The Nature of Cheating…

I’m not a snob or purist by any stretch of the imagination.  I enjoy this hobby because so much is left up to the individual in terms of what level of effort they want to put into it.  There are certainly plenty of ways to ‘throw money at the problem’ and hire someone to design, build, or paint something that could be made with some personal research, effort, and patience.  What is cheating or maybe I should ask when is it cheating?  Is it cheating when you mail off a box of miniatures to have someone else paint and detail?  Is it cheating when you buy something ready made off ebay?  Is it cheating when you use decals instead of painting by hand.  I doubt ‘cheating’ has any real context in this hobby unless you’re entering into modeling competitions trying to pass off another’s work as your own.  So… why ask the question?

For many years I have been collecting various miniatures ranging from age of sail, WWII, and modern warships to modern armored vehicles.  Almost all of them I have painted myself with varying degrees of success.  There have been some models however, particularly my warships, which have languished in the ‘To-Do’ box because I can’t quite figure out how to finish them.  Usually they need flight deck markings with very scant information available.  Aircraft carriers, especially WWII Axis powers carriers, are a particular challenging in this way.  For a couple of years now I’ve had GHQ’s excellent CV Aquila and Graf Zeppelin sitting waiting for me to figure it out.  Today I made the leap.

Before I get to the reveal let me digress a bit.  Researching the historical records and painting WWII warships in appropriate camouflage patterns is one of the things that got me hooked in miniature wargaming.  When I get a more suitable background made I’ll put together my North Atlantic convoy for a photo shoot.  Here are some GHQ Liberty Ships I painted using schematics and paints from Snyder and Shorts.

Minolta DSC

If you’ve spent any time at all on the GHQ user forum lately you’ll know that one of the regulars, who goes by the avatar WWIICentral, has developed a range of decals for aircraft carrier deck markings.  Tanner, his real name, has created full color, highly detailed decals sized specifically for GHQ miniatures.  His website can be found here.  There is also a very helpful slideshow tutorial which shows how to put the decals on the ships.  In the past I haven’t been a real big fan of full deck decals for aircraft carriers.  I prefer to model the ships with a sizeable deckload of aircraft, I’ve even ordered additional sprues of aircraft to make the deck look more full.  Unfortunately, the aircraft glued to the decal instead of directly to the model means any rough handling will cause the decal to tear and the aircraft to fall off.  I think you can just make out one vacant spot in the first row and another in the last row where an airplane has torn free.  In this case the decals were from a now defunct company, SeaBat Decals, which offered quite an extensive array of hull and deck markings.  I’m curious to see if Tanners will be any different.

Minolta DSC

In the past I have tried to make my own decals for some of my modern ships.  For the JMSDF Ousumi from Viking Forge I actually purchased a 1/700 scale plastic model so I could get my hands on their decal sheet.  After scaling for 1/2400 I was able to use it as a template for my own simplified version with just the major deck lines.  Is that cheating?  The trouble is I don’t have a printer capable of printing white.  Using the next best alternative I used white decal paper overlaid with the deck color I had chosen.  This allows the white lines to show through where the deck color isn’t applied.  I was never able to achieve results better than ‘wargame’ quality.  The decal, especially white decal paper, has thickness and it was a thickness that was obvious at 1/2400 scale.  I’m very curious about how Tanner solved that problem or if he is just using a different decal paper.

So far I’m very impressed with his business.  I placed an order for the Aquila decal and the Graf Zeppelin decal as well.  Priced at $6.99 a piece, about 44% of the cost of the model itself, the price seems kind of high.  Admittedly I say that without having the product in hand to really evaluate it.  The catalog pictures look great so maybe it’ll be worth every penny.  The service after the sale has been outstanding so far.  In addition to the automatic order confirmation and shipping notices I received an email from Tanner himself thanking me and letting me know that my order was already shipped.  That was a nice touch.  Once they arrive I’ll have to break out the old ‘To Do’ box and finish up these models but that will be a future post…

Els Quatre Gats

     There is a cafe in Barcelona, Spain known as “The Four Cats” which has a rich history, excellent food and a very pleasant ambiance – I highly recommend it if you are in the city.  It also has almost nothing to do with wargaming.  Or does it?  Picasso, the artist, was a famous resident of Barcelona and Els Quatre Gats was one of his frequent haunts.  He would often meet other artists, musicians, novelists, or other minor celebrities of the day at the cafe and discuss everything from art to poetry to politics.  If one sits in the cafe one can almost hear the echoes of the laughter or the shouting as they debate their favorite portrait or novel. 

     I got to thinking about these seemingly random connections the other day when I was reading Red Star Over the Pacific, by T. Yoshihara and J. Holmes.  Their research explores the inner workings of modern Chinese naval strategy and theory.  Their central premise seems to be that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is chiefly influenced as much by Alfred Thayer Mahan as it is by Mao Zedong.  An interesting concept.  What if Mahan and Mao could meet for coffee and discuss naval strategy?  I haven’t finished the book yet but it has made me rethink some of what I thought I knew.  [The link will take you to the condensed version published in an Australian Defence journal.]

     All of this prelude is to get us to the main point of the post, the PLAN navy.  In my last post I discussed my ongoing difficulty with ordering GHQ ships via Grandiosity and unfortunately there is still no resolution there.  I do however have something to share in the form of pictures of the GHQ Jiangwei II I ordered directly from GHQ.


     As with all of GHQ’s models this one is highly detailed and the limited assembly required was very easy to accomplish.  The one small disappointment however was the slight offset in the alignment of the two halves of the mold.  This produced a small but noticeable seam-line on the model, more than just flash.  This misalignment was more than I would have expected in a brand new model.  I should also note that the misalignment was present on both ships that I purchased.  One was affected more on its ports side while the other was more affected on its starboard side.  With some judicious filing however both seams were removed.



     The other good news coming from GHQ is the announcement of their almost complete 2013-2014 product line.  They’re still holding out on a November surprise but the rest of the list looks pretty good.  In addition to the USN LCS I mentioned previously they are going to produce a few more modern naval units all of which will be in the PRC line.  The first up will be the Type 053H1G Jianghu V which seems like a solid choice.  The second unit will be the Project 956EM Sovremenny which saves me a lot of conversion work and makes me very happy.  The last unit will be the Type 051DT Luda IV.  I think all of these are great choices and they don’t overlap the offerings from Viking Forge.  With the previous PLAN ships and Arleigh Burke Flight IIA model released last year there is a growing opportunity to get some ships on the table and play out some Pacific scenarios.  Now if they would just make some new JMSDF and S. Korean vessels as well.