Tag Archives: Blacktron

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.

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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…

Repainting the House Divided

What happens when a red astronaut from the LEGO Classic Space faction and a black-clad astronaut from the enemy Blacktron alliance fall in love?

Repainting the House Divided

This build went through several iterations as I toyed with the scene. It actually started out as a plain Blacktron base corridor scene, though I neglected to photograph it at that point.
The two astronauts already looked as though they might have been falling for one another, so I went with that and rebuilt one end of the corridor in Classic Space LEGO colours and made the astronaut a red one.

The heart followed, making the point clearer, and then, under the influence of a 13-years-married-and-still-gloriously-in-love relationship I decided to make it a bit more domestic.

I’d already thought about calling it “Across A House Divided” or something similar, and I started thinking, “what if that’s their actual house?”.

Ergo the paint rollers. And the icing on the cake is that she‘s getting ready to paint her half in his colours just as he‘s getting ready to paint his half in her colours. That’s what love is like.

Obviously there’s a message here, in our increasingly divided times. With seemingly everything becoming increasingly politically coloured in lurid reds and blues, maybe LEGO’s old smiley-faced, cooperative, friendly astronauts can teach us a thing or two.

I characterised the Blacktron faction as “enemy”, and that certainly seemed in the late ’80s to be the case, from their predatory, slightly sinister ship names (“Invader”, “Renegade”) to the fact that once the Space Police were introduced it was Blacktron astronauts in the jail cells. But even though they were enemies, the catalogues of the day still showed the two factions cooperating and working together in the vital project of colonising the galaxy.

Maybe our current “enemy” divisions into the Red Camp and the Blue Camp aren’t as terrible and world-ending as some people would like us to think. Most of my in-laws hold vastly different political views to my wife and I, but we’ve just managed to make it through a Thanksgiving without a single political argument. For which I am duly thankful, believe me.

But the point is that love transcends all of that. For all that I disagree with the political narrative most of my inlaws have chosen to accept, they are good people. And I’m not going to accept the contemporary myth that says you have to define yourself and everyone else purely in terms of political affiliations.

So slightly unintentionally I seem to have built that in LEGO bricks. Here’s a situation in which the political colours of their surroundings are unimportant beside the love they have for one another. Black or blue-and-grey, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.

This isn’t a blog I usually get political in, but the “message” is an important one right now. Thanksgiving has just come and gone, and Christmas is on its way. Maybe it’s time to step back from the brink of metaphysical total war with the opposing ideology and remember that those who hold it are human beings just like us.

Mechs and Violence

Deliberately tryimg to build better mechs and use more advanced building techniques than my endless balljoint limbs and fancified-box cockpits, I put together this little Blacktron mech.

In that pose, it looks rather gangsta-esque, so I’m calling it the Black Panther mech. It’s probably fitting if the Blacktron are the galaxy’s criminal element, and makes sense if they’re more like a hostile nation, too.

As far as scale goes, either this is an actual humanoid combat robot, in which case it ought to be roughly man-sized or no more than 8ft tall, or there’s a pilot sitting behind that trans yellow stud on the head, in which case it’s monstrously huge and wields a gun bigger than an ICBM. I’m personally not sure which it is.

With so many of my T-pieces in use on the spacewhale, I had to adapt some of the common advanced joint techniques, and it’s not quite as fully poseable as I’d like. But it works, even if it’s rather bland and meh alongside any really good LEGO mech.

Not the Librarian-class…

Blacktron Liburnian-class battlecruiser: front aspect

Liburnian: (n) a light galley-type warship of the Roman Empire.

Having the Blacktron Alliance name one of their ship classes after something Roman is probably wrong. Even in my “Brightly Coloured Tyranny” alternate universe in which the Blacktron are the good guys and the Classic Space/Futuron Federation are the bad guys, the Blacktron represent the forces of freedom from tyranny, and more usually they are interpreted as forces of chaos and revolution.

Given that the Romans were the people that built Hadrian’s Wall with a castle gatehouse exactly every Roman mile whether or not it actually made sense with the terrain, the Blacktron are about as un-Roman as it gets. So maybe the name is a sophisticated irony, given that it’s named after a Roman ship type and the Romans were notoriously poor sailors.

Anyway, this is a microscale Blacktron battlecruiser of the kind I build when I’m not worrying about stud length and trying to build a SHIP. The bifurcated prow put me in mind of a pair of triremes or Ancient Greek warships mated top-to-top with the rams outward, and that’s how it got stuck with Liburnian as a class name.

Still, more aggressive-sounding than Librarian-class, right?

Blacktron Liburnian-class: front/side aspect

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this. It mirror-images almost completely top-to-bottom as well as left-to-right, which helps to give the idea that it’s designed for operating in zero-gravity. It has its armament of lasers and other cannons. I believe the twin red cones in front are spinal-mounted laser cannons, so I guess that makes the side mounts broadside guns. There are twelve smaller laser cannons mounted in four banks of three amidships, and there are four guns or missile tubes of some sort that have a rear firing arc.

That’s quite a lot of engines, and really I’d have preferred four larger ones using 2×2 dish elements in trans red, but I only have two of those and they’re being employed as sensor dishes, or perhaps something to do with the hyperdrive.

Not a massive model, but it looks pretty cool.

Advanced Mech-Building 101

Up until this point, most of my mechs have been relatively simplistic affairs.

Oh, I’ve done what I could to make them look interesting, but in terms of the actual structure, they’ve been fairly basic. I’d tended to use balljoint elements almost exclusively, with occasional use of those clickstop universal joints, and that’s forced several design constraints on my mechs that I barely even realised I had.

Also, I’ve tended to construct the torso all in one piece, and there’s only so much you can do with that.

I like mechs in general, even if I’m not very good at them. Well, except for some of the Japanese-style Gundams and Anime mechs, which always look strange to me. Yeah, I know I’m dissing the two most influential mech source materials in the universe, but I honestly don’t like those massively overbuilt shoulders and weird flanges and fins and wings all over the place, and the guns bigger than the mechs themselves and all that. There’s a definite Japanese style to many mechs, and if you’ve seen many you know what I’m talking about, but frankly I prefer something a little less Anime-derived.

Having said that, there’s obviously a lot I could learn from the hows of some of these Gundam/Anime mech architects. So I’ve been doing something I almost never do with my LEGO building: I’ve been watching building instruction videos and mech-building tip compilations on youTube.

For all that I overuse balljoint elements with studs, I’ve been noticing for a while how few of the really good mechs that give you even a vague clue as to their joint mechanics actually use balljoints. They use clip-and-bar hinges, pneumatic T-pieces, or other strange joint forms I’m still coming to grips with.

So I’ve been watching and learning how it’s done.

This new raft of joint-building techniques is only half of what I got out of what I’ve seen, though. The other main aspect of what I got from the videos is more deeply buried. It’s the idea of an underlying skeletal frame.

Anyone who’s built the large Bionicle/CCBS figures will probably grasp this by instinct, because I’m told that that’s where most of the building creativity lies in those things, but I don’t Bionicle any more readily than I build advanced mechanical functions with Technic, so you’ll forgive me for being a little slow on the uptake.

Anyway, I built a new mech, deliberately choosing to use some of what I’ve learned.

It’s far more articulated in the spine than any previous mech I’ve built, actually having an approximation of a spine for a start.

The construction of the legs deliberately eschews “normal” balljoint connections, and still has most of the range of motion I’d actually want out of a set of mech legs.

I was initially not planning on giving the mech arms as well as those shoulder weapon pods, but it didn’t look right without them, so I adapted the design a little, but the weapon pods seemed like the only reasonable attachment point.

The result looks something like a cross between a linebacker and a chimpanzee, and is just as topheavy and overbuilt in the shoulders as any Neo Evangelion or other Manga mech.

The claws combine with the black colour and the stick-thin arms to give it a slightly arachnoid look, and so between that and the simianoid remainder of its looks, I came up with the name for it: the Blacktron Monkey-Spider class Mech.

It isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s a long way from it, and I actually prefer the looks of last time’s Space Police Enforcer class.

But I offer it up here as a testimony that I’m learning new things and finding better ways to approach the building of stuff like mechs.

Archer-class Pulse Cannon

Aerospace defence. It’s going to be a critical need for any spacegoing force.

You’re going to need defensive systems that operate on several different levels. Force shields if your universe has them, but also antisatellite weapons – lasers or the equivalent, missiles and so on, and of different sizes.

For energy weapons, there will be the massive ion cannons or heavy lasers that can bust through dreadnought-level armour, as well as smaller ones, right down to something like this.

I’m calling it the Archer-class; a seven-barreled mobile aerospace defence cannon.

Having seven barrels might seem like overkill (or possibly stupid: why not just one gun that’s much bigger and more powerful?), but I’m thinking it would be like the early Gatling guns: the multiple barrels prevent overheating and allow more sustained fire.

Anyway, here it is.  I also made a little tow-truck thing to pull it around.