Monthly Archives: December 2017

2017 Retrospective: Top 10 Personal Best

2017 has been a good year for my building. Looking back in this blog’s archives at some of my creations from the beginning of the year in preparation for this post, I’ve been amazed at how far my building technique has come in only a year. My photography seems to be improving as well, with the use of card backgrounds, less blurriness and a slightly more professional touch. I still use the same 7-year-old digital camera (which might need an upgrade as it has about the same pixel resolution as my mobile phone) and I could do with a better approach to lighting, but my earlier pre-background build photos look very strange to me now.

Anywho, I thought it would be fun to do a sort of retrospective as my final post of the year, picking out my personal favourites among my builds of 2017.

The usual disclaimers apply. This is my personal list of favourites, and I’m using a fairly idiosyncratic set of choice criteria. These are not necessarily those builds that are technically most innovative or most complex. I’m sure I’ll miss some builds that other people remember with fondness; I did have a hard time restricting the list to just 10.

My other difficulty was ranking them. Some of the relative ranking of these builds is completely arbitrary, and there are several models in joint eleventh and twelfth place that could easily have made the list and didn’t; among these are the Beagle space rover, the steampunk SHIP Dark Pegasus and the Blacktron A’Tuin-class dropship. Other Honourable Mentions: the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX and the Starfleet Voyager 2.0.

On the list are two dragons, two other creatures, four spaceships and two mechs, which is a fair summary of my building style right there.

Ready? Here we go…

10: Buck Rogers Thunderfighter (August)

You might have to be an AFOL to fully appreciate the nostalgia value of this, but I’m still quite proud of my work on this. Incorporating minor Technic functionality (something I stink at), this LEGO version of the iconic fighter from the early 1980s’ Buck Rogers in the 25th Century represents one of only a handful of times I tried to produce a LEGO model of a spaceship someone else designed.

Among a selection of models that did or could have won a place in this list, the Thunderfighter’s Technic functionality shut out the A’Tuin-class Blacktron dropship with its complex hexagonal construction to come in at number 10.

9: Blacktron Thunderbolt (September)

 

While neither of my two SHIPs made the Top 10 list, two of my sub-SHIP large space vessels did. Both my first SHIP Liberator and to a lesser extent Dark Pegasus suffered from being overextended and a little contrived in order to meet the 100-stud base requirement of SHIPhood. When I forget about the 100-stud limit and just concentrate on having fun building a large model I seem to end up with a better class of product.

The Thunderbolt was more primitive in technique than my other large spaceship on this list, but I do like the way it looks. And that humungous dinosaur-killer railgun on the front seems perfectly suited to the Blacktron.

8: Elemental Dragon of Classic Space (January)

I was actually amazed to discover that it was this year that I built this thing, as it seems like it was ages and ages ago. Nonetheless, there it is in the January 2017 Archives, and it just had to make the list.

I had unreasonable amounts of fun with building this, combining as it does two of my favourite things to build: dragons and Neoclassic Space. I still love the whole concept of a Classic Space dragon, and it might be fun to reprise the idea with the more advanced building techniques I use these days almost a year later. It’s the unremarkable technique on this, in fact, that means it’s stuck at no. 8, though I considered it my best model for a considerable part of the year and it’s still one of my lifetime favourites.

7: Centaur (December)

Pulling out all the stops in built-figure modeling, my recent centaur edges out the Classic Space elemental dragon by virtue of superior technique and the way it’s proportioned. Centaurs are challenging no matter how you build them, and I flatter myself that this might be one of the better ones at this scale. It even has a suggestion of abs.

6: LEGOtiel (October)

Easily winning the “Longest I’ve kept a model in existence before breaking it up for parts” award, my LEGO cockatiel lasted almost a full two months on the current-model display shelves. Cockatiels aren’t a common subject matter for building, if the all-seeing Eye of SauronGoogle is to be believed, and I was pleased with how this turned out, even if it was a little more fragile and a little less poseable than I’d really have liked. Completely different to my usual run of overgunned Blacktron cruisers and ferocious mythical creatures, but a lot of fun to build. Our real-life cockatiel was a bit freaked out by it, though.

5: Spacewhale (August)

Highest-placing large (50+ stud length) ship on the list, the Spacewhale is a mere 24 inches long: practically a minnow next to the 37 3/4 inches of a 100-stud official SHIP. It’s by far my most complex and advanced sub-SHIP, though, with proper internal framing, a pleasing shape, a unifying colour scheme and lots of interesting details.

And it marked my first ever construction shots and multiple-day build, something I still find difficult to do.

4: The Ninja and the Dragon (April)

April’s The Ninja and the Dragon was one of the first times I paid almost as much attention to building the scenery as I did to building the model itself. Along with the fact that this has an upright-posed Eastern-style dragon (both less common than the alternatives), I think it’s the subtleties that really make this build. There’s a story there, and for once I’m not going ahead and telling it; the model works all the better for the lack of having its meaning tied down.

One of my first explorations of LEGO-as-art as well as LEGO-as-a-hobby, this comes in at number 4.

3: Repainting the House Divided (November)

Part of the attraction of Classic Space, apart from the nostalgia of it, is its innocence and everyone-getting-along spirit, and I tried hard to capture that in this build. Definitely the build on this list with the most overt “message”, it still works as a model because the message is subordinate to the build, which works on its own terms.

I still find the idea of a Blacktron and a Classic Space astronaut falling in love charming, and the way they are getting ready to repaint their own section of the corridor in each other’s colours adds a nice layer of subtle message to the build.

It’s also my highest-placed scenery build and the only model on this list that doesn’t involve some kind of vehicle or creature (Minifigures don’t count).

2: Mechnotaur (May)

“What? Nothing steampunk made the list?” I hear you cry.

Well, at number 2 we have my birth month’s steampunk mecha-Minotaur, without which the list would definitely be missing something. If I’d built a better Theseus battlesuit to go along with it this might have made number 1, but the unfortunately leggy and slightly messy Theseus suit dragged this down. That and the fact that the balljoints in its legs wouldn’t support the weight of the body to allow me to pose the Mechnotaur fully.

I still love the concept behind this, and as far as story potential goes it’s the Mechnotaur that takes the number one spot. It’s a minotaur. It’s a mech. And it’s steampunk. What more could you want?

1: Q-Mech (November)

Number 1 is last month’s Q-Mech, from my self-invented Classic Space universe rescue service Q-Tron. Advanced techniques in the cockpit shield attachment, enough greebling to look functional without being overwhelming, an original concept… This model has almost everything in it that I like. And it’s space. And it’s a mech.

Given the amount of people that have pinned this since I shared it on Pinterest, other people seem to favour it as well. Mind you, they also like the Isstrebitel’-1 and my model of the Vostok space capsule, and those are considerably further down my personal list.

The Q-Mech has since been broken up for parts, of course, but it’s still my favourite of my builds of 2017, and probably of all time (so far).

My next build, however, will hopefully eclipse the Q-Mech and really show what I can do. The answer to “what’s your best build?” is nearly always “the next one”, after all.

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And that’s the full list. I’ve provided links to the original posts (the titles) so you can trip with me down Memory Lane.

It’s been a good year for building, and a whole new year of possibilities is just around the corner. Who knows what I’ll be looking back on this time next year?

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Magnetic Repulsion?

M-Tron Magno-Crawler

This tiny crawler is my first ever M-Tron creation.

Microscale by virtue of necessity as I possess no M-Tron astronauts and precious few trans neon green elements, it represents my first foray into the 1991-1993 theme with its extensive use of magnets and its predominantly red colour scheme.

M-Tron replaced Futuron as the primary civilian faction, bridging the gap between the first and second generations of the Blacktron and Space Police. If their crawlers and vehicles were anything to go by, they were a space-mining or transportation theme, and as such, are possibly an interestingly Classic Space-like precursor of the terrible Rock Raiders theme.

I know the Rock Raider theme had its afficionadoes, but it’s been probably my least-favourite Space theme of them all for some time now, due to its ugly brown colour scheme and fantasy-like trolls – I mean rock monsters – and for the fact that space mining as a theme concept is a really good one with great potential, but Rock Raiders is so heavy on the mining that it seems to have forgotten it’s supposed to be in space.

M-Tron was never a theme I got particularly into. I was entering fully into my circumstantially-enforced LEGO Dark Ages at the time, and still mourning the end of my beloved Classic Space theme and its Futuron successors. The weird spaceship with the revolving antennas like it was some sort of darned nonsensical vacuum helicopter was one of theirs, and I still felt that red was an unnatural colour for a spaceship, so thoroughly was I marinated in Classic Space.

Having reapproached the theme as an adult and realised that they’re the miners, I’m finding myself starting to like it in a way I never really found myself able to like Rock Raiders.

The difference is that before, I was always trying to crowbar the Rock Raiders into the Classic Space/Futuron/Blacktron/Ice Planet/Spyrius shared universe and getting frustrated at how badly they fail to fit. Their technology doesn’t look right, they have a single team of named characters, they don’t wear enclosing vacuum-capable helmets and air tanks, and their vehicles are depressingly earth-tone and dystopian.

But if the M-Trons are the Classic Space universe’s space miners, then I don’t need to make the Rock Raiders fit. They can do their own thing off in their own alternate universe and leave my brightly-coloured, shiny Classic universe and its Federation alone.

I think part of my blind spot to the M-Tron folks’ existence was that I’d mentally misplaced them in the sequence of early Space factions, thinking of them as the successors of the Ice Planet theme, not their predecessors. That, together with my youthful misliking of the theme’s red colour and what-the-frak? reaction to its stupid pseudo-helicopter (someone obviously wasn’t thinking about the implications of Space when they designed this absurdity. It’s vacuum. A helicopter’s not going to work, and something that looks like a helicopter is just going to make me think you are being stupid with my beloved Space stuff. Seriously, get it right, people) were enough to push a sort of mental “erase” button and wipe it from my list of proper classic Space themes. But if we ignore the stupid space helicopter and compare them to Rock Raiders, suddenly they look pretty good. Pretty darned good, in fact. I might build more of these.

This microvehicle is a large transport crawler of some form, with a crane mounted on the back for loading and unloading. This being an M-Tron creation, the crane is presumably magnetic.

I believe this is the first time I’ve ever used the control stick as a crane, but it looks perfect, and far more M-Tronian than a gun turret.

Unusually for me, this creation definitely has a display side and a back side, as I was only able to make the middle wheels work on one of the two sides.

It’s nothing super-special, but I’m rather pleased with it as a first tentative foray into M-Tron space. When I first considered an M-Tron creation just to round out the classic Space themes that were all definitely set in the same universe (along with the Space Police, and I still haven’t built one of theirs) I wasn’t sure I could pull it off given the paucity of my neon green windscreen elements and my unfamiliarity with the theme, but then the cheese wedge slopes from the Robo Explorer set caught my eye and I realised that a microscale was actually within my capabilities. So of course, I had to build an M-Tron micro.

M-Tron Magno-Crawler

Ice Vigilator

Having built a Classic Space Turtle robot, some Blacktron hardware and a Futuron turtle variant, obviously I needed to build something Ice Planet to round out the set of early Space themes. (And maybe something M:Tron, but I’m only just beginning to develop the glimmerings of an interest in that theme and don’t have any figures or logos or trans neon green parts).

An Ice Vigilator mech picks up a crystal

An Ice Planet mech seemed like a good idea, and I have enough in the way of trans neon orange to give several design options.

I went with a four-legged, pleasingly War of the Worlds-esque design using the old-style helicopter windscreen element from the Ice-Sat V. The cockpit section rotates allowing the mech to be walked in any direction, and the multi-jointed legs allow some interesting posing options, though less than you might think because I had to use clickstop hinges for most of them for the sake of stability and weight issues.

The mech doesn’t have a lot of prominent weaponry apart from that big claw. I’m really satisfied with my decision to remodel the cockpit and replace the twin arms on its sides with a single claw arm underneath. The result is so much more Martian Fighting Machine-like and just seems to work better.

The short antennas on either side of the cockpit would probably work as last-ditch weapons, but I’ve decided that they’re actually “thermal lances”: short-range heat blasters for melting a path through the Krystovian ice.

The giant neon orange spindle is supposed to be some sort of crystal deposit. The original Ice Planet people appear to have been doing some kind of rocketry research, based on their proliferation of rocket launchers and satellites, but they also had a number of mining and ice-cutting vehicles, so probably the rocket research was only part of what they were doing.

I’m calling my new Ice Planet mech the “Ice Vigilator”, a slightly meaningless name mostly stemming from the tall, looming aspect of it that made me think it would be a good guardian or sentinel-type vehicle.

The pilot isn’t Generic Ice Planet Guy, who’s my only official Ice Planet minifigure thus far. I’m using the minifigure head with the red goatee (which I’m rather attached to as he looks a bit like me), as perhaps a son or scion of the original “Ice Babe” minifigure. Maybe in any post-Christmas Bricklinking I do I might see if I can acquire the other Ice Planet minifigures, or at least a Commander Bear…

Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas from this corner of the universe!

Our household didn’t have a massively LEGO Christmas this year, but we acquired several new sets including a number of element types we didn’t have before.  I’m looking forward to the MOCmaking possibilities!

The Master Falls and Darth Vader Transformation sets were mine, and our first LEGO game (Minotaurus) and CCBS figure (Baze Malbus) were acquired by my son, also a second-round Nexo Knights set, one of the small Classic boxes and the Ninjago City Chase set.

Some of the pre-Christmas MOCs will return to this blog tomorrow or the 28th, and I may even review one or more of my sets from a MOCmaker’s perspective.

A belated Merry Christmas, friends, and a Happy New Year!

A Plague of Locust

Blacktron BT221 Locust

It is, however, quite a large locust, and Blacktron to boot, so it should not be taken lightly.

Given the potential body stresses of a hopping form of locomotion on the pilot, a locust might seem a poor choice of creature on which to model a mech, but on low-gravity worlds like Titan and the Jovian moons, hopping is probably the most efficient means of motion there is. With the low gravity producing much lower stress on both pilot and vehicle, the Locust proceeds in what are effectively a series of low glides, mostly using the legs for altitude maintenance.

The BT221 Locust, then, fills the role of the BT086 Alienator on planets whose gravity is low enough to make a walking gait impractical. Armed with three small plasma pulse cannons and two lasers attached to the forward pilot’s position, the Locust is one of the least armed vehicles in the Blacktron arsenal, but makes an effective single-pilot scout/reconnaissance vehicle.

Obviously I’m in arthropod mode for my space builds, what with the Black Widow antiturtle and the Futuron Scarab, but arthropods make excellent base creatures to model mechs and space vehicles after. I’ve got an idea for a mech based on a pillbug design that can roll up into a ball for atmospheric re-entry drops, but I have no clue yet how I’m going to build it in LEGO.

M600 Scarab

Futuron being the acknowledged successors of the Classic Space Federation, it’s entirely possible they’re still using Peter Reid’s robot turtles.

But it’s equally possible they aren’t.

M600 Scarab unit

Inspired by my Blacktron antiTurtle, the K19 Black Widow, I experimented with other variations on the basic circular-handle-and-3×3-dish theme and came up with this beetle-like robot design in Futuron colours.

I’m calling them Scarabs, which seems to fit with both the white-colours-and-light nature of the Futuron and with the bladelike front claws. Ancient Egyptian mythology is weird enough that they have a dung beetle pushing the sun across the sky (when it isn’t sailing in a boat or flying as a falcon or 89 other mutually-conflicting ideas).

Alas, I only have one white 3×3 dome and four white robotic finger elements, so the second one is an unpainted factory model, but I did manage more than one. Isn’t it strange when it’s a lack of some tiny element in a particular colour that stymies your building?

Counteracting the Weaponised Turtle

Even before the inclusion of a version in the LEGO Ideas 21109 Exo-Suit set, Peter Reid’s Neoclassic Space M350/M450 Turtle droid was well-known in the LEGO community.

It has the advantages of being a very cute robot in and of itself, and of being a very versatile design able to tote all manner of equipment on its carapace hardpoint. And LEGO builders being LEGO builders, naturally “all manner of equipment” turned inevitably to weapons.

The proliferation of heavily weaponised Turtles leaves the poor Blacktron Alliance at something of a disadvantage. The Turtle arms race cannot be allowed to continue unchecked without any countervailing Blacktron droid of equivalent capability.

Building a Blacktron-variant Turtle would perhaps be the obvious solution, but that just continues the Turtle arms race with a darker twist. Biologically speaking, when one type of creature exhibits a population explosion it destabilises the environment for all the other kinds of creature. We don’t need any more Turtle droids in the Neoclassic Space environment.

I’ve seen one Blacktron builder attempt to stem the flood of heavily weaponised Turtles with a very cool scorpionoid “Rectifier” droid, but whenever possible I like to create rather than copying. Besides, I wasn’t satisfied with the weaponry size limitation that underslung hardpoint location incorporated. When you’re going up against Turtles with monstrous weapons systems like these, the fact that you have a tail gun as well is not going to cut it. You need the capacity to mount equally heavy Blacktron weapons systems on your robot’s shell.

Enter the K19 Widow.

A K19 Widow armed with missile pods faces off against an M350 Turtle armed with a heavy laser cannon

A product of the Blacktron Alliance’s DarkTech Industries corporation, the K19 was designed as a deliberate counter to the Federation’s M350 Turtle built by Anodyne Systems (and its M450 Mark II upgrade). Thought by some Federation analysts (especially among those on the Anodyne payroll) to be based on a pirated copy of an M350, the K19 Widow incorporates a number of significant differences from its Federation rival, only really similar in the roughly hemispherical shell shape and top-of-carapace hardpoint.

Take that, proliferating robot!

Most notably, the Widow opts for a hexapedal configuration giving increased stability and climbing agility over the Federation’s M350, though at the penalty of a minor loss of efficiency over long-distance operation.

K19s’ Artificial Intelligence architecture also shows some marked differences over the M350. Turtles are designed for heavy service as a sort of robotic pack mule, and tend to have stolid, hardwearing personalities and a tendency towards just quietly getting on with their job. They tend to be male in personality, though not exclusively so. Widows are a more combat-oriented design and tend to be more expressive. Their basic AI archetypal substrate is female (as befitting their “Widow” name) and they range in personality from highly-strung prima donnas to determined femmes fatale via the sultry and the irascible.

Like the Anodyne Turtle droid, the DarkTech K19 has a roof-mounted hardpoint capable of engaging with a wide variety of weapons systems and other equipment. The base model comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons, but DarkTech Industries offers a full range of upgrade packages, a sampling of which is detailed below.

Base Model The base K19 Widow comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons. Versatile and cost-effective, they are useful for antipersonnel and limited antispacecraft use, though their armour-piercing capacity is limited. This is the cheapest price-point package in the DTi catalogue.

Directed EMP This options package includes a pair of directed electromagnetic pulse units. Effective at scrambling electronic equipment, DTi make use of the very latest in frequency enhancement techniques for their dEMPer units, in order to defeat Federation shielding.

Missile Pods A very popular upgrade package, missile pods give the Widow a non-line-of-sight strike capability which can be particularly useful against Federation frontal armour. Standard DTi missile pods contain five cells and are compatible with all standard Blacktron Alliance light tactical missiles.

Tactical Laser The K19 Widow TL variant incorporates a twin-barreled medium-charge laser cannon, such as can be found on smaller Blacktron surface vehicles such as skimmers and rovers. With light-speed line-of-sight firing and good armour penetration, lasers such as this are a good all-round weapon system.

Radar-Guided Coilgun Firing a nickel-iron-bound titanium penetrator round at hypervelocity speeds, the radar-guided coilgun can operate in both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight modes. One of the most basic types of larger weapon, it retains its utility even on the modern energy-weapon battlefield.

Mobile Recovery The Mobile Recovery variant of the K19 Widow eschews weapons systems for a crane attachment suitable for effecting the recovery of downed small spacecraft and crashed rovers. Less common than armed variants due to most Widows’ dissatisfaction at losing their precious guns, Widow-MRs are usually prized by Blacktron expeditionary forces and colonial administrations.

Spinneret Designed specifically for the K19, the device nicknamed the “spinneret” is a portable tractor-pressor stasis field generator which can pin enemy vehicles and personnel in place, act as a tractor beam or a pressor beam. Its utility as a combat device belies the fact that it was invented as a rescue aid for stranded personnel.

Quad-Barreled Plasma Cannon Useful primarily for area attacks on slower-moving targets, the quad-barreled plasma cannon was originally one of the heaviest weapons option packages available, but now constitutes a medium weapons system. Of limited antispacecraft utility, it is normally employed in frontal-assault mode.

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Now I just need to build some kind of ludicrously massive Blacktron singularity gun or other insane weapon system, to counter some of the more extreme weaponised Turtles…