Tag Archives: Microscale

Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX

I have to confess to an abiding love for the Ice Planet 2002 theme.

You’d think this wouldn’t be something you have to “confess” to, but if you delve around on the Internet, several of the articles written about the 1993/4 theme have seemed to suggest it was somehow unpopular or controversial.

I don’t know about that, but it’s always seemed fine to me. I honestly don’t see what the supposed problem is, and I marvel that what seems like a great theme with a lot of potential only got a single year of run time.

The big set of the theme rejoices in two different English language names depending on which side of the Atlantic you are. In the US, it’s the weirdly-named “Deep Freeze Defender”, a name which always brings to mind the freezer section at Wal-Mart; in my native UK it’s the far more interesting “Ice Cruiser Zycon-IV”.

Old Space theme sets have a long history of transatlantically differing names: the Space Cruiser and Moonbase (UK) was the Galaxy Explorer (US), while the Cosmic Fleet Voyager (US) was known in Britain as the Taurean Ore Carrier.

Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX

Building an update of set 6973, then, I’m blowed if I’m going to name it after frozen vegetables, so this is the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX.

Peter Reid and Tim Goddard already used “Zycon-V” for their microscale update of the main Ice Planet vessel from LEGO Space: Building the Future, so that was out. And anyway, this one’s bigger, so should have a bigger number.

I picked “Zycon-IX” as the next I-something Roman numeral after IV.

Unlike Reid and Goddard’s Zycon-V (I’m not sure which of them created which of the models in their collaborative book), the Zycon-IX is designed to be able to make planetary landings. This may mean that the Zycon-V is actually bigger than my -IX in “real life”, or it may simply mean that I use a higher tech base in my interpretation of classic LEGO Space themes, and my people can deal better with hull stresses for take-off and landing.

Like them, though, and unlike the original theme, I’ve used trans regular orange rather than its neon version for transparent elements. In my case, this is mostly an issue of element availability. Even with its use in Nexo Knights, there still isn’t all that much available in trans neon orange, and we don’t have very much from the Nexo Knights theme in this household. But I actually like the look of the trans orange, particularly over white.

In sharp contrast to my recent space battlecruisers and dreadnoughts, the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX is actually entirely unarmed, at least visually. The Ice Planet crew always seemed like a tougher, more rugged bunch than the Futuron astronauts, but even as an original theme they didn’t have a lot of prominent weaponry. They work in an incredibly hostile environment; they don’t exactly need to be shooting at people on top of that. Besides, in the three-way factional split common to most classic Space themes, Ice Planet represented the neutral or “civilian” faction protected from the dastardly Blacktron II faction (and the Spyrius) by the second-generation Space Police. It’s the Space Police that probably have the guns. It might have made sense to give it a couple of anti-asteroid space blasters or something, though, but by the time I realised it was completely unarmed I was 95% done with the construction and there weren’t too many good places left to fit a pulse laser.

Talking about the generation-2 Space Police, it occurs to me that I dislike the Space Police II colours and I dislike the Blacktron II colours. Maybe the LEGO Group were just having a bad time with their Space theme colour palettes. Ice Planet’s the only one from that season that I actually approve of.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to dispense with the original Zycon-IV’s complex modularity; the ship split into four sections and could be rearranged into two smaller vessels. I felt that with the kind of upsized microscale transorbital ship I was building, the modular approach was not going to work as well. If the ship were expected to stay in orbit, it might make sense for it to have at least a couple of dockable landing shuttles, for instance, but given that I intended the whole thing to be able to make planetary landings, I decided to eschew modularity in favour of a more unified construction.

Zycon-IX: Close-up side detail

I think my favourite part is the use of the ice dozer blade element as a radar scanner. I’ve used all three of my Ice Planet logo-bearing elements on this one creation, which may be overkill, but I wouldn’t want to get rid of the scanner. Looking at it, I’m struck by how much the logo resembles a traditional British Christmas pudding, but it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that the Ice Planet organisation did that deliberately, is it? People have all sorts of slightly hokey or humorous logos and mascots; look at the Geico gecko or Ronald McDonald.

I’m also quite pleased with that stand that lets it be displayed flying at an angle. Easy and basic perhaps, but I like the nontypical flight pose.

Presumably there’s some sort of main cargo hatch in the lower hull allowing the various Ice Planet surface vehicles and VX-122 fliers (“Blizzard Barons”, if you insist on the slightly lame American names) to be unloaded onto the surface. It would actually be interesting to see if I could build any of them at an appropriate scale, but I’m pretty sure they’d all be too small by comparison.

Still, maybe I might.

Advertisements

Bolt from the Black

Thunderbolt-class cruiser of the Blacktron Alliance

The Thunderbolt-class Strike Cruiser is a Blacktron Alliance fleet battlecruiser based on the Fury-class Heavy Cruiser but armed with a supermassive hyperrelativistic railgun.

The Fury-class is considered by many observers to be one of the most versatile of Blacktron warships due to the several variants it has spawned, including not only the Thunderbolt-class but also a Marine assault variant (the Nemesis-class) and an extensively modified hospital ship (the Hippocrates-class).

The base Fury-class are armed with a pair of triple-mounted 50cm high X-ray laser turrets dorsally and three ventrally, plus six side-mounted sponsons with three 25cm lasers apiece, with frequencies in the low X-ray/high UV range.

For close assault, the baseline Fury utilises a trio of heavy 60cm plasma accelerators mounted forward, plus various lighter 10cm point defence laser clusters.

Bow end of the Thunderbolt, showing the supermassive railgun and twin dorsal plasma accelerators.

The Thunderbolt-class modifies the baseline Fury by dispensing with all three ventral 50cm X-ray laser turrets plus one of the plasma accelerators and rerouting power to the hyperrelativistic railgun. The 10cm laser point defence clusters are upgraded to 12cm mounts with a faster cooling cycle between shots, given how Thunderbolts draw enemy fire.

Triple quantum gravity drives

The three quantum-gravitic antimatter engines are unchanged from the baseline Fury-class. The Galactic Federation believe that quantum gravity engines are too dangerous and unstable for normal use, so they utilise the slower linear induction drives for normal-space manoeuvring and hyperspace jump engines for interstellar transit. Quantum gravity engines generate a wormhole-like gravitational singularity which at lower power settings acts to propel the ship forwards sliding down an inclined plane of spacetime, and at higher power settings creates a full-scale directed temporary wormhole allowing point-to-point space jumps. The technology releases a certain amount of dangerous cosmic radiation, however, especially at the high-power spatial jump settings.

The Federation considers the Thunderbolt-class to be a terror weapon because of the destructive power of its EL-3(T) railgun. Nicknamed the “Elephant Gun”, it fires a 12.5-tonne nickel-iron-banded titanium cylinder to velocities approaching 85% of lightspeed. At that velocity, the kinetic energy of the projectile is well into the dinosaur-kilker range, and unconfirmed rumours exist of 2000km diameter planetoids actually being broken apart by Elephant Gun strikes.

Central hull, showing dorsal heavy laser turrets and triple-mount side sponsons

The Blacktron Alliance consider the Thunderbolt-class a deterrent against ongoing Federation encroachment on its sphere of influence as agreed in the 2247 Treaty of Achernar. The politics of Federation-Blacktron interstellar relations are murky at best, and the Treaty of Achernar is only one of a string of “binding treaties” broken or abrogated by one side or the other.

~~~

At 28 inches long (71cm, or 75 studs), this is my largest Blacktron construction to date.

I was actually shocked that it ended up so much longer than my spacewhale, but that’s what the tape measure says. It’s a smaller volume ship, obviously, but yes, it’s a full 11 studs longer than the Cetus.

It’s also a lot more conventional in construction, without the internal Technic framing, multidirectional structural (rather than decorative) SNOTwork and clever technique. I rather like it anyway, but it’s just a lot less clever.

There Be Spacewhales Here!

My son finally decided he’d rather build Batstuff than a spaceship with which to battle my Guppy, so he decided I could break it up for parts after all.

What this means is that I was able to finish out my spacewhale; officially the Cetus-class Dreadnought.

The completed Cetus-class spacewhale

Cetus, of course, was the Ancient Greek mythological sea monster fought by Perseus in order to rescue the princess Andromeda, and it’s from her name (which ought to be Ketos if we dispense with the Latinised version) that we get our modern English word “cetacean”. Cetus is also immortalised in the heavens as one of a whole cluster of constellations relating to the story of Perseus, and I can imagine the various members of the class having names that go either way: constellations or sea monsters. I think sea monsters would be more apt, though, given the cetaceanoid form of my space dreadnought: Cetus, Leviathan, Jormundgand, Ogopogo, Moby Dick

If you’re building a spacewhale, it should result in a good-sized build unless you’re being deliberately ironic, and Cetus‘ 24-inch length is respectable, if not the 37 1/2 inches of true SHIP territory. I’m coming to the conclusion that I can technically build to a 100-stud length, but I need more bricks if I’m going to do it well. Something between 24 and 30 inches is more reasonable for my current brick inventory.

The Cetus actually looks like it ought to measure more than a mere two feet, but that’s what my tape measure says. Perhaps it’s the modified-teardrop shape giving it the illusion of foreshortening.

The sperm whale has the closest body form of real-life cetaceans to that classic “antique whale” look, and it’s a predator to boot, so that’s the model I’ve used for the dreadnought. While it would be fascinating to see a space dreadnought modeled on a Humpback or Bowhead whale, I think I made the right call going with the largest of the toothed whales.

White and dark red have been successfully used as a colour scheme by the Old Republic and the Rebel Alliance for generations now, and they are one of my “doable” large-ship liveries based on household brick availability. I went with it, and though it’s less oceanic than some things I might have done, it still looks pretty good on a whale. Especially with the generally more uniform light grey structural parts.

I think this is one of my most satisfying creations for some time. The ribbed half-cylinder top of the front hull, the greebling, the overall form… The tail’s probably the least pleasing part, and even that’s workable. Not a stroke of brilliance, but workable. Technic wheels like this are about the simplest and most uncreative ways of doing large engines, but at least I have some in grey now; I’m not restricted to Ninjago gold.

The vessel has a decent spread of guns, from the cup-and-ball sponson main guns through the side-mounted turrets and forward-firing fin guns to the upper broadsides, small dorsal turrels and control lever turrets. I’m not even certain whether the control levers are point defence turrets or some sort of antenna mounting, but they could go either way.

That’s one thing this doesn’t have a lot of, actually: visible antennas and sensors. I’m assuming the forward dome hides some sort of sensor array, but apart from that there are only a couple of antennas further back. And any attempt to place antenna bricks on the bow section, for example, would just make it look too whiskery and lose the impact of the whale shape.

Ah, well, who says sensor arrays in the 24th Century (or whenever) can’t be hull-conforming?  There’s also a drop-down ramp for whatever fighter complement it carries, looking rather like the sperm whale’s mouth.

I finished my first multi-day build, and appropriately enough, it’s a whale. Or at least, a Cetus.

Sneak Preview: The Belly of the Spacewhale

I don’t generally do “work in progress” photos.

No, cancel that; I never do “work in progress” photos.

There’s not usually a lot of point with the way I build. You see, LEGO is a highly intensive experience for me. Once I start building in earnest, my world contracts until it’s pretty much me and the bricks, and minor things like remembering to have lunch tend to fall by the wayside. It’s close to psychologically impossible for me to leave something half-built, so up until now, almost all of my models have been built all in one go.

Oh, I may fiddle around with surface details afterwards, but that doesn’t change the fact that what I’m doing is modifying a finished creation, not finishing something I left half-complete.

There are implications from this, and the foremost is of course that there’s not a lot of point in “in-process” shots when I’ll be taking photos of the finished product by the end of the day. Even my just-SHIP LSS Liberator was built all in one go.

This one was different.

First in-process photo of the forthcoing spacewhale, showing the front and main structural spine.

I’d already planned to actually force myself to stop and take WIP shots, partly because I anticipated that this might actually get up into SHIP range again (It doesn’t. I’m thinking I still need more bricks to be building SHIPs as a regular thing), but mostly because I wanted to be sure I had it right, without the last-minute unplanned lengthenings that pushed Liberator over the 100-stud threshold. I think I’d have made a better starship if I’d have left it at the point of realisation and gone off to contemplate what I needed to do next.

The other main consequence of my particular intensive building style is that all this waiting around for a Bricklink order to arrive so that I can complete my creation that other builders talk about doesn’t happen. If I haven’t got the bricks to do what I initially wanted, I find some way of adapting the design to let me do something I have got the bricks for. Whether that’s impatience or adaptive creativity or a little of both I’m not sure, but there it is. I’d usually rather wing it than slavishly follow a plan, even if it’s my own plan.

Secondary in-process shot showing the forward armoured side panels and ventral hull details.

I confess I did go on to finish this spacewhale build that I talked about last time a lot more after I took these in-progress shots, but she’s still awaiting a few touches, because my son begged me not to break up the Blue Guppy for the parts I needed just yet, and I decided to indulge him.

I did get a post out of it, though, because it gave me this opportunity to talk about the building process.

Stay posted for the full details of the upcoming Cetus-class Space Dreadnought.

Different angle on the stage 2 WIP photos.

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.

Motley Devil

Arrr! Avast, ye scurvy spacedogs!

Space navies aren’t always the only agencies to field armed starships. The Star Wars universe has its smugglers with their armed freighters, and many other universes have mercenaries, privateers and outright pirates.

The inspiration for this spacegoing privateer came from me trying out different combinations of my dark blue and dark red curved shell elements, looking for different ways I might use both together. Combining them in chequered fashion, I was put in mind of a Mediaeval jester’s motley, and I thought the combination had definite possibilities.

Of course, there are very few official space navies that are going to use chequered blue and red as livery colours. Even a putative Croatian Space Service would use red and white, not blue and red. And even fewer would put up with having a warship named Motley Devil.

Therefore, a privateer.

I’m not sure whether this baby is part of a mercenary fleet, a lone-wolf privateer or an out-and-out pirate, but I’m happy to leave that much open to interpretation.

Motley Devil‘s another large vessel. What is it with me and these huge vessels? She’s not as long as Liberator, at a mere 60 studs’ length, but even if she doesn’t remotely qualify for SHIP status she’s got a more satisfyingly interesting shape.

I think my favourite part of Motley Devil is the octagonally-arranged rear hull. Combining the ring of 45-degree angle plates with the central spine was not as easy as it might have been, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

Another favourite part is the jaunty skull decoration on the upper hull. It serves no discernible purpose other than to look cool, but who’s to say a band of privateers wouldn’t individualise the starship that is their home?

Motley Devil is relatively well armed for a privateer; perhaps she’s more of a mercenary than a pirate. I’ve reused those cool ball mounts for the main forward guns, and utilised most of the new elements I bought with SHIP construction in mind.

Those 45-degree angle plates really aren’t designed to have anything connected through the centre of the ring like I have, so there’s a major structural weakness, and it’s an unavoidable one. Still, it makes for a cool-looking ship.

Anyway, enjoy!

The Viper, Victorious

I said I was going to build a cruiser in the Vic Viper configuration, and here it is, more or less.

Another corner build using my lone Blacktron quarter panel (I need to get another one of those so that it can become a by-choice deal rather than a by-necessity), it has all the features required for a proper Vic Viper, but in a cruiser format.

The single vertical tail fin becomes a bridge sail section, the twin prongs are in place, and the wings curl upwards because of my decision to use Castle turret top elements.

I’ve been far more sparing with yellow bricks than even my usual approach to the Blacktron; something that many people seem to get wrong is that they put too much yellow in a Blacktron creation, with the result that it looks like construction hazard striping. The Victorious-class goes to almost the opposite extreme. It’s a major light sink, and wouldn’t be easy to spot using optical sensors against the blackness of space.

Thankfully for those viewing, I’m sure, I’ve shot my photos against a white background so that the details are more visible. That’s the problem with black ships and vessels: they’re hard to photograph well, especially with the primitive handheld camera setup I have.

As befits a cruiser of the more militarily-inclined Blacktron Alliance, the Victorious is fairly well-armed, with heavy spinal lasers, lighter defensive pulse turrets and intermediate-size long guns. Much of the armament is exclusively forward-firing, which may be a weak point of the design, but in my “Brightly-Coloured Tyranny” Classic Space alternate universe the Blacktron are a rebel alliance or resistance movement opposed to the corrupt Federation government and its oppressive Space Police. They aren’t necessarily going to have the experience to make perfect combat designs right off the bat.

Anyway, here she is, the Blacktron Victorious-class Cruiser, ready to oppose the Federation and do some damage to as many Space Police ships as possible.