Category Archives: Mechs

IceBug

The Ice Planeteers had (proportionally speaking) quite a lot of surface vehicles in their single year of existence as a theme, but no mechs. This was back in the day, mind you, before the advent of CCBS and balljoint elements, and making reasonable legs was really hard.

That’s since been rectified, but insectoid ice mechs still aren’t exactly two-a-penny.

Mini IceBug.

I actually started out with the smaller “Snowbug” robot, building it as a vaguely AT-TE-inspired microscale. Something the size of a building that could transport the heaviest equipment across the frozen worlds of the organisation’s mandate.

Then I decided to see if I could scale it up at all.

Big IceBug

Knowing I wasn’t going to be able to build a vehicle even remotely as big as I’d envisaged (3-6-crew cockpit, ½ plate height = approximately 6 feet), I felt free to adapt the basic design while keeping with the overall beetle configuration.

Ski Rover (stowed position)

Ready for deployment

One of my better small Ice Planet vehicles, I think

The resulting ice bug can transport a small ski rover on its rooftop flatbed pallet, adding a nice element of playability. There’s only room for one of the two crew I’ve provided it with in the cockpit, unfortunately, but it does have those rotary shooters as well as the poseable legs and deployable ice rover.

Pilot’s position.

The final element of the overall setup is an ice speeder I built a week or so back but never posted here. My neo-Commander Bear figure (Commander Cold Bear’s body with Old Obi-Wan’s head for the flesh skintone I typically like to use) is driving, now that I actually have the Ice Planet commander figure.

VX313 Fulmar ice speeder

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eAT-ME

AT-ME facing off against the Sith Lord Darth Maraud (supported by Trade Federation droid troops)

The All Terrain Medium Enforcer (AT-ME) was a Clone Wars-era armoured walker of the Galactic Republic, sometimes called the “Clone Battlecrab”. Bearing some surface visual similarity to the heavy artillery AT-AP pod walker, the AT-ME was designed for close-range combat, where its heavy armour, high-power lasers and medium antipersonnel blasters could be utilised effectively without the need to stop, position a supporting leg and fire the heavy mass driver of the AT-AP.

With four short legs rather than the three longer ones of the AT-AP, the AT-ME was slower than the artillery walker but had better endurance and did not need to keep stopping.

The All Terrain Medium Enforcer

Two of the primary laser cannon armament were emplaced in movable pods forward of the four legs, giving the walker a crablike appearance and earning it its “Battlecrab” nickname. The third, slightly smaller primary beam was located in a scorpion tail-like appendage attached dorsally, while two forward-firing secondary beams and a pair of antipersonnel blasters pintle mounted to the roof completed the AT-ME’s armament.

Despite surface appearances, the hulls of the AT-AP and AT-ME walkers were not identical and the two vehicles could not use one another’s hull plating in their construction.

Seen here in operation on Tatooine against a group of Separatist battle droids led by the fallen Jedi calling himself Darth Maraud, the AT-ME is more than a match for over twenty times this number of battle droids, but against a full-blown Dark Jedi with Sith training, the battle is more evenly matched.

Dark Jedi-turned-Sith Lord Darth Maraud

~~~

I’m not a great Star Wars builder, and even less so a builder of Clone Wars-era hardware. We have precisely two Trade Federation battle droids in our household inventory, and the same number of first-generation clone troopers, and while I like the look of some of the Clone hardware of that era, (AT-TE, Jedi interceptor, Count Dooku’s ship), other hardware is weird and ungainly-looking (Republic gunships, AT-TE transporters, Hailfire droid tanks).

Rear aspect of the AT-ME

So this build started out being crewed by a couple of Classic astronauts.

It works as a Classic Space battlemech, but I kept looking at it and thinking: “You know, this would be much better with clone troopers”.

I was right; it does. And then, of course, I had to reassemble our battle droids as an opponent, and build a couple of droidekas, and then I couldn’t resist adding my Sith mini-me Darth Maraud.

Droidekas are awesome, and I’ve never really felt comfortable with the scale discrepancies involved in the standard LEGO version, so I decided to build my own. The legs are a little bulky for droidekas (maybe they’re an experimental sand version?) but they seem much more like they’re at a proper scale. They took several tries over two or three days to get right, but I think they’re as good as they’re going to get.

“They are no match for droidekas!”

Darth Maraud is my own Sith character. Technically, he ought to be a Dark Jedi and not use the Darth title, because of the strange Rule of Two that the Sith operate under in this time period. But I like the Darth title, so I’m twisting the canon into the usual pretzel shape invoked to clear any weirdnesses that contradict its diktats. In this particular case, I’m saying that he was originally a Jedi who became disgusted with the injustices and bureaucracy of the Republic and the perception of political manipulation by the Jedi Council and secretly turned his back on the Jedi Order. Discovering ancient Sith manuscripts in the Archives (placed there to prevent them seeding Sith sentiment in the wider populace), he renounced the Order, swore allegiance to the Sith and took the name Darth Maraud. Fleeing to the Confederacy, he was most probably killed in one of the many battles of the Clone Wars.

Following the Sith tradition of having interesting lightsaber designs, Darth Maraud’s lightsaber is based on a glaive-like polearm design which is probably a little unwieldy in a real fight against someone who’d fought against one before, but would have the advantage that its moves and techniques would be unfamiliar to your average standard saber-wielding Jedi. Also, it’s got a reach that dramatically outranges a standard lightsaber, which is always a plus.

And since I’m calling the Clone walker the “All Terrain Medium Enforcer”, “eAT-ME” seemed like the perfect post title.

The Black(tron) Knight

The Black(tron) Knight faces off against the fearsome dragon Neoclassica

The combination of futuristic space technology and high fantasy has of course been done before. LEGO has its own slightly cringeworthy Nexo Knights, but even the Star Wars franchise is effectively high fantasy in a tech setting, with its Sith and Jedi wizards and its fighter pilot knights.

I didn’t think much of Nexo Knights’ execution, but the concept is sound. And because it’s me, the high technology in question has a better-than-average chance of having something to do with the Classic Space/Blacktron metatheme.

In this case, I’ve perhaps subconsciously channelled my flipped Brightly Coloured Tyranny take on the original LEGO Space universe, because the knight is a Blacktron and the draconoid (“draco” + “mechanoid”) is in NCS colours. But building a Black(tron) Knight references the Classic Castle prototheme’s original bad guy as well as the Classic Space universe’s primary adversaries.

I’ve wanted to build an updated Neoclassic Space dragon for several months now but not been inspired as to specifics. My original Elemental Dragon of Classic Space was in some ways a markedly different build: more of a blended hybrid between spaceship and creature. This Classic Space dragon being a robotic creature, it skips out on some of the Elemental Dragon’s features, like cockpit and thrusters and the like.

The difference is mostly that the previous dragon was an Elemental Dragon of the “Element” of Classic Space. In view of the weird stuff considered “elements” by the various LEGO themes – lightning, ice (as well as water), sound, mind, amber, love – having an element of Classic Space is not something I consider much of a stretch, but that’s beside the point for this creation. This dragon was created in order to serve as an adversary for the Black(tron) Knight.

The hover horses were one of the few bits of Nexo Knights that I thought were well thought out and well designed. So I decided to make my own version of a mostly horse-shaped speeder; bigger and hopefully more impressive than the Nexo hoversteed. I went Blacktron initially because of the colours of my CCBS elements, but the idea of a Black Knight that’s a Blacktron seemed like a good one. And that meant either a Neoclassic Space or Neo-Futuron dragon, unless I built a second grav-destrier and generated a joust.

I still might; a Neo-Futuron grav-destrier is more probable with my element inventory, or possibly a Neo-Space Police I version.

Until then, the Black(tron) Knight is fighting an NCS dragon and red-spacesuited technomancer.

Technomancer and robofamiliar, space tower, and weird hyperspace beacon monument

The technomancer was an afterthought, actually. As a set, this would be a bit boring without at least one more minifigure, and a pilot for the dragon didn’t seem right this time around. But a high-tech wizard equivalent? That has possibilities…

Steampunk Safari

Did someone say “steampunk mecha-elephant”?

For once in my steampunkery, I’m actually not invoking the planet Mars.  Okay, the mechaphant has a heat-ray or other type of steampunk ray-gun for a trunk, but we can do this without having to go to Mars.  As the song says: “Got my ray gun and a cup of tea in hand”.

Given the presence of a sabertooth tiger lurking in the undergrowth, they are probably somewhere a bit like Conan Doyle’s Lost World.  Apparently on a steampunk safari you get really exotic big game.  I also don’t actually mind having to use the robomonkey from Ninjago Skybound.  I don’t have access to any regular monkeys, but since my elephant is a mecha it doesn’t look out of place.

The build was actually inspired by a hero card from the app game Legendary: Game of Heroes.  Tangentially, anyway.  Their Ultra Ivoire was a full-on high-tech droid, whereas I decided that the Mighty White Hunter doing their thing from atop a howdah was such a 19th-Century trope that it naturally lent itself to steampunkery.

I’m at least as pleased with the scenery as I am with the actual mechaphant, though.  That’s one of my better trees (and the first time I think I’ve used those palm leaf elements in a MOC), and some of my best rockwork yet.  And while all the bits of scenery are way too brick-intensive and complex to be much like anything you’d find in an official set, the overall impression really does seem to be of sethood.  Which is rather amusing, really.  For all of my AFOLhood and SHIPs and complex techniques and inverted mirror-universe takes on Classic Space, I still tend to think in terms of set design.

 

Twin Iron Engine fighting machine

The Twin Iron Engine fighting machine

An older design of steam-driven Imperial mech, the Twin Iron Engine fighting machine has been largely relegated to colonial use in Her Imperial Majesty’s interplanetary possessions since the introduction of the Turreted Assault Neutralisation Cruiser (“TANC Walker”).

In its heyday, it was one of the primary fighting machines of the Empire, holding its own against older walkers of the Sultan, the Kaiser and the Tsar. Since the advent of gun-turreted walkers like the Imperial TANC and the Sultanate’s Qızılbüyü, however, the forward-firing fixed armament of the Twin Iron Engine walker has been shown to be a severe disadvantage in an armour-versus-armour battle.

In the interplanetary colonial situation, however, mechs and walkers are more often employed against restless natives or raid-level incursions of foreign sepoy troops than in the set-piece battles of the Imperial heartland, and the twin medium-calibre thermophoric cannon of the TIE fighting machine are quite sufficient to most threats; the one serious exception being the War Tripods of the Ul-Gzan.

Ul-Gzan tripods are powered by ancient Martian crystal technology; the rechargeable energy crystals of the lost Martian super-civilisation which none can now duplicate but which many Martian native races still use. Crystal technology is in some ways more versatile than human steam power, but it can be unreliable, and if the crystals’ energy gets depleted beyond a certain limit the crystal can become resistant to recharging rendering it effectively useless. Steam, on the other hand, is easily generated with water and a heat source, and far more reliable, so while the Imperial Society of Engineers has done some experimentation with crystal power, steam is still the primary servant of the both the Imperial military and human civil agencies.

~~~

Part Martian fighting machine, part TIE fighter.  Because LEGO is awesome.

There have been numerous variations on the Star Wars TIE fighter theme. Box-standard TIE fighter. TIE bomber. TIE Advanced, which was probably the prototype of the TIE Interceptor. TIE Striker. And moving into the Extended Universe, TIE/D droid fighters, TIE Crawlers (of at least two varieties, both of which suck) and probably TIE Submersibles and TIE Rock-Borers as well. Then there are the very cool steampunk TIE fighters many other people have built.

I decided to merge the two ideas and build a steampunk TIE walker.

“Twin Ion Engine” makes no sense for steampunkery, though, so I played around with the name just enough to be vaguely sensible for steam power. And voila.

But Still They Come

Ul-Gzan Martian War Tripod

Now, now, Lieutenant!” Miss Francine Oberon said primly, readying her custom-designed heat-ray carbine. “The proper term for the cephalopoid natives is ‘Ul-Gzan’, not ‘Cuttlemonkeys’.”

Yes, Miss,” Lieutenant Ent Prescott grunted. Cuttlemonkeys they were and Cuttlemonkeys they would remain to anyone who had fought against the vicious, implacably hostile alien monstrosities. He wished he had a thermophoric cannon instead of this old-style six-pounder artillery piece; the Ul-Gzan were reputed to have one of their tripods operating in the area, and despite its importance to the Empire, Professor Oberon’s tiny independent scientific outpost was simply too remote to get much in the way of physical defences.

Ent Prescott (short for “Enterprise”) looked around at his decidedly inadequate defences. One antique six-pounder cannon, not even having the decency to be a proper modern heat-ray weapon, presided over by one slightly over-aged Royal Artillery Lieutenant. One sword-wielding Asiatic mercenary, even more useless against a tripod than a single six-pounder. One Professor Oberon’s daughter, fancying herself an adventuress, armed with a rather nice-looking heat-ray rifle and decanted into trousers rather than the natural dresses of her sex. Oh, and a pair of Stiltmen.

Enterprise had known that the Stiltmen of the region were allied to the Empire, and the battery’s commanding officer Captain Holcombe had rated them as fine fighters, but he was rather dubious. For all their gigantic height, Stiltmen were built like twigs and looked incredibly fragile, and these two didn’t even seem to have any weapons. What could they possibly do against a tripod – throw rocks at it?

What he wouldn’t give for a company of clockwork power-suited ticktockmen, or a half-squadron of mechs, or even a Mkai sepoy regiment!

Suddenly, a great sinkhole opened right in front of Professor Oberon’s outpost, and the dreaded three-legged fighting machine of the subterranean Ul-Gzan rose up higher than a house, higher than the dome of St. Nathaniel’s Cathedral in New Surrey. Powered by some kind of unfathomable crystal technology that some of the six Martian native species used but which none of them seemed to remotely understand or be able to duplicate, the War Tripod of the Ul-Gzan was the only native fighting machine that could rival the steam technology of Man. And here they were without most of that technology.

Manning his gun and thankful for its clockwork autoloading mechanism, Lieutenant Prescott opened fire on the tripod, as Miss Oberon stood guard with her heat-ray rifle and the Asiatic mercenary Shang-Yao Ping drew his longsword. A lucky shot at one of the leg joints might disable the war machine, bring it down, but the joints were notoriously difficult to hit. A narrow funnel rose from the roof of the tripod, unfolding as it did so, and Ent paled. It looked to be only a heavy rifle-calibre weapon, but what imbecilic, never-sufficiently-to-be-cursed traitor had sold the Cuttlemonkeys a heat-ray?

Over to one side, the Stiltmen were advancing on the tripod, palms outward like massively elongated policemen trying to order the rogue machine to halt. Lt. Prescott couldn’t see what that would accomplish, but the Cuttlemonkeys’ machine checked its advance, stabilised itself on all three legs and swivelled to face the new threat rather than dealing with the already-firing Human cannon. A flash of light erupted from the Stiltmen’s hands (he supposed he should call them Ojads. Professor Oberon’s daughter would probably like it) in a blinding ray that leaped toward the body of the tripod, and Ent Prescott understood. The Stiltmen didn’t carry weapons because Providence had equipped them with natural weapons as good as any Human-built thermophoric.

Filled with the energy of a sudden upsurge of new hope, the Lieutenant fired again…

~~~

Last time I played around with a steampunk Mars (in a story on the old LEGO Message Boards), it was the humans that used the tripods, and they were steam-driven.

This time around I decided to restore them to the Martians. They are a very unearthly form of locomotion; nothing in this world travels about on three legs. It seemed to make more sense than giving them to Mankind.

With six native species – as I blithely announced in the backstory to Major Galbraith’s Sapping Machine – I have a lot of decisions to make as to what they are like and how they all live. And what the humans call them; the age recalled and perfected in the steampunk genre was one of racial epithets and colonialism. “Cuttlemonkeys” seemed like a good nickname for a race of implacably hostile land-dwelling squids, while the Stiltmen basically named themselves.

Anyway, the “Martian War Machine versus Human Artillery” should strike a chord for those familiar with the War of the Worlds, but this time around the humans have alien sepoy reinforcements!

Major Galbraith’s Wonderful Martian Sapping Machine

The presence of Her Majesty’s Royal Engineers in the Martian colonies is not a large one. One of the six species on native Martian – the K’zzuwatna – are burrowing creatures adept at tunnelling and digging, and most of the role usually filled by the RE is instead filled by K’zzuwatna sepoy regiments.

The RE does maintain a supervisory and oversight presence, however, and all mechanised Engineering troops are humans because most of the violent Martian native species are considered too immature to be trusted with advanced mechanics. Major Arkwright Henry Galbraith is one of these human Royal Engineer troops, based in the chief city of Her Majesty’s Martian colonies, New Surrey. Actually born on Mars to some of the first British colonists, Major Galbraith’s aptitude for mechanics naturally led him into the Army, where he developed the Galbraith No. 7 Sapping Machine.

The No. 7 Sapping Machine is a drill-armed mechanical walker used by Major Galbraith’s own Royal Engineer regiment to dig entrenchments, bunkers and tunnels through the hard Martian bedrock. Its designation as a “Sapping Machine” comes from the nickname of Her Majesty’s Royal Engineers, the “Sappers”; a “sap” being a trench dug towards a fortification for the means of assault.

As a decidedly unofficial development, the No. 7 does not officially exist, but its ability to out-bore and out-tunnel any of Her Majesty’s Government-approved Army sapping machines has meant that Major Galbraith’s superiors have gone out of their way not to take notice of the fact that the 127th Martian RE Regiment has an unapproved drilling machine.

The No. 7 Sapping Machine first proved itself when Major Galbraith was made part of a small team sent to rescue noted areo-archaeologists Lord and Lady Hamilton when their dirigible went down in the middle of the massive Thark Uplands region between the Grand and Syrtis canals. The machine can be seen here with the other members of the team: Imperial swordmaster Tsien-Lu (“Stan”) Li of the Chinese court, the ornithopter pilot Flight Lieutenant Edward St. John-Smythe, noted markswoman adventuress Miss Coraline Drood and Mka’i Martian native Kamash Kesh.

 

Major Galbraith

Tsien-Lu Li, Miss Coraline Drood, Flight Lieutenant St. John-Smythe and Kamash Kesh

~~~

Oppa Steampunk Style!

It’s been simply ages since I built a mech, and even longer since I built anything remotely steampunk, so it was obviously high time I rectified that oversight.

My single large gear wheel caught my eye, and of course, “stick some gears on it at random” is practically some people’s definition of steampunk, so the connection was obvious. Playing around with the gearwheel, I hit on the idea of a drill. With, unusually for me, real Technic functionality. There’s a little handle on the big gear wheel that you can turn to spin the drill. Okay, the other gear wheel in the other direction is pointless, because all it does is turn along with the big wheel without achieving anything, and apart from its poseability that’s it for play features. But even marginal functionality being such a rarity from me, it’s always nice to make something that works. Ish.

The backstory is set on Mars, because the idea of a sort of steampunk-powered colonial Mars based on a sort of “War of the Worlds in reverse” milieu has been quietly gnawing away at my hindbrain for most of a decade now. I think my initial inspiration came from some Internet pictures of miniatures from a wargame or RPG called Space:1889, but as a small child I used to give myself nightmares listening to Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, so it’s probable that those RPG miniatures simply plugged right into the “Mars: what a good idea” slot in my brain. Since then, I’ve also read most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian chronicles and CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, so the slot is quite well established by now. And Mars’ rust-red colour and iron-rich nature just seem to lend themselves to steampunkery.

I can’t leave well enough alone, however, so my steampunk Mars has its own crop of native species. At least one of which is going to be cephalopoid, of course, because there are conventions you need to follow if you’re running The War of the Worlds backwards. Right now I don’t have a lot of really alien aliens to rebuild into proper Martians, but I’ll see what I can come up with. And Bricklink is always there if I need to get some interesting new heads.

This piece of walking ironmongery may not be quite as impressively fancy in technique as the Q-Mech (which I still think ranks first place among my personal mech builds), but I’ve come quite a way from the old Brass Monkey mech that constituted my first ever piece of LEGO steampunkery, and my first self-designed mecha. I never did walkers as a kid, strangely (apart from numerous attempts to build an AT-AT with my limited first-generation Technic bricks back before they had friction pins), because I hated the slidey way the legs worked on the official sets.

But now, in the era of balljoints? To paraphrase Benny: “We can build a mecha!”

Balljoints Are Your Friend, which may be why I always default to those and forget all the more creative ways I know about now to arrange a mech limb joint.

I’m also somewhat amused by how perfectly the TIE cockpit window goes with a steampunk creation. There’s a reason why there are so many steampunk versions of things from the Star Wars universe, and it’s only partly because so much of the hardware shares the same Rule of Cool-powered impracticability.

The small team of steampunk minifigures was something of an afterthought, but I think they work. And they’re some of my first invented minifigures that I’ve taken the trouble to build rather than merely LDDing. Bonus.