Category Archives: Blacktron

One Brick On Top Of Another

12×12 is a nice size for a scenery square or room corner. It’s big enough that you can exhibit repeating patterns and really give a sense of a larger area, but small enough to be manageable.

I originally built this to showcase my Classic Space robot George, only to realise that light bluish grey wasn’t necessarily the best background colour on which to display a light bluish grey robot. Honestly, you’d think I was slow-witted or something.

Still, I was quite pleased with my scenery-building, because it’s something I always feel like I suck at or don’t have enough pieces for. And once you have a piece of scenery you can use it for numerous purposes. It doesn’t have to be a display case for any one thing in particular.

 

The three 2×2 jumper plates with which I graced the top of the walls were originally placed there because I couldn’t find enough flat tiles just then, but then I realised that it would be quite easy to build a stackable second storey to be held on those 3 studs.

And thus began the modular stackable space scenery.

The balcony storey came next, because I liked the idea of an upper walkway overlooking some cavernous room of which this is but a corner. At only 3 studs wide, there’s not a lot of room up there, but it does its job. I think my favourite part of it is the handrail, actually.

After that I built a roof, and then, running low enough on 1xwhatevers in light bluish grey for more walls, I decided to shift colours and go to a rough-hewn dark bluish grey mining area.

So now I have 3 storeys of stackable modular space scenery, ready for whatever I want to do with them…

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The Dragon of the Spaceways

Dragon-class Battlecruiser of the Blacktron Alliance

Ever since I built my Elemental Dragon of Classic Space back in January of 2017, I’ve been contemplating a Blacktron counterpart, but so far I haven’t produced. I’ve made a couple of abortive false starts, but nothing that’s actually any good.

This past week, however, it occurred to me that the hypothetical Elemental Dragon of Blacktron wasn’t the only way to combine Blacktronian spacecraft design with the idea of dragons.

Borrowing some of the more ornamented design ethos of the Sunhawk-class (but with a vastly different actual design), this Blacktron battlecruiser was designed around that decorative dragon’s head form of the upper frontal hull and then took in the bat-wing vanes toward the rear. I was initially half thinking about a raised dragon’s tail at the rear as well, but then I built the ship’s engine section a little differently to what I had thought after those rather Y-Wing styled engines took shape, but then I realised that I could still add the tail so I did.

But it didn’t look as good as I had first hoped so I removed it again.

At 32 1/2 inches long (which this handy LEGO stud calculator calls 103 studs), the Blacktron Dragon-class battlecruiser turns out to actually be a SHIP. I was slightly surprised at this because I’d got hold of the idea from somewhere that 100 studs was 37 1/2 inches, not 31 1/2, so some of my previous SHIPs and near-SHIPs get their stud length estimates revised upwards. The horribly designed Liberator is still 101 studs long (I measured that in studs to begin with), and Dark Pegasus clocks in at 126 studs.

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The Blacktron Alliance’s smaller absolute size compared to its sprawling Federation adversary has made it far more aggressive in its interstellar dealings due to its perception of the size disparity as a disadvantage.

When it comes to large combat ships, however, the size disparity tends to go the other way and pile it on: Blacktron spacedoing dreadnoughts and battlecruisers are often more powerful on a class-by-class basis than their putative Federation Space Fleet counterparts, and almost always proportionally larger to make up for the smaller number of hulls that the Alliance is able to field.

Federation officers going toe to toe with Blacktron dreadnoughts often report the ship size disparity to be somewhat intimidating, and it is perhaps due to awareness of this fact that later Blacktron vessels have the designs that they do, a prime exemplar being the latest generation of Blacktron battlecruisers of the Dragon class.

It should be said, however, that the Blacktron Alliance has always had a more flamboyant design ethos than the stark functionality favoured by the Federation (compare the Federation’s Galaxy Explorer class with the similarly-sized Blacktron Renegade), and many observers see the more ornamental design of the Dragon-class as merely a continuation of that flamboyant attitude.

The class is recogniseable not only for the characteristic dragon’s head design of its upper forward hull, but more importantly for its massive spinal graser weapon system. For more conventional weapons, the Dragons are armed with 2 dreadnought-calibre antimatter accelerators and 12 battlecruiser-calibre laser cannons in dual-mounted turrets, backing these up with smaller secondary weaponry serving as antifighter and antimissile defences.

The initial production run of the Dragon-class currently stands at twelve vessels: Jormundgand, Ouroboros, Tiamat, Smaug, Weng Chiang, Mnementh, Gojira, Quetzalcoatl, Night Fury, Leviathan, Kongyong and Strabo.

BT322 Wraithgnat

The BT322 Wraithgnat is a compact bike-style antigrav skimmer used by the Blacktron military as a scout vehicle.

Bt322 Wraithgnat speeder bike

Named after a near-invisible biting insect analogue from the Blacktron capital world, the Wraithgnat’s small size means a harder target to hit, but less room for power plant and weapons systems and the like than larger Blacktron speeder bikes. The result is a small antigrav power plant designed more for forward speed than gravitic repulsion, and the Wraithgnat’s flight is incredibly ground-hugging compared to something like the Shadow-Wasp.

In terms of weaponry the Blacktron High Command were less skimping, and the Wraithgnat carries a pair of powerful plasma lances mounted spinally. Shorter-ranged than lasers, they are considerably more powerful, especially in their area effect. Even a near miss from a plasma lance can often knock a small skimmer out of the sky.

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Note the pilot’s legs straddling the machine

I’ve finally used the technique I came up with to make it look like the rider is straddling the speeder bike, and because it’s Blacktron I, therefore black minifigure against black vehicle, it’s difficult to see and almost looks like the rider has no legs.

It’s probably not an original technique; I’ve seen other models with a straddling-figure effect and this was my best guess at how it was achieved.

I rather like the compact look of this speeder bike, and its distant family resemblance to the Shadow-Wasp. That family-cousin resemblance was how it got its name: Shadow -> Wraith, Wasp -> Gnat. The wraithgnat being a creature from the Blacktron homeworld came later.

Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 “Gemini Unification” is a rare collaborative project between the Federation and the Blacktron Alliance.

Built as a demonstration vessel by a loose collective of visionaries in both of Humanity’s major interstellar polities, the vessel is a two-crewmember ship in side-by-side configuration, painted in half Federation Space Service and half Blacktron Stellar Command colours.

Crewed for the Federation by Lieutenant Astrid Garcia and for the Blacktron Alliance by Subcommander David Lurgan, the Gemini Unification was intended as a messenger of peace between the two interstellar empires. The project itself was successful as a starship and as a demonstrator of the possibility of peace, but despised by both empires’ High Commands. In an ironic twist, the vessel met its end at the hands of a combined Blacktron/Federation Special Forces operation specifically to take out the ship which both sides saw as an emblem of treason to their side’s cause.

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This isn’t my first dual-coloured Blacktron/Classic Space build, but the previous one was a bit more positive and optimistic.

This far into the New Year and its ongoing political chaos, apparently my cynicism is showing again.

I’m moderately pleased with that cockpit, but the fact that the astronauts have to sit with their heads together like that isn’t what I was really intending. Still, it adds a certain pseudo-romantic tone to the build, so I left it alone. The fact that the only way to fix it would have meant raising the cockpit canopy by a stud’s width has nothing to do with it, no sirree…

Anyway, there it is. A visionary unification project between the implacably hostile Blacktron Alliance and their arch-foes in the Galactic Federation.

Put like that, it’s definitely doomed, isn’t it?

Raven Rover

“FebRovery” is one of those months of LEGO building focus that I feel I can definitely participate in.

SHIPtember has thus far been a real stretch; about 75-80 studs’ length is about all I’ve been able to do and end up with something that’s actually good. My 2 SHIPs ended up at 101 and 103 studs respectively and both of them suffered from being overly stretched to meet the 100-stud requirement.

NoVVember I could technically do, but I’ve built my token Vic Viper and there’s not that much in the configuration that makes me want to build a whole series of them.

Droneuary, which I discovered a couple of weeks ago, is apparently for robots, and I’m not even completely convinced it’s a real thing.

But a month of focus on building space rovers? That we can do.

The whole thing does make me wonder what’s next, though. The fantasy build month of Orctober? Pirate builds in Arrrgust? DeSteamber? The mind boggles.

Anyway, FebRovery.

Raven scout rover

I wasn’t particularly sure what I wanted to do for this month of rovers at first. My initial thought was something Neoclassic, but in playing around with various suspension designs I realised that what I hit upon would probably work better with my brick inventory if I went Blacktron. So here it is.

There were numerous ways I could have gone from my initial chassis construction, but what I’ve ended up with is basically a Blacktron space jeep.

This is a completely different aesthetic to the original Blacktron sets. The designers of the Invader and the Battrax obviously groove to streamlined and sharklike rather than blocky and modernist, but the military lines of the space jeep (which I’m designating the Raven because “Raven rover” makes nice alliteration) go well with the hard-edged bad-boy feel of the Blacktron.

The suspension (if you want to call it that) won’t be winning any prizes in a Technic functionality contest, but each wheel will go up and down individually if you manually manipulate the attachments. I’m no car geek; this is as close as I come to fully-detailed V8 engines with working gearboxes and turbochargers. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and no-one can tell you what a hyperdrive looks like because we don’t even know whether it’s possible.

Building the Raven in the style of a military 4×4 meant it has room for two astronauts, and with another Blacktron spaceman riding the Shadow-Wasp, all three members of my tiny Blacktron legion are currently in builds.

Despite its jet-black name, the Raven actually has more yellow than I frequently use. One thing I tend to dislike about open-cockpit Blacktron vehicles is the way the pilot disappears into the structure visually, but here I decided to give them yellow seat backs and I think it works much better. It’s a lot of yellow in one place, though, which is usually a no-no for achieving the proper Blacktron look, but this doesn’t break the arbitrary 10% cutoff.

The hoses attached to the rear-mounted cannons restrict the cannons’ firing arc a bit, at least as far as poseability goes, but I’m not getting rid of them because I like the way they look. As for the big cylinder they’re mounted to, I’m not sure whether that’s some kind of power reactor or a fuel supply or what. It’s there to be visually interesting.

Of course, two seats side by side meant I had to either equip it with dual controls or decide which side of the road the Blacktron Alliance drives on. And given an opportunity like that I decided it was too good to pass up. The Blacktrons drive on the right. The Classic Space Federation probably drive on the left.

Steering wheel on the left = Drives On The Right

Sting from the Shadows

A Blacktron Shadow-Wasp swoops on two Federation troopers.

The BT4000 Shadow-Wasp is a single-pilot hoverbike-style combat skimmer used by the Blacktron Alliance. Armed with two antipersonnel-calibre laser cannons mounted on the fuselage and two energy lances at the wingtips, its relatively large size for a hoverbike gives it a power most such vehicles lack.

Beneath its space-black Alliance-livery cowling the SAMUKAI gravitic power plant is of a size more usually found in 2-4-crew patrol skimmers, though the Shadow-Wasp is optimised for speed and manoeuvre rather than patrol endurance. The SAMUKAI plant is a product of the notorious Nexo Power Labs of the Blacktron colony-world Stygian, responsible for the DRAKON power plant of the Invader modular space fighter. All that can be seen externally of the SAMUKAI power system, however, is a pair of particle exhaust regulators located one on each side of the forward fuselage above the laser cannons.

The Shadow-Wasp is typically flown from a standing position with space boots electromagnetically clamped to the pilot’s position for safety. All relevant controls are located on the twin joystick-style control levers for ease of operation; further options are accessed via datalink to the small onboard systems management computer.

The vastly overpowered gravitic engines of the Shadow-Wasp give the craft a linear flight speed twice that of most vehicles in its class, and its winglike gravitic deflection vanes allow manoeuvrability to match; however, the system suffers in terms of stealth, as there is no realistic way to shield or cloak the emissions of a power plant this size on so small a craft.

The twin lasers are able to be employed in either pulse or beam mode, though typically the rapid-firing pulse mode is preferred, with the energy lances providing the primary beam weapon. Energy lances are slower to fire than lasers, but do more damage, and are typically used against armoured targets.

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My first Blacktron build of the year, and it’s basically a speeder bike.

I know some builders seem to specialise in speeder bikes, but I tend to gravitate more to vehicles with enclosed cockpits, and they’re rarer from me. But I think this might be one of my better ones.

Almost entirely SNOT construction, the only part of this Shadow-Wasp that disappoints me slightly is that I wasn’t able to employ the idea I have for making the pilot sit astride the vehicle. With the rest of the way it’s constructed it just wasn’t going to work. Next time, maybe. I did, however, manage to make a kneeling Federation astronaut: a much more finicky operation than I realised, needing the torso to be finely balanced on the disconnected leg beneath.

Kneeling minifig. A personal first, and surprisingly finicky to achieve.

The “Shadow-Wasp” name comes from my wife’s comment that the completed speeder “looks like a backwards-flying bumblebee”. “Bumblebee” itself seemed too friendly and Federation-y, but I kept within the same nomenclative region. It was nearly “Hornet”, but Hornet sounded like it needed more yellow, and putting too much yellow in the model is one of the most annoying ways people get neo-Blacktron builds wrong. For the record, the ratio of visible yellow to visible black should never really get above about 1:10. Blacktron II sets were more evenly split between black and white, but the first wave of Blacktron were overwhelmingly black, as is right and proper given their factional name.

I wanted to post this several days ago, but I haven’t been home in daylight to take decent pictures. Trying to photograph a black vehicle solely by living-room-quality artificial light is difficult. You either get this horrible grainy finish as the digital camera tries to cope with insufficient light, or you use flash and end up with a different kind of photographic disaster: an undifferentiated black blob with an ultrabright highlight on every single stud.

Yeah, I should invest in a light box, or at the very least some spotlights and diffusers. But on my limited budget it usually comes down to photography stuff or more LEGO bricks. And that’s no contest.

Until then, I have to wait for daylight, which means right after I get home from work on a Saturday, or Sunday afternoon, or a rain day if I get one. Hence the delay in posting and the fact that it’s now FebRovery and here I am with a speeder bike.

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.