Tag Archives: Blacktron

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.

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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.

Alienate This

Of all the six first-generation Blacktron sets, the Alienator has probably had the most separate update attempts.

There are reasons for this.

In 1987 when the Blacktron first made their appearance, the Alienator was my least-favourite of their hardware, even including the little Meteor Monitor that presaged the disappointing “Blacktron Future Generation” colours by including white.

The original Alienator

It was those legs that got me.

Normally I’m a fan of legged vehicles, especially in LEGO form, but even as an early-teenaged child I had enough of an inner biologist that I wanted something that bent at the hips and knees. That twist-and-slide zombie shuffle didn’t do anything for me. To my mind, the capabilities of the bricks they had back then meant that the world wasn’t ready for LEGO mechs. I didn’t like any of the various legged Classic Space vehicles.

Cut to the present and my post-Dark Age return to building as an AFOL, and we have all kinds of useful element types that didn’t exist back then. Not least of these are the various kinds of balljoint elements.

Now Alienate This!

The whole Bionicle/CCBS/”constraction” thing came in while I was away, and to this day that building style is a complete black box to me and effectively a separate community. I personally get bored with endless variations on the human figure, and lacking any background I neither know nor care whether I’m looking at the Toa of Cut-Price Furniture or the Protector of Cyborg Hippoes. Or whatever it is the real ones are supposed to be called.

But the various balljoint elements with studs add so many capabilities to my arsenal of techniques that they’ve nearly become essential to my building. I literally couldn’t build two thirds of what I build without them.

Now that we have the capability to build a more realistic jointed leg, an Alienator update is a really good idea, and just about every TFOL/AFOL Blacktron fan seems to build one at some point.

The various neo-Alienators out there seem to fall on a spectrum from stuff like this, which is very close in design to the original apart from the realistic legs, to stuff like this, which is awesome but radically divergent from the original, being much larger and flashier.

Mine’s somewhere in between. More “inspired by” the original than strictly colouring inside the lines, its long, spindly insectile legs and big round feet combine to give it a rather Wellsian War of the Worlds vibe, like a Blacktron take on the Martian Fighting Machine. It’s ended up with a lot more cockpit, proportionally speaking, than the Alienator 1.0.

I was actually initially anticipating a larger vehicle with a more extensive rear section, but realising that I was bored with the conventional daisy-chain mode of balljoint connection I decided to experiment with using the central ball that is normally used for attaching the greaves elements as a primary connection point. That pulled the whole centre of balance forward and necessitated a much abbreviated rear section.

You’ll of course have noticed the out-of-place dark red curved element. Even with the partial element sorting I’ve managed since this post, I can’t find the other black one that I know I’ve got, so I had to use a different colour. The same goes for the dark grey Bionicle limb rod at the back.

I’m claiming battle damage. Some Space Police disruptor weapon changing the chemical composition of the hull-metal.

The Martian War Machine-esque Bauplan got me thinking that it needed a wrecked spaceship to loom menacingly over, so the scene-setting accessories are a row of rocks and a partial Space Police-coloured wreck. Take that, nasty Space Police!

Of course, now I want to build a full on Blacktron-liveried war tripod à la War of the Worlds.

Maybe later; I’m going off on holiday in less than a week. And I’ll probably have forgotten all about Blacktron Martians by the time I get back.

Blacktron Marauder

049The Marauder is a heavy fighter design used by the Blacktron Alliance as a space superiority and assault fighter.  Though not the most manoeuvrable ship in space, the Marauder makes up for that in armament and armour; Marauders will shrug off hits that will cripple other similarly-sized vessels.

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Armed with two forward-firing lasers and a quartet of proton cannons (represented by the two stud shooters on top and the two lightsaber hilts underneath), the Marauder is one of the most armed ships for its size in space.  It is also relatively fast for its mass, and though not the fastest ship in space, it is better armoured than most similarly-sized ships of equivalent speed.

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All of this weaponry and speed takes power, and the Marauder must run its drive power plant at rates which the Federation deem beyond safe limits due to the increased radiation exposure for the pilot.  The Blacktron Alliance uses nanotechnology banned in the Federation to aid the body’s own cellular systems in repairing radiation damage, and is frequently willing to run their drive systems at unsafe levels.

The Marauder’s overcharged drive unit burns through fuel rods far faster than equivalent Federation ships, however, so its range is rather lower than its Federation counterparts.  The Alliance consider the trade-off worthwhile, however, and frequently base their fightercraft on large hyperspace carriers and base ships.


I’ve seen other people building spaceships on a corner angle before, most notably Peter Reid’s Viper from Building the Future, but also others.  And the “impossibility factor” of building something in a weird direction always makes this sort of build look extra cool – how do you get a pilot to sit right?  I decided to stretch myself and have a go at the technique.

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And it lets me use my one Blacktron quarter panel to best effect.  And, to reiterate, it’s a Blacktron ship, so it’s almost automatically awesome! 🙂

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It was quite a challenge to get the pilot’s seat and the cockpit canopy to sit at what became a diagonal angle in SNOT construction, and you might notice that the cockpit doesn’t quite cover all of the pilot’s legs.  I might be able to rectify that in a future build, but for this one it will have to stay as it is.

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I’m still lacking a proper Blacktron astronaut, too, so the pilot is wearing a Castle helmet and an old black flight-suit torso from a long-forgotten set.  Some sort of Blacktron Special Forces, perhaps.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this build.  It’s one of my favourite real-brick creations to date.

SteamBlacktron Alle-Venator

Following on from my “Einvader” steampunk re-imagining of the Blacktron Invader, it was clear that the Baron von Blacktron was going to need some sort of ground vehicle for his forces of villainy.

SteamBlacktron Alle-Venator

SteamBlacktron Alle-Venator

The Alienator is a walker, which is pretty steampunky already, but “Alienator” isn’t a very steampunky name. Still, we can adapt. Using the odd mix of German and Latin that produced “Einvader”, I’m calling this the “Alle-Venator”. Translated, this would be “All-Hunter”, which seems apt for a SteamBlacktron walker.

Alle-Venator 2

The Alle-Venator has fully-jointed legs that allow a much better level of motion and poseability than the disappointing sliding motion of the original. Ah, the wonders of modern ball joint elements!

Alle-Venator 3

There is a piston/double wheel arrangement on the back that I’m quite pleased with, and the inevitable billowing smokestack that tells you beyond a doubt that yes, this is steampunk.

Alle-Venator 4

The name suggested a manhunter rather than an anti-armour fighting machine, so the armament is a pair of large machine guns on an underslung turret beneath the cockpit. The front feet also have some nasty-looking claws as a secondary attack mode. I’ve made the pilot of this one a girl; it seems wickedly appropriate for the pilot of a manhunter. I’m calling her Magda von Morrigan, referencing the Irish warrior goddess and keeping with the Germanic name theme of my SteamBlacktron forces.

Alle-Venator 5

So now my Baron von Blacktron has a flying machine and a walker.