Tag Archives: Microscale

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.

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A Solar Bird

Sunhawk-class War Frigate of the Solarian Empire

ISS Royal Falcon is a Sunhawk-class heavy war frigate of the Solarian Empire’s Imperial Space Navy.

In the Imperial age of Human expansion, “war frigate” has come to mean a heavy warship of capital ship class whose design emphasises manoeuvrability (compare “battleglobe”: a heavy capital warship whose design emphasises armament and defence over manoeuvre).

The Sunhawks are armed with six powerful antimatter beams – Imperial capital ship beam weapons akin to grasers but using antiphotons – with enough destructive potential to crack the crustal plate of a smaller Earthlike world. Backing this up are a pair of dorsally-mounted graser turrets and the usual anti-small craft defensive lasers.

Missiles have largely been superseded in the imperial age: even the Solarian Empire’s finest minds have not thus far been able to cram a supraluminal-velocity drive and the power plant to run it into a hull even remotely missile-sized. However, the Sunhawk-class carry a bank of ten of what would once have been classified as missiles that employ standard reactionless sublight drives and antimatter warheads. Doctrinally, however, these are “mines”; their sublight speed makes them ineffective as direct weapons but they can be dropped in prepared positions as a defensive measure.

ISS Royal Falcon is the third ship of its class, following her sister ship ISS Condorine and ISS Sunhawk herself. Imperial tradition is for Naval vessels to be painted predominantly white; at the distances and stellar irradiation levels at which spatial combat takes place colour is largely irrelevant, and white has been the Imperial colour since the ascension of the Averon dynasty.

The Imperial Space Navy is not simply a war-fighting body, however. As one of the most visible arms of the Imperial state, they are often called upon to fly the Emperor’s banner in internal diplomatic functions, and for that a certain amount of visual impressiveness is called for.

Like all Imperial Space Navy vessels, ISS Royal Falcon is ornamented with sections of ornate gold paneling and other highlights in the ancient precious metal. Since the advent of asteroidal smelting and the fusion torch which can literally remodel the nuclei of atoms, gold is commoner than its precious metal status would imply, but Humans continue to associate it with wealth and kingship. Besides, it is more attractive than truly rare metals such as the Palladium group.

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I wanted to try my hand at building an ornately decorated spaceship.

Scrollwork and semi-baroque styling are not something you see every day on a space cruiser (unless it’s a steampunk aethergoing dreadnought). It’s a waste of time and resources. Most future-human societies follow the mass-production-derived aesthetic of clean lines and heavy functionalism.

However, given the stylistic changes that have come about in the last couple of centuries, who knows what the aesthetics of the 23rd-27th Centuries are going to look like? A return to ornate decoration isn’t out of the question, especially if it has a psychological role to play in inspiring awe of the central government.

I’d rather have liked to build a larger vessel than this, but I found myself using more white than I initially anticipated in the forward section and then running low as I built the back. That explains the slightly more blockily-shaped rear section and the fact that it’s a mere 60 studs’ length rather than being the SHIP I suspected I wouldn’t manage. SHIPbuilding is hard work.

Ornately decorated space cruisers just seem to say “empire”; Star Wars’ Imperial fleet may have grooved to brutalist minimalism, but I just can’t imagine a basically democratic state like a Federation ending up with semi-baroque ornamented battleships. Therefore the Solarian Empire, with its white-painted war frigates and its golden decorative elements.

LSS Heliotrope

LSS Heliotrope

LSS Heliotrope is a Flower-class space corvette operated by the Earth League as a convoy escort.

Problems with space piracy as the League spread between the stars led to the readoption of the ancient wet navy convoy system, and it quickly became clear that tying up full-scale space cruisers and battleships on escort duty was a waste of resources. Most pirates in any case were only well-armed enough to threaten unarmed merchantmen, and the “privateers” registered with the ragtag “militaries” of various secessionist groups tended to have very limited defensive capabilities for all their formidable offensive punch.

The space corvette was posited as the solution. Smaller even than the frigates serving as fleet escorts and scout ships, space corvettes had small hulls, sturdy high-endurance drives, relatively small but effective armaments and highly effective counterbattery capacity. The Flowers were some of the larger corvettes of the Earth League, massing in with a displacement only a little smaller than a typical frigate. Their maximum velocity was faster than most corvettes, though their jump engines followed typical merchantman pattern: smaller and with a shorter range.

The Flower-class’ armament consists of four dorsally-mounted graser turrets, with a cluster of four light defence lasers forward. The class’ defensive shield generators are configurable to project not only the standard ellipsoidal single-ship field, but also a planar force wall behind which weaker merchant vessels may hide. Though not overlarge, the planar nature of the force wall allows an on-point field strength similar to the ellipsoidal shield at nominal 4x-ship-length diameter.

LSS Heliotrope was the sixth hull laid down of the first flight, joining her sisters Aconite, Sunflower, Hellebore, Snapdragon and Gladiolus. She mostly served on the lucrative Taurean Loop route between 104 Tauri, Xi Orionis and Tau Ceti, being one of the ships deemed responsible for driving out the infamous Blood Clan pirate fleet of Xi Orionis. Heliotrope herself is credited with killing the pirate “cruisers” Jeweled Dagger, Ragnarok and Void Hunter, as well as numerous smaller pirates.

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Built predominantly with studs-forward SNOT construction and on a 45° angle placing one corner uppermost, Heliotrope‘s slender, needle-like construction was initially going to belong to a freighter, before I changed my mind and started to add weapons. By that point I’d done different things with several of the obvious weapons-mount locations, and I liked what I’d built enough to keep it.

With few obvious weapons mount locations, something small like a frigate or escort seemed logical, and having played around with a few names I settled on Heliotrope.

Prometheus

Prometheus Base

Prometheus Astrovolcanic Research Base – a scientific research outpost located deep in the lava-floored canyons of planet Pyros-III.

Built into the rock of the canyon side, Prometheus Base has all the necessary facilities of a proper Galactic Federation outpost, including a landing pad, living quarters, laboratory facilities and vehicular maintenance facilities. The base is a centre for seismological, volcanic and mineralogical research; Pyros-III is home to a number of unique and near-unique mineral formations. The facility is important enough, however, that seismology and mineralogy are not the sole foci of the base; Prometheus Base also plays host to materials research, applied forcefield technology and planetary science departments of considrable acumen.

Astronomy is one of the few major research areas not represented on Prometheus Base: the geologically unstable surface and noxious volcanic fumes make for a poor environment for stargazing.

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Loosely based on all those brilliantly impressive canyon-base builds, but on a much smaller scale, I’m mostly pleased with how this turned out, though I’ve got a lot less in the way of dark grey slope elements than I thought I had. I suppose I could have used moulded rock elements, but I had my doubts as to how they’d look.

One of the problems of this build is that the scale actually works against it. It’s so compact and microscale that it’s difficult to see in. The cantilevered landing pad doesn’t help any, either, but I had to put it somewhere and that seemed the best place to put it.

I think that in a build of this nature, bigger really is better. At least you can see everything more or less properly. Scrunching it down to tiny microscale runs into issues. But I didn’t really tumble to that until afterwards. Maybe I should have opened up the front of the build more, but I wanted that narrow canyon effect.

Still, I like this enough that I might do something similar again. Maybe with ice colours instead, or tan…

Magnetic Repulsion?

M-Tron Magno-Crawler

This tiny crawler is my first ever M-Tron creation.

Microscale by virtue of necessity as I possess no M-Tron astronauts and precious few trans neon green elements, it represents my first foray into the 1991-1993 theme with its extensive use of magnets and its predominantly red colour scheme.

M-Tron replaced Futuron as the primary civilian faction, bridging the gap between the first and second generations of the Blacktron and Space Police. If their crawlers and vehicles were anything to go by, they were a space-mining or transportation theme, and as such, are possibly an interestingly Classic Space-like precursor of the terrible Rock Raiders theme.

I know the Rock Raider theme had its afficionadoes, but it’s been probably my least-favourite Space theme of them all for some time now, due to its ugly brown colour scheme and fantasy-like trolls – I mean rock monsters – and for the fact that space mining as a theme concept is a really good one with great potential, but Rock Raiders is so heavy on the mining that it seems to have forgotten it’s supposed to be in space.

M-Tron was never a theme I got particularly into. I was entering fully into my circumstantially-enforced LEGO Dark Ages at the time, and still mourning the end of my beloved Classic Space theme and its Futuron successors. The weird spaceship with the revolving antennas like it was some sort of darned nonsensical vacuum helicopter was one of theirs, and I still felt that red was an unnatural colour for a spaceship, so thoroughly was I marinated in Classic Space.

Having reapproached the theme as an adult and realised that they’re the miners, I’m finding myself starting to like it in a way I never really found myself able to like Rock Raiders.

The difference is that before, I was always trying to crowbar the Rock Raiders into the Classic Space/Futuron/Blacktron/Ice Planet/Spyrius shared universe and getting frustrated at how badly they fail to fit. Their technology doesn’t look right, they have a single team of named characters, they don’t wear enclosing vacuum-capable helmets and air tanks, and their vehicles are depressingly earth-tone and dystopian.

But if the M-Trons are the Classic Space universe’s space miners, then I don’t need to make the Rock Raiders fit. They can do their own thing off in their own alternate universe and leave my brightly-coloured, shiny Classic universe and its Federation alone.

I think part of my blind spot to the M-Tron folks’ existence was that I’d mentally misplaced them in the sequence of early Space factions, thinking of them as the successors of the Ice Planet theme, not their predecessors. That, together with my youthful misliking of the theme’s red colour and what-the-frak? reaction to its stupid pseudo-helicopter (someone obviously wasn’t thinking about the implications of Space when they designed this absurdity. It’s vacuum. A helicopter’s not going to work, and something that looks like a helicopter is just going to make me think you are being stupid with my beloved Space stuff. Seriously, get it right, people) were enough to push a sort of mental “erase” button and wipe it from my list of proper classic Space themes. But if we ignore the stupid space helicopter and compare them to Rock Raiders, suddenly they look pretty good. Pretty darned good, in fact. I might build more of these.

This microvehicle is a large transport crawler of some form, with a crane mounted on the back for loading and unloading. This being an M-Tron creation, the crane is presumably magnetic.

I believe this is the first time I’ve ever used the control stick as a crane, but it looks perfect, and far more M-Tronian than a gun turret.

Unusually for me, this creation definitely has a display side and a back side, as I was only able to make the middle wheels work on one of the two sides.

It’s nothing super-special, but I’m rather pleased with it as a first tentative foray into M-Tron space. When I first considered an M-Tron creation just to round out the classic Space themes that were all definitely set in the same universe (along with the Space Police, and I still haven’t built one of theirs) I wasn’t sure I could pull it off given the paucity of my neon green windscreen elements and my unfamiliarity with the theme, but then the cheese wedge slopes from the Robo Explorer set caught my eye and I realised that a microscale was actually within my capabilities. So of course, I had to build an M-Tron micro.

M-Tron Magno-Crawler

Stingship

Federation Scorpio-class destroyer

Modeling your sci-fi vehicles after living creatures is nearly always cool, but the peaceable Classic Space Federation are probably the last people you’d normally associate with the idea of building hardware shaped like a scorpion.

Nevertheless, in a fit of irony I’ve assembled this scorpionoid spacegoing destroyer, and it’s one of the most overarmed spaceships I’ve ever built. Goodness only knows what the power requirements on this thing are when it’s firing all of its guns…

What I’m calling the Scorpio-class destroyer started out as a prospective ground vehicle designed around those front arms. It wasn’t even specifically going to be a scorpion at that point.

It was only after I decided I didn’t like the looks of it as a rover and added the ball cannons that I specifically decided to turn it into a scorpion ship, because those cup-and-ball-mounted guns make wicked legs.

In the past I’ve specifically eschewed the use of the term “destroyer” for my Federation spaceships. It’s always seemed too aggressive and militaristic and, well, destructive. In my version of the Classic Space Federation, larger vessels are typically cruisers and smaller vessels are frigates, both of which terms have enough history as not specifically naval vessel types to sound somehow more peaceable. However, destroyer was really the only choice for a vessel with this many guns on it, so I’ve built my first ever Classic Space destroyer.

With engines that small, I doubt it’s any speedster or hyperagile transorbital combatant, but if its anything like its design namesake it’s at least well-armoured. Warships typically emphasise a maximum of two of the triad of armour, firepower and speed, and I’d guess that what the Federation designers decided to de-emphasise in this particular case was speed.

This isn’t the most adventurous spaceship model as far as technique is concerned, but I rather like it anyway. Who would have guessed that a scorpion would look so good in blue? Or that a scorpion could serve as such a natural-seeming model for a spaceship rather than a surface tank?

Skeleton Crew

Halloween or Día de los Muertos would probably be a more appropriate season for this one than the time around Thanksgiving, but as someone who builds Ice Planet battle fleets at the height of a Texas summer I seem to have a bit of a thing for unseasonal building.

Yes, it’s a skeletal space fleet. I told you everything’s cooler in space.

I’m not sure whether these ships are crewed by the undead or just an interplanetary tribe with a strong skull-and-bones fetish, but if you’re dealing with zero-gravity and vacuum then it really doesn’t matter what your ships look like. After a certain technological point it becomes “why not?”

So, a skeletal fleet.

I built the large ship first and then scaled down, with the tiny vessel next and then the intermediate one that looks like it’s got some Klingon in its ancestry. It’s sort of bizarre how much I want to build with white exactly when my daughter is using most of our stocks of that colour, but bloodymindedness is something of a personal trait, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, it’s a little frustrating. Maybe she’ll let me break up her model soon, and then I can go back to wanting to use grey and blue. Or green; I haven’t used green as a major colour in a build for what feels like ages.

Anyway, enough of my random musings on colour choices! I built a skeletal starship, then turned it into a small fleet. The big ship is called the Orcus, after the Roman god of death; the smaller ships are the Vulture and the Scarab. Don’t ask me to make any more, because I really am out of white now.