Tag Archives: MOC

Fee Fi Fo Fum

…I smell the blood of a LEGO microfigure!

The fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk makes a great subject for a LEGO model, but the story itself always bothered me. I mean, Jack’s obviously the hero, and Englishman-eating giants are obviously bad news (though possibly not if you’re French). But Jack is stupid.

I can forgive him being lazy and not liking to work. Who does? I can overlook his ecological vandalism and thievery. I can overlook the fact that the giant (and Jack) are walking around in a house built up in the clouds. But if you think that five pretty-coloured beans offered by a random stranger equal the value of one solid and milk-producing cow, you probably respond to all those Nigerian email scams.

Jack and his mother’s cottage

Of course, this is a typical fairytale trope. The useless-looking magic beans or battered old lamp or what have you are actually the most valuable of things and the key to great wealth – if you have the wit to avail yourself of it. In the real world it seldom works out that way. The mega jackpot winner could be you, but the chances are that you’ve just spent your money for nothing.

One giant-sized minifig

Still, the beanstalk makes a nice subject for a model, and I’ve actually got enough of those bamboo segments that I can build something like this without even using all of them. I broke out the Minotaurus microfigures again for Jack, trying all four available colours. Blue seemed like the best colour at first, tying into nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and so on. But it’s not all that visible against the green of the beanstalk. Red is nice and bright, but bean flowers are red, and I’ve got those on the beanstalk as well. Yellow is distinctive, but so many LEGO minifigures have yellow skin that he looks kind of naked. And yellow just isn’t a very Jack the Giant-Killer colour. So I tried white, but he’s just close enough to the overhead cloud that it looks weird. Blue it is, then.

Blue just seems like the right colour for Jack the Giant-Killer

I may do a whole series of fairytale builds, if I can think of enough that haven’t been turned into Disney films. And that’s not as easy as you might think.

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Twin Iron Engine fighting machine

The Twin Iron Engine fighting machine

An older design of steam-driven Imperial mech, the Twin Iron Engine fighting machine has been largely relegated to colonial use in Her Imperial Majesty’s interplanetary possessions since the introduction of the Turreted Assault Neutralisation Cruiser (“TANC Walker”).

In its heyday, it was one of the primary fighting machines of the Empire, holding its own against older walkers of the Sultan, the Kaiser and the Tsar. Since the advent of gun-turreted walkers like the Imperial TANC and the Sultanate’s Qızılbüyü, however, the forward-firing fixed armament of the Twin Iron Engine walker has been shown to be a severe disadvantage in an armour-versus-armour battle.

In the interplanetary colonial situation, however, mechs and walkers are more often employed against restless natives or raid-level incursions of foreign sepoy troops than in the set-piece battles of the Imperial heartland, and the twin medium-calibre thermophoric cannon of the TIE fighting machine are quite sufficient to most threats; the one serious exception being the War Tripods of the Ul-Gzan.

Ul-Gzan tripods are powered by ancient Martian crystal technology; the rechargeable energy crystals of the lost Martian super-civilisation which none can now duplicate but which many Martian native races still use. Crystal technology is in some ways more versatile than human steam power, but it can be unreliable, and if the crystals’ energy gets depleted beyond a certain limit the crystal can become resistant to recharging rendering it effectively useless. Steam, on the other hand, is easily generated with water and a heat source, and far more reliable, so while the Imperial Society of Engineers has done some experimentation with crystal power, steam is still the primary servant of the both the Imperial military and human civil agencies.

~~~

Part Martian fighting machine, part TIE fighter.  Because LEGO is awesome.

There have been numerous variations on the Star Wars TIE fighter theme. Box-standard TIE fighter. TIE bomber. TIE Advanced, which was probably the prototype of the TIE Interceptor. TIE Striker. And moving into the Extended Universe, TIE/D droid fighters, TIE Crawlers (of at least two varieties, both of which suck) and probably TIE Submersibles and TIE Rock-Borers as well. Then there are the very cool steampunk TIE fighters many other people have built.

I decided to merge the two ideas and build a steampunk TIE walker.

“Twin Ion Engine” makes no sense for steampunkery, though, so I played around with the name just enough to be vaguely sensible for steam power. And voila.

But Still They Come

Ul-Gzan Martian War Tripod

Now, now, Lieutenant!” Miss Francine Oberon said primly, readying her custom-designed heat-ray carbine. “The proper term for the cephalopoid natives is ‘Ul-Gzan’, not ‘Cuttlemonkeys’.”

Yes, Miss,” Lieutenant Ent Prescott grunted. Cuttlemonkeys they were and Cuttlemonkeys they would remain to anyone who had fought against the vicious, implacably hostile alien monstrosities. He wished he had a thermophoric cannon instead of this old-style six-pounder artillery piece; the Ul-Gzan were reputed to have one of their tripods operating in the area, and despite its importance to the Empire, Professor Oberon’s tiny independent scientific outpost was simply too remote to get much in the way of physical defences.

Ent Prescott (short for “Enterprise”) looked around at his decidedly inadequate defences. One antique six-pounder cannon, not even having the decency to be a proper modern heat-ray weapon, presided over by one slightly over-aged Royal Artillery Lieutenant. One sword-wielding Asiatic mercenary, even more useless against a tripod than a single six-pounder. One Professor Oberon’s daughter, fancying herself an adventuress, armed with a rather nice-looking heat-ray rifle and decanted into trousers rather than the natural dresses of her sex. Oh, and a pair of Stiltmen.

Enterprise had known that the Stiltmen of the region were allied to the Empire, and the battery’s commanding officer Captain Holcombe had rated them as fine fighters, but he was rather dubious. For all their gigantic height, Stiltmen were built like twigs and looked incredibly fragile, and these two didn’t even seem to have any weapons. What could they possibly do against a tripod – throw rocks at it?

What he wouldn’t give for a company of clockwork power-suited ticktockmen, or a half-squadron of mechs, or even a Mkai sepoy regiment!

Suddenly, a great sinkhole opened right in front of Professor Oberon’s outpost, and the dreaded three-legged fighting machine of the subterranean Ul-Gzan rose up higher than a house, higher than the dome of St. Nathaniel’s Cathedral in New Surrey. Powered by some kind of unfathomable crystal technology that some of the six Martian native species used but which none of them seemed to remotely understand or be able to duplicate, the War Tripod of the Ul-Gzan was the only native fighting machine that could rival the steam technology of Man. And here they were without most of that technology.

Manning his gun and thankful for its clockwork autoloading mechanism, Lieutenant Prescott opened fire on the tripod, as Miss Oberon stood guard with her heat-ray rifle and the Asiatic mercenary Shang-Yao Ping drew his longsword. A lucky shot at one of the leg joints might disable the war machine, bring it down, but the joints were notoriously difficult to hit. A narrow funnel rose from the roof of the tripod, unfolding as it did so, and Ent paled. It looked to be only a heavy rifle-calibre weapon, but what imbecilic, never-sufficiently-to-be-cursed traitor had sold the Cuttlemonkeys a heat-ray?

Over to one side, the Stiltmen were advancing on the tripod, palms outward like massively elongated policemen trying to order the rogue machine to halt. Lt. Prescott couldn’t see what that would accomplish, but the Cuttlemonkeys’ machine checked its advance, stabilised itself on all three legs and swivelled to face the new threat rather than dealing with the already-firing Human cannon. A flash of light erupted from the Stiltmen’s hands (he supposed he should call them Ojads. Professor Oberon’s daughter would probably like it) in a blinding ray that leaped toward the body of the tripod, and Ent Prescott understood. The Stiltmen didn’t carry weapons because Providence had equipped them with natural weapons as good as any Human-built thermophoric.

Filled with the energy of a sudden upsurge of new hope, the Lieutenant fired again…

~~~

Last time I played around with a steampunk Mars (in a story on the old LEGO Message Boards), it was the humans that used the tripods, and they were steam-driven.

This time around I decided to restore them to the Martians. They are a very unearthly form of locomotion; nothing in this world travels about on three legs. It seemed to make more sense than giving them to Mankind.

With six native species – as I blithely announced in the backstory to Major Galbraith’s Sapping Machine – I have a lot of decisions to make as to what they are like and how they all live. And what the humans call them; the age recalled and perfected in the steampunk genre was one of racial epithets and colonialism. “Cuttlemonkeys” seemed like a good nickname for a race of implacably hostile land-dwelling squids, while the Stiltmen basically named themselves.

Anyway, the “Martian War Machine versus Human Artillery” should strike a chord for those familiar with the War of the Worlds, but this time around the humans have alien sepoy reinforcements!

It Came From Outer Space

It Came From Outer Space… and got videoed on some random Earthling’s smartphone.

Classic flying saucers aren’t the easiest things to build in LEGO. Yes, they’ve been done, even in official sets and themes (Alien Conquest, UFO). But the disclike shape is particularly challenging for basically square LEGO bricks, especially on this sort of scale without specialised elements.

Reprising a technique I tried out first on my Blacktron turtleship, I decided to have a go at building circular. Or at least hexagonal; the base of the craft is a hexagon made with 1×4 hinge plates, and it built up from there into the finished trilaterally-symmetrical flying saucer.

The grey/black/trans neon yellow colour scheme puts me in mind of an old theme I can’t quite remember. Quickie Internet research reveals it to indeed be the old UFO theme, which isn’t bad for remembering a theme that old, that happened right about when I entered my personal LEGOless Dark Ages. I’ve added some Sand Green highlights, though, because they looked right when I experimented with a random one for shape.

I actually built the landing legs first, intending to build a largeish spaceship along more regular lines with undercarriage that actually retracted. But then as I looked at the scale of the landing legs I thought to myself “that’s going to be a bigger ship than I really want to build right now. I’ve got too many things I built that I’d have to break up. Let’s see what else I can come up with”.

Then I thought of reworking the two rear landing legs so they duplicated what I’d built as the forward leg and seeing if I could arrange them radially for a classic flying saucer.

The thing is quite fragile and took considerable jiggery-pokery to get to come together. I think my favourite part of it was using the Nexogon elements to fill those awkward-shaped holes all the way around. They’re actually attached by their centres using small balljoint elements, which might be a new technique or a reinvention of the wheel, but no-one told me about it or showed me how to do it.

The little alien was a bit of an afterthought. No classic Grey minifigs, no Alien Conquest aliens, no UFOnauts; I had the choice of build my own or use a Star Wars alien. Chewie would just look wrong; Jar-Jar Binks might work, but just no; Admiral Ackbar is currently driving a Martian War Machine – details to follow – and somehow my sole Rodian never even crossed my mind ‘til just now. I built my own, incorporating the trans bright green hemisphere I’ve had since January and never used before. But I think he works. One of the dreadful Green Things from Outer Space, now freshly landed by some unsuspecting Earthling girl, who has naturally whipped out her iPhone and is videoing the whole thing for YouTube.

Her Majesty’s Aerial Cruiser “Swiftsure”

HMAS Swiftsure

Continuing in steampunk mode, I decided to add an aerial battleship to my engineering walker.

Inspired by the rotors of set 60193’s helicrane (which I won at this month’s DFWLUG meetup, more later), I took the unusual-for-me step of not making it a zeppelin. Airships and zeppelins are a big part of what got me into steampunk to begin with, but there are other ways to steampunk a flying machine. Indeed, I often use them on smaller-scale fliers, and I’ve built my share of ornithopters and gyroplanes and the like. But for a full-on air dreadnought, I tend to go back to zeppelinhood.

Not this time. After my Classic Space Y-Wing and accompanying spaceport won the monthly build contest at July’s DFWLUG, I picked out set 60193 as my prize. Maybe a fairly unusual set to pick – yet another LEGO City theme helicopter, and one with an awkward and difficult-to-use moulded cockpit element – but it has a sabretooth tiger! Add in those Bionicle/Technic blades doing duty as the rotors (yes, I know they’re not new elements but I didn’t have any before and they’re useful) and the skid landing-gear pieces (always handy for neo-Ice Planet) and I was sold.

And being still in steampunk mode I decided to build my own steampunk quadcopter battleship.

I reprised the Sunhawk’s forward decoration, and I think it actually looks even better here. It is, after all, a decidedly steampunky feature even if the Sunhawk was a high-tech space warship.

Most of the rest is all classic ironclad/dreadnought-inspired, flat haze grey (or as close to it as LEGO gets) with proper gun turrets and what looks like a ram built into the prow. Because there was a period of Real Life naval history back then when the military minds of their day thought that the turn of speed enabled by steam power combined with an ironclad’s armour would make gunnery of secondary importance and bring about a resurgence of Trireme tactics. Even the famous Thunder Child of War of the Worlds fame was described in the book as being “an ironclad ram”.

From the ramlike prow to the more rounded stern to the quad rotor blades, the whole thing looks a bit like a giant drone of the sort my son and one of my daughters like to play with. That would actually be an awesome idea – to 3D print a plastic drone shell in the form of a steam dreadnought, so you could see something like this actually fly. I’m sure there’s a market for a flying steampunk drone.

Major Galbraith’s Wonderful Martian Sapping Machine

The presence of Her Majesty’s Royal Engineers in the Martian colonies is not a large one. One of the six species on native Martian – the K’zzuwatna – are burrowing creatures adept at tunnelling and digging, and most of the role usually filled by the RE is instead filled by K’zzuwatna sepoy regiments.

The RE does maintain a supervisory and oversight presence, however, and all mechanised Engineering troops are humans because most of the violent Martian native species are considered too immature to be trusted with advanced mechanics. Major Arkwright Henry Galbraith is one of these human Royal Engineer troops, based in the chief city of Her Majesty’s Martian colonies, New Surrey. Actually born on Mars to some of the first British colonists, Major Galbraith’s aptitude for mechanics naturally led him into the Army, where he developed the Galbraith No. 7 Sapping Machine.

The No. 7 Sapping Machine is a drill-armed mechanical walker used by Major Galbraith’s own Royal Engineer regiment to dig entrenchments, bunkers and tunnels through the hard Martian bedrock. Its designation as a “Sapping Machine” comes from the nickname of Her Majesty’s Royal Engineers, the “Sappers”; a “sap” being a trench dug towards a fortification for the means of assault.

As a decidedly unofficial development, the No. 7 does not officially exist, but its ability to out-bore and out-tunnel any of Her Majesty’s Government-approved Army sapping machines has meant that Major Galbraith’s superiors have gone out of their way not to take notice of the fact that the 127th Martian RE Regiment has an unapproved drilling machine.

The No. 7 Sapping Machine first proved itself when Major Galbraith was made part of a small team sent to rescue noted areo-archaeologists Lord and Lady Hamilton when their dirigible went down in the middle of the massive Thark Uplands region between the Grand and Syrtis canals. The machine can be seen here with the other members of the team: Imperial swordmaster Tsien-Lu (“Stan”) Li of the Chinese court, the ornithopter pilot Flight Lieutenant Edward St. John-Smythe, noted markswoman adventuress Miss Coraline Drood and Mka’i Martian native Kamash Kesh.

 

Major Galbraith

Tsien-Lu Li, Miss Coraline Drood, Flight Lieutenant St. John-Smythe and Kamash Kesh

~~~

Oppa Steampunk Style!

It’s been simply ages since I built a mech, and even longer since I built anything remotely steampunk, so it was obviously high time I rectified that oversight.

My single large gear wheel caught my eye, and of course, “stick some gears on it at random” is practically some people’s definition of steampunk, so the connection was obvious. Playing around with the gearwheel, I hit on the idea of a drill. With, unusually for me, real Technic functionality. There’s a little handle on the big gear wheel that you can turn to spin the drill. Okay, the other gear wheel in the other direction is pointless, because all it does is turn along with the big wheel without achieving anything, and apart from its poseability that’s it for play features. But even marginal functionality being such a rarity from me, it’s always nice to make something that works. Ish.

The backstory is set on Mars, because the idea of a sort of steampunk-powered colonial Mars based on a sort of “War of the Worlds in reverse” milieu has been quietly gnawing away at my hindbrain for most of a decade now. I think my initial inspiration came from some Internet pictures of miniatures from a wargame or RPG called Space:1889, but as a small child I used to give myself nightmares listening to Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, so it’s probable that those RPG miniatures simply plugged right into the “Mars: what a good idea” slot in my brain. Since then, I’ve also read most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian chronicles and CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, so the slot is quite well established by now. And Mars’ rust-red colour and iron-rich nature just seem to lend themselves to steampunkery.

I can’t leave well enough alone, however, so my steampunk Mars has its own crop of native species. At least one of which is going to be cephalopoid, of course, because there are conventions you need to follow if you’re running The War of the Worlds backwards. Right now I don’t have a lot of really alien aliens to rebuild into proper Martians, but I’ll see what I can come up with. And Bricklink is always there if I need to get some interesting new heads.

This piece of walking ironmongery may not be quite as impressively fancy in technique as the Q-Mech (which I still think ranks first place among my personal mech builds), but I’ve come quite a way from the old Brass Monkey mech that constituted my first ever piece of LEGO steampunkery, and my first self-designed mecha. I never did walkers as a kid, strangely (apart from numerous attempts to build an AT-AT with my limited first-generation Technic bricks back before they had friction pins), because I hated the slidey way the legs worked on the official sets.

But now, in the era of balljoints? To paraphrase Benny: “We can build a mecha!”

Balljoints Are Your Friend, which may be why I always default to those and forget all the more creative ways I know about now to arrange a mech limb joint.

I’m also somewhat amused by how perfectly the TIE cockpit window goes with a steampunk creation. There’s a reason why there are so many steampunk versions of things from the Star Wars universe, and it’s only partly because so much of the hardware shares the same Rule of Cool-powered impracticability.

The small team of steampunk minifigures was something of an afterthought, but I think they work. And they’re some of my first invented minifigures that I’ve taken the trouble to build rather than merely LDDing. Bonus.

Abugida Spaceport

Abugida Spaceport

From a relatively simple build of a Classic Space Y-Wing, this has grown considerably. The Y-Wing was the initial inspiration, though.

I have to say that the Y-Wing is one of my favourite Star Wars ships. Never mind the fact that it seems to exist only to get shot down by TIE fighters and you’d have to have a death wish to fly one, the heavy fighter component of the Rebel Alphabet Fleet is just as iconic in its way as the sexier and more famous X-Wing. It may have taken until Rogue One for the movies to show one actually shooting anything or doing some damage, but presumably they were doing that damage all along without getting any credit for it. And I’m a sucker for the underappreciated.

LL433 Ypsilon starfighter; ie NCS Y-Wing

This is the LL433 Ypsilon starfighter.

Initially I just did what’s conventional for me and built an angled display stand for it so I could show it in flight. It looks cool that way, but after a day or so of looking at it and anticipating the upcoming DFWLUG meet on the 14th, I thought to myself: “You know, this would be much more impressive with a whole spaceport around it.”

The upright fuel tank and floor grilles were the first things to be built, along with some actual undercarriage for the Y-Wing, then I progressed to a much simpler and smaller version of the back wall and the radar dish.

Placing minifigures around the scene (and I’m so glad I finally have enough of an astronaut corps to build more complex scenes like this) I realized that the pilot would have quite an awkward time of it trying to get into his cockpit.

Mobile staircase? Mobile staircase. This is actually one of my favourite parts of the whole scene, and marks the first time I’ve used those clips to hold a bar at an angle. Somehow I thought it would be a more finicky operation than it turned out to be – one of those AFOL techniques where you merely have to look heavily at it to send elements pinging off into the nether recesses of behind the bookcase. Not so; those clips actually seem to be designed with that usage in mind, and I have to say it looks awesome.

Both Star Wars and the NCS universe (whichever variant you’re in) employ droids for a lot of roles, so I decided my spaceport needed at least one. The tall, pseudo-wheeled robot I ended up with looks rather like the Kaminos had a hand in its design, but it’s more distinctive than the endless procession of armed turtles you sometimes get. No offence to Peter Reid; the turtle droid is a wonderful piece of hardware. But there are so many copies.

Yellow-suited astronaut and K-M1N0 class droid

From there, I decided I needed a refueling/resupply truck, so I built one of those, too, using the languishing trolley wheels element as its rear wheels. I tell you, every last wheel element I’ve used on this build is one I rarely or never (til now) employ on a MOC. For the record, the cylinders with the black stripes around the middle are either antimatter or fusion power cylinders (I can’t make up my mind what level of future tech I’m working with) that go into the rear of the LL433 behind that rear dish. Unfortunately making the dish into an opening door isn’t going to happen, so you’ll have to use that languishing faculty known as your imagination.

Lastly, the overhead crane, because it adds a more three-dimensional, less flat element to my rear wall. And it’s a vital part of any spaceport, even if the LL433 Ypsilon Y-Wing doesn’t have anything in the way of cargo space that would need loading or unloading.

I think one of the most satisfying features of this build for me is the amount of ethnic and gender diversity I’ve managed to incorporate. I need to get hold of some Black Panther sets so I can get some ethnically black female minifig heads, but I’ve got a pleasing array of skintones (including El Mustachio driving the mobile staircase) and more than one female, so I’m happy. The future is not ethnically monochrome.