Tag Archives: Microscale

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

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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.

The Ring of Gyges

You may have noticed, but I find mythology a fascinating source of names for my various LEGO spaceships and mechs and rovers and whatnot. And this small starship is no different, being named the Gyges-class cruiser.

The Ring of Gyges was a magical artifact from Greek mythology, mentioned by Plato in his Republic. Purportedly owned by King Gyges of Lydia, a Greek colonial province in what is now mainland Turkey, the ring granted the power of invisibility, much like Tolkien’s One Ring did.

Given its ring-shaped drive section, it almost had to be named after some kind of mythological or fictional ring or other. Nazgul-class would work for a Blacktron vessel, but this one is in Classic Space colours, and it just doesn’t work. It was almost Nibelung-class, or Avebury-class after the British stone circle that was constructed contemporary with the Great Pyramid. I suppose the main hull of the ship is even somewhat menhir-shaped, so that would have worked quite well.

However, I seem to have formed a connection in my mind between Classic Space designs and Greco-Roman mythological names; somehow they just seem right, you know? Ergo, Gyges.

I confess to being a bit of a sucker for both ring-shaped drive sections and for vertically-oriented ships, and this is both. The Vulcan cruisers from Star Trek: Enterprise were some of the most stunningly unique vessels produced by that entire franchise, and I loved them, especially the ring-shaped warp drive unit. It made me wonder why humans had kept on producing ships with nacelle designs, if the Vulcan ring drives were capable of such superior performance. Still, this being Trek it would have been the height of weirdness if the archetypal Federation saucer-and-nacelles design were Vulcan in origin and the humans produced very different-looking ships…

The oval ring section rather reminds me of the Odyssey, heroic starship of the awesome 1980s Greek-mythology-in-space cartoon TV series Ulysses 31, except turned on its side. The rest of the ship is very different, though; more like Star WarsJedi Starfighters with their hyperdrive rings. If there are other ring-shaped starships or starships with ring-shaped drive sections out there, I’d be interested to see them. Like I said, I’m a sucker for their implicit coolness.

Gyges is probably about the same length as a World War 2 cruiser or battleship if it were Real Life, with the trans red studs all around the ring representing the stardrive. I’m suspecting it uses something like a point-to-point artificial wormhole generator or similar; mostly because most of the sci-fi I’m familiar with uses something else: Star Trek has its warp drive; Star Wars and Babylon 5 utilise hyperspace; Stargate SG-1 used point-to-point gates, and Halo has some kind of foldspace, if I recall correctly. Using wormholes as stardrives sounds both plausible and uncommon, so it’s recommended on at least two counts.

I have no idea whether it’s even armed. The only obvious weapon candidates are the bar projections on the ring section and the twin cannonlike attachments on the sides of the main hull, but I’m thinking the bar projections around the ring are concerned with the wormhole drive’s functionality, and the “cannons” on the main hull just seem more like some sort of sensors or probe launcher. Probably it has at least defensive lasers, but I expect they’re too small to see at this scale.

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.

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.