Category Archives: Creatures

Old Man Willow

If January is anything to go by, this year seems to be the year in which I develop my weakest building areas.

I’ve built a couple of minifig-scale building interiors, and I consider that an area of weakness. Last week at the Grand Opening of the Rogue Brick building lounge I built a piece of architecture for the adults competition, and I’ve historically considered that a relatively weak area even though previous architectural microbuilds have been well-received. (I didn’t win, even though I may have invented a new technique to make the columns around the dome. Oh well).

And now, trees.

Old Man Willow

I’ve been getting more confident at trees, but I still don’t feel like I’m really good at it. But I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings the other day for the umpteenth time and I had an idea that I should attempt an Old Man Willow build.

Old Man Willow is, obviously, part of the Tom Bombadil sequence; one of the first challenges the hobbits face on their journey to Rivendell, and one they face with the aid of neither Gandalf nor Strider. A black-hearted tree spirit dwelling on the banks of the Withywindle and holding large swaths of the Old Forest under his grim sway, he proves a greater challenge than the hobbits’ meager strength, and they have to be rescued from his clutches by the mysterious and fan-beloved Tom Bombadil.

As the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring completely skipped over the whole of the Tom Bombadil sequence, I’m free to do pretty much whatever I like without fear of anyone complaining that it doesn’t look like it did in the movie.

When done well, film adaptations of well-loved books are great. You finally get the excitement of seeing what before could only exist in your mind’s eye.

But even the best film adaptations conform to someone else’s vision, and I have to say I think we often tend to forget that.

I personally think the film got the look and feel of Rivendell wrong, but such is the power of visual media that if I were to build my imagination’s Rivendell I’d undoubtedly get comments about it being “inaccurate”.

Maybe I’m not trying to build Peter Jackson’s version of the Last Homely House, nitwit! Did you think of that, eh?

Anyway, I don’t have to be concerned with that in an Old Man Willow build, because none of that whole sequence made it into the films. Though if I’d tried to include any of the hobbits I’d undoubtedly get told off for getting them “wrong”. Don’t have any official LotR minifigs yet.

I borrowed the pendulous willow branch technique from this build by Cyndi Bourne, who has a lot more leaf elements than I do and can really do it justice. Yet another thing to add to the endless Bricklink wishlist…

Still, I have enough to at least give a decent impression of the look of a willow tree.

I would have liked to make more of a face in the trunk, but that made the trunk so tall that you lost the effect of overhanging branches. Thus, a pair of eyes only.

I initially went for green eyes as most appropriate to a vegetative spirit, but they didn’t look quite right t so I swapped them out for orange, which is subtler but looks much better.

And then I had to try and make Tom Bombadil.

“Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow”, we’re told, but while we can do a bright blue jacket courtesy of either Jay or my Classic blue astronaut or my son’s Minecraft Steve, yellow boots are beyond my current inventory’s capability.

Anyway, there it is. I think my first Lord of the Rings-related build, and it’s a tree.

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How To Train Your LEGO

As either the last build of 2017 or the first of 2018 (built in one year but posted in the other) I decided to have a go at another dragon.

And a specific dragon, for a change: the winged reptile that makes jet-black look cute – Toothless the Night Fury, from the How To Train Your Dragon films.

Toothless soaring over Berk, my version

Toothless’ wide, flat head and big green eyes are pretty distinctive, and I’ve done what I can to reproduce them at something close to minifigure scale. Close enough that I decided to incorporate a saddle and make a minifigure Hiccup using young Luke Skywalker’s head with real-Kai’s hair.

Then, remembering the lessons learned in last year’s Ninja and Dragon build and struck with an idea of how to make a halfway decent tiled roof for a Berk townhouse, I decided to go to town on the scenery.

The little hut I built is really too small to be an actual house and too open in front to be much of anything, but it does its job of making an interesting scenery counterpoint to my aerial Toothless, complete with a Viking maiden with an axe and a shield, possibly Astrid. If I had more 1×2 curve slopes I’d have made the roof slope longer and at a steeper angle like the houses in Hiccup’s village, but nevertheless I’m quite pleased with the technique.

Berk townhouse

Toothless is fully poseable, except that the wings don’t fold up. But the only fully-foldable LEGO dragon wings of my direct experience are on the Green NRG Dragon, and green-and-gold just wouldn’t be right on Toothless. Besides, they are too big for a model at this scale.

I think my favourite part of the dragon bit of this build is the way I did Toothless’ large-pupilled eyes, but I do wish I could have figured out a way to give him an opening jaw that looked remotely right. I tried a couple of things but nothing was working; Toothless’ thin lower jaw is very hard to get right at this scale. In the end I decided to make him Mouthless. He does spend an awfully huge amount of time with his mouth closed.

A bright red 2×4 wing element would have looked better as Toothless’ missing tail fin, but I only have 2x3s in bright red and they looked wrong, so we have dark red. It’s the only piece of significant wrong colour, though, so I’m happy. I only wish they made 1×2 balljoint holders in black.

Top-down view

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.

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.

~~~

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…

O the Rising of the Sun…

…And the running of the… Centaur?!?

Official LEGO doesn’t give you a centaur body element. It’d be one of my foremost “element wish list” pieces, actually, but aside from a couple of third-party custom mouldings (by BrickArms, I think) there isn’t one yet.

There are a few ways to build a minifig-scale centaur, ranging from the simple to the ornate, and two of my kids just built their own. My 6-year-old son had a go at Chiron from the Percy Jackson series (he’s seen the films but I’ve yet to read him the books), and my 10-year-old daughter put together Firenze from the Harry Potter universe.

I got inspired to make my own, but I didn’t want to muscle in on their minifig-scale building with my AFOL skills. It’d feel like showing them up, and I try not to intimidate them out of building with LEGO. But you don’t see that many larger centaur builds.

Ok, now the centaur’s running

If I built CCBS, my first instinct for a custom build would be to try for a centaur, but CCBS is a separate universe as far as I’m concerned. I never caught any of the reputedly impressive Bionicle storyline to get into it that way, and the endless variations on the human figure always struck me as a little yawnsome, hence if I did build CCBS I’d want to try for something a little out-of-the-box.  The Star Wars buildable figures are a little more accessible, but mostly I just don’t groove that much to that scale of figure.

The other option for building a large figure is bricks, of course. This is my building comfort zone; no Technic differential wormgears or mysterious buildable figure innards, actual brick elements. Still, could I really pull off a centaur?

I thought so.

I had an idea of how to do the legs, and that worked out quite well so I progressed to the horse body. A horse body’s not that difficult when all’s said and done, but I wasn’t initially sure how to best do the tail, so I held off on that.

The big challenge with a centaur, of course, is building the human upper parts without creating a scale discrepancy, ending up feeling obliged to use the cartoony printed 1×1 round tiles for eyes, or ending up with an unnecessarily lumpy Brickheads sort of a version.

I’m rather pleased with what I eventually did. Thanks to the fact that I now possess at least two 1×2 balljoint elements with the ball in line with the long axis, I was able to put together a 3-brick-wide waist and work up from there in what turned out to be very reasonable proportion. The head seems surprisingly expressive for so few features; I thought about trying to give him a bushy black beard, but in the end it worked so well with him clean-shaven that I forgot about it until I was writing.

The tail could be a little more slender up next to the join with the body, but the sweeping look of it, based on my gladiator’s kilt, works well enough that I don’t want to mess with it in case I screw it up and can’t remember what I did the first time.

Likewise, the minifigure hands used as fingers would be better in tan, but I only have access to two tan minifig hands right now (from the Tusken Raider in 75173), so I went with all light flesh for consistency.

Not very seasonal, perhaps, but my seasonal inspiration is erratic. And declaring it the month of Decentaur is a pun too far.

The Turtle Moves

Blacktron A’Tuin-class Heavy Dropship

Inspired by a model of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld I found recently on Pinterest, apparently not even the World Turtle himself (or herself; matters are unclear) can totally derail my Benny impulse to Build A Spaceship.

For the sake of current colour availability I’ve used Blacktron livery colours instead of Benny’s favourite Classic Space blue and grey, but apparently the idea of a spacegoing giant turtle doesn’t automatically mean a tie-in to popular comic fantasy. Though of course, I had to call it the A’Tuin-class.

After last time’s Classic Space scorpionship, this testudinoid dropship might be thought of as following a theme, but I really have no intention of building a series of animal ships. I just got inspired by the late Sir Terry’s famous World Turtle.

“Dropship”, like “destroyer”, is another piece of spaceship terminology I’ve studiously avoided prior to this point. For all it seems to have become the in-vogue term for what I’d usually call a “landing shuttle”, it’s not one I really favour myself. I believe we’ve got the Halo franchise to thank for its popularity, and I personally dislike Halo and get impatient with what seems an endless stream of associated MOCs from what feels like everyone else in the sci-fi AFOL community. Halo has too much emphasis on tacticool and too many drab colours in my opinion, but what else should I expect from a shoot-em-up videogame?

Nonetheless, somehow I found that “dropship” seemed the only possible name, so this is the A’Tuin-class heavy dropship of the Blacktron Alliance.

The hexagonal shell uses a couple of new (to me) techniques, and I’m rather proud of the domed effect I’ve achieved. Not only did I use 2-part 1×4 hinge bricks to create the base of the hexagon (which is a technique I’ve never tried before and results in a pleasingly nonstandard shape), but I also succeeded for the first time ever in making sloped plates at multiple angles come together in a way that actually looks good. Maybe the techniques for building star destroyers and Millennium Falcons aren’t quite as much of a stretch as I had thought…

The landing legs took a bit of work to make right. Initially I thought that the front legs weren’t going to be able to be angled right for flight mode, and built a pair of flippers.

Original form of the A’Tuin-class, with front flippers, horned head and no rotary stud shooters.

Of course, that looked weird in landing mode, but for several days I thought it was the best compromise I could build.

However, then I remembered the short Bionicle balljoint elements I have and decided that perhaps my original four-legged design would work after all. It just needed another joint in the front legs.

The big combination landing legs and drive clusters make the A’Tuin-class modeled much more closely on a tortoise than on its turtle namesake (unless you’re American in which case land-going tortoises, freshwater terrapins and marine turtles are all just called turtles), but that’s ok. There aren’t that many fictional or legendary anapsids out there to name a turtleship after, and I would be buggered if I’d call it the Donatello.

The head was originally modeled on that of the evil American terrapin known as the “alligator snapping turtle”, a vicious, nasty piece of work that makes lake-swimming here in Texas where I live something of a game of Russian Roulette with one’s toes. The head-mounted cannons rather disguise that origin, but that’s what I was initially going for.

The cannons got installed on the head after I didn’t like them mounted to the shell. It’s Blacktron. We do excessive cannons.

Speaking of which, after rebuilding the forelimbs I decided to make some more substantial weaponry for the carapace, so I’ve used a couple of rotary stud shooters to make what I suspect are missile pods.

I’m envisioning this turtleship as a sort of heavy landing craft, able to transport the heaviest Blacktron equipment between orbit and planetary surface. It’s probably big enough to transport most of an entire battalion of troops, or the very largest of Blacktron ultratanks or heavy walkers, and with those powerful engine clusters it’s probably a lot faster than what it’s modeled on, too. And it’s fairly decently armed. And it looks like a tortoise.

Not too shabby, though I say so myself. 🙂

Stingship

Federation Scorpio-class destroyer

Modeling your sci-fi vehicles after living creatures is nearly always cool, but the peaceable Classic Space Federation are probably the last people you’d normally associate with the idea of building hardware shaped like a scorpion.

Nevertheless, in a fit of irony I’ve assembled this scorpionoid spacegoing destroyer, and it’s one of the most overarmed spaceships I’ve ever built. Goodness only knows what the power requirements on this thing are when it’s firing all of its guns…

What I’m calling the Scorpio-class destroyer started out as a prospective ground vehicle designed around those front arms. It wasn’t even specifically going to be a scorpion at that point.

It was only after I decided I didn’t like the looks of it as a rover and added the ball cannons that I specifically decided to turn it into a scorpion ship, because those cup-and-ball-mounted guns make wicked legs.

In the past I’ve specifically eschewed the use of the term “destroyer” for my Federation spaceships. It’s always seemed too aggressive and militaristic and, well, destructive. In my version of the Classic Space Federation, larger vessels are typically cruisers and smaller vessels are frigates, both of which terms have enough history as not specifically naval vessel types to sound somehow more peaceable. However, destroyer was really the only choice for a vessel with this many guns on it, so I’ve built my first ever Classic Space destroyer.

With engines that small, I doubt it’s any speedster or hyperagile transorbital combatant, but if its anything like its design namesake it’s at least well-armoured. Warships typically emphasise a maximum of two of the triad of armour, firepower and speed, and I’d guess that what the Federation designers decided to de-emphasise in this particular case was speed.

This isn’t the most adventurous spaceship model as far as technique is concerned, but I rather like it anyway. Who would have guessed that a scorpion would look so good in blue? Or that a scorpion could serve as such a natural-seeming model for a spaceship rather than a surface tank?