quality matches the price. There are separate spines supplied with the models that are a pain to glue on. The detail’s soft.  There’s a bit of flash there, too.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to recommend, though. These miniatures are by no means rubbish! As with the ERM Aliens, the Reviresco homophages manage to instantly convey that Alien feel. Even if they’re not the best, crispest miniatures, the moment you see them you know you’re looking at Xenomorphs, no mistake. A mass of these guys painted up and gloss varnished will make for a very nice horde of Aliens. Also, I really like the dynamic poses.

The homophages come on thin integral metal bases. A few have separate heads and arms whichs are easy to attach due to handy pegs that fit corresponding holes in the torsos. They are available directly from Reviresco’s online store.

Reviresco homophages

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Reviresco eggs + facehugger

Eggs and Facehugger – Click for a larger version

Pendraken – Facehugger and egg cluster

Pendraken is a manufacturer focusing on 10mm miniatures . What on earth are they doing here?

In their 10mm Sci Fi range they have a beautiful line of Aliens, Colonial Marines and accessories (if you’re into 10mm at all, get them!). The line also includes Facehuggers and eggs, which are way oversized for 10mm. Of these, the Facehugger is a perfect fit for 28mm. The eggs are a bit too small, and unfortunately not a match size-wise for the Facehugger. The ‘hugger itself is a nice, clean and simple sculpt and comes on a small integral base.  The sculptor is unknown and they come 10 in a pack for £1.45, making them an excellent choice for those looking for Facehuggers. As mentioned, the eggs are a bit small for 28mm, but could have their uses as well. They are of similar size to the Reviresco ones shown above. These miniatures are available from Pendraken’s website.

Click for a larger version

Overall verdict: There are some worthy not-Aliens manufacturers for those not willing or able to procure the OOP licensed stuff. They have their little flaws in terms of style and quality, but are definitely a viable option. The Pendraken and Reviresco facehuggers are top notch, and should definitely be on your shopping list if you’re looking for those little babies. These not-Aliens are a cheap and easy way to bulk up a Xenomorph horde for a fraction of the price of the OOP ranges.

That’s all the official miniatures and not-Aliens (as far as I know, of course) covered. Let’s see some size comparison pictures. You can click on any photo for a larger version.

Aliens size comparison

From L to R: ERM, Horrorclix, Reviresco, ERM Facehugger, ERM

Aliens size comparison 2

From L to R: Reviresco, LE, Horrorclix, ERM

ERM queen comparison

L to R: Horrorclix, ERM Alien mother, Reviresco, ERM

Aliens Copplestone Hasslefree comparison

From L to R: Copplestone, Horrorclix, Reviresco, Hasslefree, ERM

Aliens Heresy em4 comparison

L to R: Horrorclix, Heresy, Reviresco, em4, ERM

ERM queen comparison 2

L to R: Hasslefree, Heresy, ERM Alien mother, em4, Copplestone

Facehugger Heresy comparison

Pendraken and Reviresco facehuggers with Heresy

Eureka Chaos Weasels with an old GW Space Marine

Aliens-inspired

Going a bit further from the franchise, there are ranges of scifi-miniatures that have clearly been influenced by the Alien films. They have a biomechanical thing going on, with an elongated domed head here, a spike-tipped tail there…you get the picture. Or they might just be in some way Aliens-y. While there are several of these lines available, I will present a few that come up often in forum discussions, and review some others that don’t quite qualify as a not-Alien one. Due to the first two being large ranges, I’ve settled on showing some examples of them and leaving you to your own research.

EDIT Februray 19th 2011: 1st Corps and Hasslefree added.

Games Workshop Tyranids

Ah, the Tyranids. They are basically GW’s Warhammer 40,000 universe’s version of Xenomorphs, and have served a similar role with the most obvious example being Space Hulk, a WH40K version of Aliens.

The Tyranid range is very large and offers loads of options for different Xenomorph-style creatures. I present  a few examples here, that I could easily get my hands on. They should give you the general idea. I’ll point out that these are old variants and as such not fully representative and so on. As said, general idea. The fact that a lot of the Tyranid range is now available in plastic makes them ideal for Xenomorph conversions. More on that later. The range also sports some very large beasties, so if you want to improvise on your Alien universe, there’s loads to grab here.

Pictured below is an old Lictor next to an old Genestealer. The Lictor has had some spiky appendages removed, hence the greenstuff on the chest. The Genestealer has been photoshopped to bring out the detail.

GW Lictor + genestealer

Click for a larger version

The Tyranids are available directly from Games Workshop’s online store and from various retailers, naturally including GW’s own stores. The prices vary a lot, so I’m not going to list them here. Knowing GW, the information would be outdated in a month, anyway.

Scotia Grendel Kryomek Aliens

An older range stylistically very similar to the Tyranids mentioned above. The long heads and spiky tails typical of Xenomorphs are present, as well as that biomechanical look. Pictures are taken from the Scotia Grendel website and used without permission. Naturally, they will be taken down on request. I was going to get my hands on some samples for review, but due to problems of my own it was taking too long and I wanted to eventually publish this review.

Click to got to Scotia Grendel webstore

Click to got to Scotia Grendel webstore

See here for Matakishi’s effective use of Kryomek Aliens as Xenomorphs.

1st Corps Parasite Adults

The 1st Corps scifi line includes a pack of two Alien-inspired beasties. There’s the bipedal stance, the elongated skull and the prominent ribs. The models lack the biomechanical look, but I believe that with the right paintjob they’d make for passable Aliens. The models come on integral bases and the arms are separate, allowing for some variation in poses. There are two critters in a pack, costing £3.00. They’re available direct from 1st Corps.

Click for a larger version

L to R: Horrorclix, Reviresco, 1st Corps, ERM

Hasslefree Head Crabs

I thought for a long time whether to put these in the not-Aliens or the Aliens-inspired section. In the end they ended up in the latter. The Head Crabs, sculpted by Kev White, are obviously inspired by the Facehuggers in the Alien franchise. They’re however different enough in their anatomy to not quite be not-Aliens (how’s that for a sentence). They’re beautiful nevertheless, and well worth adding to your games. You could always cut off the second tail to make them even more Facehugger-ish. They’re quite pricey at £1.00 each, so the price might be a point for consideration. The Head Crabs are available direct from Hasslefree.

Click for a larger version

Hasslefree Head Crab with Heresy

Overall verdict: Yes, alternative ranges do exist, and there’s quality stuff there. It pretty much depends on how much of a purist you are, or in other words how far you’re willing to stretch your vision of Aliens. If you’re okay with “Alien-ish”, there’s definitely a good supply here for you.

Making your own

All this choice, and still not happy? How about some Do It (Almost) Yourself, then? There are manufacturers producing nice conversion bits to turn other models – such as the Tyranids mentioned above – into something a bit more Xenomorph-y. With a large part of the Tyranid range being plastic, this isn’t really much of a chore. No, you won’t get a perfect match, but as mentioned before, for me at least it’s more important that the model conveys the look and feel of the Alien, even if it’s not a perfect match. As this article shows, converting Tyranids into Xenomorphs isn’t a huge task even without using conversion parts.

Chapterhouse Studios Xenomorph heads

Chapterhouse Studios is a company producing resin conversion parts for GW’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40K lines. There’s one set that’s particularly interesting, that set of course being the Xenomorph heads. They have the long, smooth-canopied head (sometimes lovingly called the death banana) and let’s face it, that’s what makes us immediately think of Aliens. The detailing on the head is a bit more organic than in the original Giger stuff, with little tendrils and things like that. They are a bit big for the smaller creatures, but perfect for the larger ones. There are two different variants, and the detail is nice and crisp. The resin castings are of good quality, and there were no air bubbles or other blemishes. The price of the set is $5.85 for a pack of six, and they’re available directly from Chapterhouse’s online store. There’s a great review of them here, courtesy of the wonderful people of the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, whose blog is well worth reading.

Pictured below are the two Tyranid models shown above, this time with Chapterhouse heads.

Chapterhouse heads on Tyranids

Click for a larger version

Heresy Miniatures spare heads

Heresy is a maker of multi-part miniatures, and that means their range includes some spare heads that are definitely suitable for Xenomorph conversions.

First up is an eyeless/lurker head for the Heresy Hellhounds. I don’t know if the heads are available separately, but I’m sure that if enough people request them, the demand could well be met. Shown below is a shot of the head on the GW Genestealer shown before. As you can see, the head definitely has the smooth Alien look. The full length canopy isn’t there, but it’s still Alien enough to work.

Genestealer with eyeless head

Click for a larger version

Heresy also sells a separate sprue of Lurker heads, although let’s face it: these are Alien heads. They’re lovely, and I must say I was a bit disappointed when it turned out they were a bit on the small side, especially on a bulky plastic Tyranid.

If only I had something smaller…and then it hit me. I tried putting the head on one of the Reviresco Homophages, and what do you know, the combination produces a very, very authentic looking Xenomorph. Death banana head? Check. Spiky tail? Check. Bipedal? Check. See for yourself, and ignore the blu-tack.

Homophage with Lurker head

Click for a larger version

Casting quality on all heads was very good, although there was some mould lining to scrape off. The Lurker heads are available directly from Heresy, and you get three heads for £1.00. Ask Heresy about the Hellhound heads.

Overall verdict: If you’re not afraid to do a bit of easy converting, DIY is definitely a viable route to building your own Alien horde. Quality conversion bits are available for cheap. The Reviresco Homophages + Heresy Lurker heads combination receives a special mention here, as it results in a very authentic looking Alien, albeit a smallish one.

Conclusion

There you go, dear readers. As comprehensive an Alien miniature review as I was able to pull off at the moment. I have to give my sincerest thanks to the companies participating and posting me – a humble blogger – samples for review, often providing me with an abundance of extras. A special tip of the hat goes off to John at Reviresco. Apparently he noted my nationality, and threw in a pack of WW2 Finns. How’s that for customer service! I will also point out that the willingness to participate and amount of samples provided did not affect the review one bit.

Some might view this review as too positive, since I mostly praise the models reviewed. I disagree. People’s tastes vary, so I’ve tried to provide an honest and objective view. Some people value quality, others simply want loads of miniatures for as low a price as possibly. Most probably try to find a suitable balance between the two.

I don’t see the point in labeling something singularly poor – except when talking about casting quality and such. Reviewers and peers (often the same thing in this small hobby) have a lot of influence. If someone tells you that a particular line of miniatures sucks, maybe you won’t see for yourself and end up passing up on miniatures you actually might have liked. I also think that there is an intrinsic value in focusing on the good points in something first, and focusing on the negative second.

I’d also like to appeal to you readers: if you saw something you liked, click on the manufacturer links, show your support and buy stuff. Manufacturers big and (especially) small really need, and more importantly, deserve your patronage. Show this review around to people interested, too. And no, I’m not making any money out of this through ads, clicks or anything like that.

I’ll try to update this review if and when suitable ranges appear and I get my hands on samples to review. I hope to be able to keep this post current, so if there’s something I’ve missed, definitely let me know.

Now get on with infecting the galaxy.

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Alien birthing pods by Dark Art Miniatures – a review

September 2, 2010

With my Predator miniatures review receiving a lot of positive feedback, I’m planning a comprehensive review of different miniatures that can be used to represent the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. I’m fairly certain that it will be awesome.

While I haven’t got all the miniatures that I need for the review, here’s another, related one: Alien birthing pods from Dark Art Miniatures.

The eggs in the Aliens movies are not only fairly disgusting, but very iconic as well. Ever since Alien we’ve known that once one of those babies opens, you’d better get moving or you’ll get hugged. What Aliens gamer wouldn’t want a few of these to provide that lovely feeling that something’s amiss?

Click for a larger version

I ran into the Alien birthing pods on Matakishi’s wonderful site, and immediately knew I had to buy them. Now, usually I don’t buy a lot of scenery unless I really have a use for them. Otherwise they just tend to collect dust and wait for me to A) get some gaming in and B) actually finish some scenery. Luckily I have a perfect use for these in (surprise, surprise!) my Space Hulk project, where the eggs will be used instead of the purple arrows provided with the game to denote the Alien entry points. Nifty! A pack of six eggs costs £5.00.

On to the models. There are six resin eggs in the pack, and they’re all sculpted by Klaus Teschner. Two of them are open, one is opening, two are closed and one is closed but ruptured and has a poor baby Facehugger hanging out through a hole in the side of the egg. All of the eggs are based on integral, irregular patches of ground with all kinds of nasty tentacle-like roots creeping around them.

The eggs are nicely detailed. While close examination shows some fairly crude sculpting (e.g. you can clearly see indentations left by sculpting tools), it doesn’t bother me as the overall effect is very nice. The models look organic, soft and icky. While words like this would often be condemning in a miniatures review, when you’re talking about Alien eggs, they’re high praise.

Size comparison with Heresy inspector and Horrorclix Alien

As the size comparison pic shows, these eggs are much bigger than the ones in the films. To those looking to build a perfect 1:1 Aliens-setup, this might be a detriment. I don’t mind. Just like above, the overall effect is what matters.

Casting quality is nice. There are some air bubbles, but not so many as to be annoying. There is a bit of flash along the edges of some of the bases, but they’ll take approximately 15 seconds to scrape off.

My only real point of criticism is about the packaging. The eggs were loose in a plastic bag inside a padded envelope. This had resulted in a few small chips as well as one bigger one that I had to superglue back together. With a quality product like this, it’s a shame that they’ll be at the mercy of gentle-handed post office personnel all over the world.

There are some very positive things I have to point out – always lovely to do in a review. The first is the speedy delivery. I made the purchase on August 25, and they were shipped on the same day, arriving here in Finland on August 30. Not bad, especially since there was a weekend in there too.

The second one is a broken freebie sample that was added. Now, this is simply a brilliant idea and a nice gesture. I guess all resin producers end up with loads of stuff unsuitable for selling. Resin is fairly brittle, and there are bound to be breakages as well as miscast pieces with air bubbles etc. Why throw them all away? DAM added a sample of  their Alien Wall terrain in the form of a battle damaged section piece. The “towers” at the ends of the wall section have both snapped, but other than that the wall is definitely usable, especially since it’s even specifically a battle damaged length of wall.

There’s certainly a use for things like this. Gamers who don’t necessarily need grade A stuff, scratchbuilders, frugal gamers and so on. Being a bit into recycling, I find the idea of giving away second hand (and grade) stuff for free very, very appealing. Major thumbs up to Dark Art Miniatures for this! The sample also serves its purpose as a commercial sample, as it really showed me the casting quality and the level of detail in the piece, and has made me consider ordering more.

So a tip from a loving blogger to resin model makers: sell your failed castings in cheap grab bags or add them as freebies. Much better than throwing them away. If you don’t want to sell them, you can even ship them to me, I’ll kindly take them off your hands.

Overall verdict: These eggs have their pros and cons. While the detailing could be sharper and they’re a bit big compared to the eggs in the Alien movies, they still manage to serve their purpose wonderfully. With a price of £0.83 (that’s 1 EUR at the time of writing) apiece, these are a quality purchase. I got a £4.50 wall section thrown in as a free extra, even if it was damaged. I’m sure to return to Dark Art Miniatures for both their quality product and their quality service. And in the future, for their quality packaging too, I hope.

The Alien birthing pods cost £5.00 for a pack of six, and are available in the Dark Art Miniatures webstore.

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Fountain of joy

July 18, 2010

Miniature gamers often have a way of their own of looking at the world. You know what I’m talking about. You’ll see a toy at a toy store, maybe some aquarium furnishings at a pet shop or some interesting gubbins at a hardware store, and start going “Hmm, that might be usable in gaming…” This usually means that you end up with loads and loads of random stuff rammed into boxes already full of other such stuff with great potential. However, every now and then you find a real gem, and that’s what happened to me at a local hardware store. They were having a sale for garden fountains, and different waterfall elements (as they’re apparently called) were sold for dirt cheap. I ended up with this:

Click for a larger version

It’s big (those are Colonial Marines on 25mm bases in the top right corner of the picture), durable (it’s about 5mm thick vinyl/plastic), textured and painted. What more can you ask for? Oh, the price? All of 10 EUR.  That’s 13 USD, or 8,50 GBP. Insane.

Buying such a cool piece of terrain inspired me to build a quick little diorama using my Colonial Marines and Aliens. It also shows off the terrain piece (lovingly christened The Hill) nicely. You can click on any photo for a larger view. Enjoy!

As night sets on LV-278, the Xenomorphs swarm the Colonial Marines

A Xenomorph lurks above the hapless Marines

Another Xenomorph's eye view

The motion tracker going wild, the Marines make their stand

I didn’t even remember building little scenes like this was so much fun. As a kid I used to read old 80s Citadel Journals, and they had these big dioramas, mainly showcasing miniatures. To a little kid’s imagination those pictures were something amazing, and doing this quick thing, I can see why. I should do this more often, I think.

I hope these provided some inspiration, at least to go raid your nearest few hardware stores!

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