Friday, July 6, 2007

Star Wars - The Shadows Hand

Originally written for, this article was something of a survey for me of toys and models available in game-useful scales (not always accurate, but good enough). At the time of its writing, many of the characters included in this article had not been addressed by Wizards. This is not so much the case now, but that matters not as the last releases from Wizards have SUCKED. I hope no one at swminiatures minds me reprinting my own stuff, but I doubt any one will care.

The Shadow’s Hand
Conversions and substitutions for “Shadows of the Coast,” an upcomming fan-made card set expantion for Wizard's of the Coast's Star Wars Collectable Miniatures Game. God, I hate Collectable stuff...

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of my custom card set, posted to under the rather colorless title, “Custom Cards.” Released 2 August 2005, this package was really one of those strange mutants never intended for mass production. But someone made a request in the forums that I thought my cards could fill, so now the mynock’s out of the bag. This initial, haphazard release will soon be followed by a second serving, and the whole mess will be repackaged for public consumption under the title, “Shadows of the Coast.” Some characters will be removed (having been replaced by Official material in Universe Huge), others updated (based on user feedback in the forum), and additional characters will be added to bring the count up to an even 60.

But all that comes later. Today, we’re going to take a look at how I chose to represent some of these characters on the table top, either by conversion or substitution, plus a few odds and ends I couldn’t resist throwing in – I haven’t made figures for every card, and some figs don’t have cards yet. Some of the pieces I discuss will be rather hard to come by, as they may have been out of production for over 20 years. Please, don’t let this discourage you. This is only how I solved this dilemma, and my suggestions here are no more official than the character stats I made up off the top of my head. That said, I’ve bent a bit of thought on these miniatures. Perhaps you’ll find my comments useful, and I certainly welcome constructive feedback.

But enough talk, lets get on with it!


Heavy ARC Trooper
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I’m going to start with the Heavy ARC, because I like him, and he’s one of my more involved conversions for Star Wars. This guy started life as the blue ROTS Clone Trooper, who then traded legs with the Separatist Commando before being issued the Big Gun. Inspired by the support gunners in The Clone Wars cartoon, I got the minigun from some HeroClix figure, Scullbasher or something like that. The muzzle flash came from a Jango Fett action figure, the shoulder pad was sculpted with green stuff, and he got various details scraped off of Jango’s mini before getting the blue paint job.

Jedi Fodder
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I based both of these out pretty quickly, which is fine, since Jedi Fodder is just a renamed Jedi Knight, anyway. The chap in brown is a Rebel Storm starter set Luke, with a brown ink wash and CS Kenobi’s head and lightsaber. The lady in red is a HeroClix Electra, with her staff replaced by lightsabers. She could really use a paint job, don’t you think?
You could crank out these suckers by the dozen if you had a mind to. Just about any miniature with a lightsaber looks like an alien Jedi, bonus points if they look like they are wearing a robe.

Jarjar Binks
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This was a simple conversion, based entirely on the Gungan Infantry model. I repositioned him using a combination of the boiling-water bend and the wedge-cut and bend. I like the flexability you get from boiling, but it doesn’t stay without some glue, and you get a greater range of motion if you just cut out a little wedge from the back side of the bend.

Sith Cult Priestess
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After taking Scullbasher’s minigun, she was still an interesting miniature. A quick leg swap with a Dark Side Acolyte, a quick black and purple ink wash, and the addition of two short lightsabers (I like Philippino stick fighting) had her turning to the Dark Side.

Sith Cultists
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You can’t have a cult Priestess without a cult full of followers! From the looks of these two, I’d say the local comic shop was running a sale on HeroClix Electras. These girls are in serious need of a repaint, but slapping lightsabers in their hand took about two minut – see, I just cranked out another while you were reading this! Its that fast.

Sith Cult Assassin
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What do you get when you take a Ninja, slap some alien’s face on him, and give him a lightsaber? Some punk who things he’s Darth Maul or something. This guy is probably going to be rendered obsolete by Universe Huge’s Sith Marauder, but maybe not. Always in motion is the future…

Starter Set Skywalkers
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While we’re talking about lightsabers, here’s a little something to do with the Vader and Luke from the Rebel Storm set. Vader mixes pieces from the RS Vader (not Lord of the Dance, the other one) while Luke found a helmet with the blast shield down. I don’t know how he’s going to fight, but he does have his blaster in the holster.
What can I say, I had about 20 of these guys.

General Kenobi
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I’m pretty fond of this guy. I was a huge fan of the Clone Wars cartoon, and the image of a Jedi in stormtrooper armor was just too cool. Its like, how wrong does the universe have to get for that to happen? Next thing you know, old Ben’s going to drop some punk with a blaster…
What we’ve got here is a Clone Grenadier with ROTS Kenobi’s head and the cloak from an Imperial Guard (don’t remember which set). The hands are from Kenobi, and the rest is green stuff.
No need for another Kenobi card – I just use this when I field General Kenobi.

Han and Luke in Stormtrooper Armor
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This one is also just for fun. No card or anything special, just a scenario-specific conversion. Really just a pair of head swaps. Han’s head came from the Epic Duels figure, so it’s a bit small.

Lord Tion
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I was always a big fan of the radio dramas, so Lord Tion was my first pick for a named Imperial Officer. Seen here with his hands glued behind his back and a trooper helmet for fun, the only real work was straightening his legs. You can still see the unpainted greenstuff filling the gaps on this miniature.

Captain Antilles, Rebel
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The commander of the Tantivi IV started life as one of his rebel troopers before I shaved off the cargo pockets and gave him arms from a Cloud City guard. After that, it was all in the paint job. These were all custom mixed colors left over from painting a batch of Rohirrim, so just do your best to color match from the film. As an afterthought, he could really use a Rebel-issue blaster.

Ponda Baba
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OK, sure, he’s going to be in Universe Huge… but will the official mini be short an arm? I think not!
He’s totally unpainted, so you can see there all the parts came from – Cloud City guard for the body, Aquellish spy for the head, and arms off a Gran. No big deal.

Nute Gunray
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Also to be replaced by Universe Huge, I really just include this guy for fun. The body came from some crazy D&D wizard type figure, with the head off a RS Duros. Obviously, the rest was greenstuff. This guy never really got finished, which is fine, since I only want him for one little scenario on Mustafar…

Aerial Clone Trooper Commander
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I did this guy up for a few reasons, but mostly because I can’t stand the “random and rare” packaging Wizards lives by, especially in a context where sets go out of print so fast. This guy is just a blue clone trooper on a flying base (itself converted using a GW transparent stand and a Wizards base) with a Stormtrooper blaster and bits from Jango Fett.

Mos Eisley Spy
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I don’t remember this guy’s species, but I’ll look it up when I make the card. He’s just some funky D&D miniature with a big nose. I cut off his dagger and gave him a blaster. Later, I should go back and add goggles with green stuff. But if I do that, I’ll have to paint him…

Twilek Body Guard
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After all the Sith Cultists, I had a lot of bits from Dark Side Acolytes laying about, so one of them inherited the head and arms from the Body Guard. Again, this is just for variation, and she really needs a paint job. Red isn’t her color.

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I love these guys, and here you can see a bit of evolution in the technique. The guy on the far left got his long gun, shoulder pad, and back pack from an old Action Fleet figure.
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After that, I had to get a bit more creative, so I turned to the old green stuff. The Officer with a white pad actually got another Action Fleet backpack, but aside from that all the packs, pads, and extra pouches are putty. It seems like that would be hard, but it really isn’t. The shoulder pad is just a triangle of putty, pressed into place against the neck and curved into shape, then lines with the tip of the knife. The backpack is just a box, with smaller boxes pressed into is. No big deal.
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Oh, and before anyone says anything, I know the official cannon says officers wear orange and grunts get black. Well, not in THIS man’s army!

Model and Toy Substitution
That about wraps it up for conversions for now; maybe we’ll take a look at some more later. Next
up, figure substitution. There are a number of alternate sources for miniatures, some easier to come by than others. I’ve been collecting Star Wars miniatures for over 20 years (I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at age 6, but hay – they were 25mm, and I still have ‘em!)

Model kits are an excellent resource. I still have bits an pieces left over from an old Jaba’s Pallace diorama kit, and just the other day I found an old model for Mos Eisley Cantina. Perhaps we’ll take a look at some of them for the second portion of Shadows of the Coast. These kits, while great, are ancient, and very hard to come by. However, several vehicle kits have recently been re-released. Most of them are way off scale for war gaming, but the one most interesting to gamers is the AT-ST, and it is spot on. Lets do the old Pepsi Challenge:
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While the model shown above is unpainted, you can quickly see that it is in the “right” scale. Is it a perfect fit? Who cares, I don’t know how tall a “real” AT-ST is anyway. But it looks right. In fact, I think I like it just a tad better than the Universe Huge piece.

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The legs look a bit too long on that chicken walker, but it
might just be the picture. We’ll have to put them side by side after
Huge comes out to see for sure, but
either way, we’re talking about a $15 alternative to an Ultra Rare. It may not be tournament legal, but if you too have visions of an Imperial Light Armored company, these kits are the bee’s knees.

Action Fleet

The “next best” alternative source for models is the Galoob Action Fleet line from the 90’s. Some of these get reissued from time to time, and they are still pretty common from dealers, eBay, and such. Let’s take a look, shall we?
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These speeders provide a pretty good example. While the game doesn’t really have mechanics for “vehicles” just yet, they do make nice set pieces, and are nicely scaled, as Luke has demonstrated. They haven’t really been in demand since the XP-38 came out, but they should be enough.
Tusken Raider on Bantha
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Another Action Fleet piece, this Bantha is just right for wargaming, even if he is a little small and feels like a My Little Pony. Again, he’ll be replaced in Huge, but I’ve already got two of these, so they may continue to serve. The Tusken to its left shows the scale, and it is a bit small – this is the general trend of the Action Fleet stuff – nice, and close enough, but not really the same scale at all. But close enough for hand grenades.

Sandtrooper on Dewback
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This is probably one of the closest matches from the whole Action Fleet line. While the trooper is a bit small, the lizard is spot on – the difference between the two just look like male and female specimens to me. What small scale problem does exist is easily rectified by placing a Wizards stormtrooper on the Action Fleet Dewback – something I’ve seen done, but not something I’ve taken the time to do myself. But I’ve got two or three of these things, so I’ll probably give it a try.

Droids – Fringe
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I’m not sure if they considered it Action Fleet or just MicroMachines, but Galoob put out a collection of druids at some point. These things were all over the map in terms of scale – R5 is way too big, 2-1B is too small, but there they are. R2 is in front for comparison. Close enough in my book. Probably the worst of the batch is the Mouse druid, which actually came with an action figure accessory kit. Then again, if he was the right size, I’d probably just loose it.

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For a time, MicroMachine released several packs of nameless grunt troops. Roughly 15mm to 20mm in scale, these things are useless for mixing with Wizards 28/30mm scale models. But Jawas are so little, who’s going to say anything? Or maybe I just think they are cute.

Droids – Imperial
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The interrogation droid came from the same pack as the Fringe droids above. All he really needs is a flying base. The probe droid came with an Action Fleet Death Star playset, is set atop a flying base using the clear stick from GW, and in my opinion looks better than the one Wizards put out. At least mine is floating.

Swoop Ganger
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As you can tell from the Stormtrooper beside him, this guy has the same slightly-small scale problem as most of the other Action Fleet stuff. But he’s removable, comes with a flying base, and I didn’t have to convert anything. What’s not to like? They did Rebel and Imperial speeder bikes like this, too.

The Action Fleet line had a lot to offer the wargammer, and I’m sorry they’ve let it fall short. The playsets would make excellent terrain – if I could bring myself to mark them with a grid. Several of the vehicles are also useful as set pieces, but any discussion of substitution leads inexorable to a debate on scale. My .02 credits on this matter is, if it looks right it plays, if it looks wrong it stays… in the box. Sorry, the rhyme fell short.

What I’m really saying is that “close enough” is close enough, and if you get uptight about, “Well, this guy is heroic 28mm, and that vehicle is 25mm, and this squad is 30mm, and it all looks wrong!” then you are simply going to have to play without several elements and items you love from Star Wars. No one has ever done what I’d call a “good job” on this title – every single line has been dropped right when it was getting good, and they are all in slightly different scales. At this point, I must have more than 20 Hans, in ever scale from 15mm to 54mm. But to put together, say, a full Company of Stormtroopers? Oh, gee, the manufacturer never thought of that. I don’t mean to go off on a rant here, but if you want all the variety the galaxy far, far away has to offer, you are going to have to not take scale too seriously.

That said, there are some things that just look wrong. Like flying cow wrong. But rather than describe where I’ve drawn the line for myself (just as you will have to draw your own) the pictures below should give you an idea of what I mean:
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This shuttle is pretty good. Ya, it’s a bit small, but how much board space do you want to give to something that doesn’t move, shoot, or do anything? Like I said, its close enough, and while it is obviously too small, it doesn’t make me cringe.

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The Falcon, on the other hand, is just way too small. I mean, its shorter than a Stormtrooper. This is what I mean by cringe-inducing. It would work fine with 15mm miniatures, but not with 30mm. Thing is, this was heart breaking to me -- I'd searched the world for years for that version of the Melinium Falcon. You are looking at the finest toy of Han Solo's ship ever made, and yet it may find little place on my table. At least not in 28mm.

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This X-Wing is spot-on. Too bad the landing gear broke off. To my eye, it looks as close to perfect as I’m going to get any time soon. It is in “true” 25mm, so it is a tad small for 28mm, but it is so close. Crazy thing is, its from the same line as the Mellinium Falcon, and I've been able to aquire, destroy, and replace this toy three times (I was a really rough kid...)

What was that? It doesn’t look like Action Fleet, you say? Simple enough answer…

The Kenner Micro Collection
I love this stuff. Released in the early 1980s, this series centered on play sets – the Death Star, Hoth, and Cloud City were the initial offerings. Vehicles were another major component, including the Falcon, X-Wing, TIE, Snow Speeder, and maybe a few others. As for the figures, they were prepainted 28mm (aprox) tin cast miniatures, with an emphasis on grunt troops. What more could a 7 year old want? Everything was nicely scaled to everything else in the series (unlike the action figures…) and everything blew up. The X-Wing above broke in two places along the fuselage, the TIE fighter’s wings came off and broke in half, gun turrets would pop off and come apart, windows would break, and much fun was had by all.

Until they killed off the series. You see, they didn’t market these to gamers at all. In fact, they didn’t really market them to anybody, and sales were never very good. The line was canceled just before the release of a big bucket of grunt troops. I was not pleased.

Since then, I’ve kept most of what I had as a child, and have slowly acquired more. There was a time when I used them to supplement my old West End 25mm RPG miniatures, but no longer – West End’s figures may have been the first wargaming miniatures I ever bought knowing they were for wargaming, but that didn’t make them very good miniatures. And most of what they put out has also been released by Wizards, I don’t really use them anymore. But the Micro Collection has a few things all its own. In fact, my desire to use some of these pieces on the table was my original motivation to make custom cards in the first place. . If you want to see more, check out this site:

Snowtrooper with eWeb Heavy Blaster
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This is my gun. My very big gun. There are many like it, but this one is mine. That is his original factory paint job, too. It may be chipped, but its not too bad for something that’s been in the collection for 20+ years.
eWeb Heavy Blaster, Fringe
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You can’t really let something like the eWeb be an Imperial Exclusive, so I knocked up this little bugger. Its just a lascannon from an ancient 40K Land Raider stuck to an old GI Joe tripod. Simplicity itself. And fun against light-armored troops. The open tripod makes it very easy to fit this over the base of most Wizards miniatures.

So, what else does the Micro Collection have to offer? How about Tauntauns?

Han and Luke on Tauntauns
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Sure, UH may have Luke, but why no love for the Corellian? Even with the release of Huge, I’ll probably still use these figures. What can I say, the whole reason I like wargaming is I never wanted to stop playing with my old toys.

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OK, so he looks a little confused on the Death Star. And his paint is showing its age. And his pose is lame. OK, you’re right, it’s a pretty gimpy miniature. But until I pull a random and rare wampa, he’s what I’ve got.

The real strength of the Micro Collection was the play sets (which I may discuss in a future article, or maybe not) and the troops, but Wizards has base troops pretty well covered. That said, I’ve got about 20+ old metal Stormtroopers. In a large enough battle, these grizzled old veterans will see action again. If nothing else, they add a half dozen additional poses to two armies (Hoth Rebels and Snowtroopers) that would look pretty bland if you only used official stuff.

At any rate, that’s our show for today. I hope you found my suggestions useful and my ramblings tolerable. We may revisit this topic again are new material becomes available, and I encourage others to share their own custom or vintage miniatures. Please remember these are only my suggestions and opinions, and probably don’t reflect the opinions of anybody. Have fun.

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1 comment:

Carlos said...

Is the terrain made of paper?
where does that space ship terrain come from?