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. 

You can’t always get what you want…

Welcome back!  In fairness I guess I was the one that was away from the blog for a bit.  Well, Organizational Behavior Theory is over and I have a few weeks until the next class so its time to get back to work, or play as the case may be.

As the the title suggests today is about failed expectations and other negative things.  I apologize to those who are getting their auras scrubbed or those who may be re-aligning their chakras – this may not be the best blog to read.  For those that don’t mind a cautionary tale or two read on.

Returning guests they will already know that I am usually a big fan of GHQ miniatures.  They have had their failures and upsets in terms of products but far fewer than other companies.  Today’s story is about some of those failures and upsets.  GHQ is not always the villain in these stories but they are the unifying theme.  Here is one example…

In March, in my Pivot to the Pacific piece I wrote a bit about my PLAN navy and my intentions to order the new GHQ Type 054A (Jiangkai II) FFG, and the Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) FFG.  Their cash register apparently can’t deal with a transaction split between two gift cards so I had to split the purchase.  The Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) FFG directly from GHQ and the Type 054A (Jiangkai II) FFG from Grandiosity, one of the online e-tailors of GHQ products.  At the time I was happy with the arrangement because GHQ products are discounted on Grandiosity’s website.  Maybe you can get what you want.

By the end of April my Jiangwei II had arrived from GHQ.  Not so the Jiangkai II from Grandiosity.  When I contacted Grandiosity by email they were apologetic and told me GHQ failed to deliver on their restock request twice!  I suppose that could happen.  If true, why not send a quick email “hey your package is delayed…”  At the time I was told they would send GHQ another restock request that very day.  That was nearly a month ago.  Mail takes longer to reach me here and that’s okay but email?  So today I sent another note to Grandiosity to find out what has happened.  Their reply, which was very prompt, was that they called GHQ and were told “they would be getting them out to us”.   I just want to be done with the he-said-she-said routine.   Hopefully I will be able to post an update in the near future that the package is in the mail.  I wish I could then tell them the check is in the mail but they’ve already charged my card.

Item two.  This is the time of year when GHQ announces their new releases for the following production year.  This year, like last year, they are rolling out a teaser a day.  The teasers tell you what they will release but not when.  Overall it is a cool feature that gets plenty of people frothing.  In the not too distant future they will release the full list of products and the production schedule.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of my main interests is modern naval wargaming and until last year GHQ has been very disappointing.  Last year they released a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke and the previously mentioned PLAN carrier and frigates.  Prior to those releases GHQ has had a dry spell of over 20 yrs of not producing a single new modern naval model.  In my mind that seemed a pretty clear signal that they were done with that line.  After all with built in marketing opportunities like the 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries of the Falklands/Malvinas war coming and going and GHQ produced no additional models to complete their RN Falklands line-up, well that was just silly.

But hope springs eternal.  Last year GHQ kick started the line again with some solid choices.  This year?  The full list isn’t out yet but they have announced one modern unit  LCS 2 USS Independence.  The one disturbing thing about it is the way they announced it.  Here’s a quote “This may give us a good read on how many people are excited about Modern naval.”  Okay, its new, its in the news, and its kinda funky looking, all plusses.  But I hope it isn’t really something they intend to judge the strength of the available market by.  Don’t get me wrong I’ll buy one but would the average gamer buy more than one or two of these?  There are soooo many other more probable ships that are likely to get into real life altercations which can be made into plausible scenarios.  Another missed opportunity.  Perhaps that isn’t the only modern being produced this year, at least I hope it isn’t.

I had items three and four but suddenly I’ve decided that that’s enough negativity for one day.  I promise pictures in the next post.

Silence on the net…

     I haven’t posted recently but I haven’t been idle either.  Remember when I wrote the piece about 3D printing?  Well that got me thinking and that can be a dangerous thing.  3D printing could be the technology that scratches a lot of kitbashing itches that I have.  Ultimately it could be the technology that allows me to make some of the ships I would like to have in my 1/2400 collection but could never hope for a traditional manufacturer to produce.

     Since I know very little about CAD software I realize it would be too great a leap to jump right in and start designing a ship for 3D printing.  Instead I decided to take baby steps and slowly build up my experience and knowledge bases.  For a long time now I’ve wanted to procure 55 gal. oil drums in 1/285 scale for use in supply depots or as truck cargo but as far as I know none are available commercially.  There are several choices available in other scales such as these produced by SGTS Mess.

Image Image

     It seemed like a pretty good place to start.  Once I designed one oil drum I could make several different configurations for different trucks or for a supply depot and maybe I could sell a few through Shapeways to pay for future development.  So I downloaded the free trial version of TurboCAD while I wait for my full version to arrive from Amazon and started making my oil drum.  Let me just say that I never expected to be cranking out products on day one but TurboCAD is kicking my butt.  Now I don’t really have any documentation so I’m learning by trial and error and the few YouTube tutorials that are out there.  The process is taking a long time.  which is why I haven’t been posting here at all.

     I’ve buckled down and ordered the companion tutorial disks and I keep my eyes out locally for any training books I might find but in the meantime I get myself frustrated with things that look more like Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can than they do an oil drum.  The grind continues…

Dead End Projects

     A dead end project is when I have an idea for a kitbash or scratchbuild vehicle that I have a particular need for but somewhere along the way one of the existing manufacturers decides to produce one themselves.  The first project that has been overcome by events (OBE) that I would like to share with you is my conversion of GHQ Ferret Mk I turret-less scout cars into Ferret Mk II with the .30 cal MG turret.

     In 2010 GHQ published their production plans for the 2010-2011 product year and they scheduled a February 2011 release date for the Ferret Mk I.  This was excellent news!  I was working on early Cold War armies and needed some light scouts for the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and other areas.  The problem was I didn’t really need the Mk I version which was turret-less and open topped. 


     What I wanted was the Mk II version with the small machine gun turret.


     After doing a little bit of research I learned that the Saracen 6×6 armored personnel had an identical turret.


     There is also an ambulance version of the Saracen which doesn’t have a turret.


     Perfect!  I had some extra Saracens anyway so I decided to carefully cut the turret of the Saracen and graft it onto the Ferret after filling in the crew compartment with putty.  The ‘leftover’ Saracens would then become ambulances.  I didn’t need more than a handful of Saracen ambulances so this conversion process was never going to get me to the 40+ Mk II Ferrets I hoped to have but it would be a start.

     Here are the excellent Mk I Ferrets from GHQ with their crew compartments filled in with putty.



  Here is the primed Mk II Ferret with its new turret ready for BAOR green and black camo pattern.



     It was at about this point in the project when GHQ announced their production plans for the 2011-2012 product year.  They had a Ferret Mk II scheduled for release in October 2011.


     Suddenly, there was no advantage to kitbashing any further Mk II’s.  I guess that was a good thing since it should have given me the time to work on other projects.

More Magnet Madness

     Well as promised I’m back with the IDF Magach 6B tanks from GHQ to modify them with rare earth magnets which should hold the turrets securely but allow free rotation.  Prior to my introduction to these magnets I had always glued the turrets of my tanks.  It wasn’t as visually appealing on the game table but it was a much more secure way to store and transport them.  Moving every couple of years to various far-flung military assignments that was an important consideration.  In fact these tanks had their turrets glued in place before I started this modification.  Here’s a cool tip I learned on the GHQ forums – if you use CA glue (crazy glue) you can weaken the bond to separate the turret by placing the miniature in the freezer.  It worked very well on these tanks and the Canadian Leopard 2A6AM tanks which will also undergo modification.

     The first thing you have to do is decide how you want to employ the magnets.  The GHQ forums have several different suggestions.  Some place the magnet in the turret peg and glue a piece of ferrous metal under the hull.  Some place the magnet under the hull and glue a piece of ferrous metal in the turret pin.  Others use magnets in both the hull and the turret.  That is the method that I will be using here.  As always it is critical to make sure you glue the magnets in place with the proper polar alignment.  Another important tip – while the glue for the magnets cure don’t move any other magnets anywhere near the model or it will cause the magnet to flip, fly out or otherwise dislodge itself.  Don’t ask how I know this.

     To use two magnets I decided to use 3mm x 1mm magnets in place of the turret peg and use 4mm x 1mm magnets under the hull.  Why those sizes?  Its what I had on hand.  Since this is my first attempt there are some lessons learned.  For series production I would choose 3mm x 1.5 or 2mm for the turret peg.  This would give enough depth of recess in the turret to hold securely while still providing some ‘peg’ to insert in the hole in the hull.  

     First step is to remove the existing turret peg and drill a shallow hole in its place to recess the magnet in the turret.



     If you look close you can see the CA glue residue on the bottom of the turret.  I should have been more careful and removed all of it.  I learned in the next step that when gluing the magnet in place the CA glue bonds to the residue not the metal and as a result the magnet was not secure and took much longer to cure.  Of course cure time might be because I was using crap glue.


  With the turret complete its time to work on the hull.  The hole for the turret peg has to be bored out to 3mm to accommodate the magnet serving as the turret peg.  I use a pin-vise drill with a 3mm Dremmel bit.  The Dremmel bit is meant for high speed operation so it doesn’t bite very deep and it takes a while to grab hold and drill into the turret.  This is actually a good thing as it gives you a great deal of control on how deep you actually go.  Test fit often to ensure the recess is deep enough to hold the magnet but still leave some exposed to act as the turret peg.  This is why I would use slightly longer magnets in the future.  Here’s the hull drilled out.


     On the underside of this particular model there is a small depression around the hole as you can see.  Using 4mm magnets they just bridge over this gap to cover the hole but there is limited purchase for the glue.  If I had it to do over and I had different magnet sizes I would use 5mm magnets under the hull.  The GHQ forum members report great success just gluing a bit of ferrous metal under the hull.  I tested a couple of different items but found they were more trouble cutting them down to size than it was worth.  Your mileage may vary.



     With the glue dry on turret and hull its time to test fit.  Turns out I didn’t follow my own advice and one of the turret and hull combos have their magnet poles reversed with respect to the others.  The turret and hull match each other but the turret won’t work on the other hulls and vice versa.  Maybe I’ll just make it a command tank or something like that.


     The magnet to magnet bond is strong enough to lift the miniature by the turret or barrel but I definitely don’t recommend this as standard practice.


     Here is the lot of them complete and ready for the paint shop!


New Arrivals, well not completely new but…

I wanted to shift gears a little bit and go back to 1/285 micro armor.  I have some of the 2012-13 model year vehicles from GHQ that I would like to share.  Some I think are quite good and others just aren’t.  All of them are high quality and ultra detailed, which you would expect from GHQ.  But one in particular just seems too big.  So why not start with that one.  Before the reveal however, I want to say that I’m a huge Bundeswehr fan.  I have all the models currently available and have scratchbuilt or kitbashed numerous others.  So I eagerly awaited the release of the Puma, which is to replace the Marder in active service.  Unfortunately this has been a marketing nightmare for GHQ.  If you’re interested you can read all about it on the GHQ forum but in a nutshell here’s what happened.  Initial release have five roadwheels and the reaction from the forum experts was highly critical.  That’s the proto-type we want the real deal.  So GHQ called a do-over and released a model with six roadwheels.  But when the first ones reached customers hands the forum lit up and sales went to all stop.  This thing is huge!  Much larger than the Marder it is replacing.  Much larger than the Leopard 2A6 tank it will serve along side.  Debate raged over what the actual dimensions are and what the scale error is etc. etc.  The debate was complicated by the fact that no online sources had the same data because there are modular armor packages that change the dimensions considerably.  What is the real baseline height and width?  I don’t know and neither does GHQ but they’re sticking to their guns and aren’t going to change the design again unless proven wrong.  Well until I know how far off it is or even if it is off scale I’m not buying any more of these.  If you’re a Sci-Fi fan however these are fantastic.

Puma IFV - GHQ Miniatures

Puma IFV – GHQ Miniatures




With this next item GHQ redeemed themselves.  Following the global trend of making lighter, easily transportable wheeled APCs the Bundeswehr has also adopted into service the Boxer.  This eight wheeled vehicle is broadly similar to the Stryker family of vehicles now in use in the U.S.  More of these are definitely on my shopping list.

Boxer APC - GHQ Miniatures

Boxer APC – GHQ Miniatures



Staying with German manufacturers for a moment the next model is the Canadian version of the German Leopard 2A6 main battle tank.  I ordered this when it was first released but before any catalog pictures were available on GHQ’s website.  I had hoped that the additional slat armor was etched brass similar to the kits available for GHQ Stryker vehicles.  I was a little disappointed when I received the product and it was an integral part of the mold.  My main issue is how to paint it.  Can’t really show the camouflage pattern behind the slats so I guess I’m going to have to go with O.D.

Leopard 2A6M CAN - GHQ Minitaures

Leopard 2A6M CAN – GHQ Miniatures


Staying with the heavy metal theme I’ll move along to one of my favorite models of recent years, the Magach 6B Gal.  The Israeli army comes up with some wacky and wild upgrades to old favorites.  The designs show a healthy respect for the dangers of fighting in built up terrain, lots of reactive armor and machine guns for personnel suppression.  This M-60 upgrade is no exception.  These tanks will be featured in a future piece on magnets and rotating turrets.

Magach 6B Gal - GHQ Miniatures

Magach 6B Gal – GHQ Miniatures



The last model I want to talk about is the Nayla RG-31. The RG-31 is one of many MRAP vehicles that have proliferated throughout the U.S. military.  GHQ has a large range of MRAP vehicles which I think are pretty cool in general.  The RG-31 is also a favorite for NGO’s and UN workers so maybe I’ll have to paint up a couple of these in UN white and blue.

Nayla RG-31 - GHQ miniatures

Nayla RG-31 – GHQ miniatures


Could they be any smaller?

     I have been wargaming with miniatures since 1986.  Modern naval wargames have always been one of my favorite genres and I will confess that I have always been kind of a snob when it comes to scale of choice.  Size matters, right?  I have been a religious follower of the 1/2400 cult.  1/3000?  That’s old world thinking.  I can remember looking at the CinC miniatures catalog and wondering, “who in their right mind games with 1/4800 scale ships?”  Although I must say the ability to buy a reasonable 10-12 ship task force for less than the price of one GHQ ship was appealing.  But at the time I was focused on modern engagements and CinC doesn’t offer moderns in that smaller range.

  Then a couple of years ago I first heard about Figurehead Miniatures and their range of 1/6000 ships.  1/6000!?  I hadn’t actually seen any of them yet but I couldn’t help thinking it would be like a flea circus, impossibly small ships with indiscernible details.  How could you possibly have a meaningful game?  Then about a year ago I saw another blog, with pictures of these worthy vessels.  Then I couldn’t believe how much detail you could actually put on a ship that small.  But enough of my words here are some pictures.

This is the Slava class CG…


… and a Udalloy class DDG…


… and this is a Bunker Hill class CG…


…and an Arleigh Burke class DDG…


     I could go on and on but I think you get the point.  These are really well done and just to calibrate your eyes, each of those hash-marks is 1/4 inch.  Yes, these ships are less than two inches in length.  Now I just have to get some really small brushes from Micro-Mark and I’ll be all set to paint these up.

     So far the only fleets available that I’ve seen are US, Soviet/Russian, UK, and “Latin America” a.k.a. Argentina.  This is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that carries all the combatants for the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.  That in itself makes this an attractive scale to consider.  And if that’s not your bag, baby – they have ships from the Russo-Japanese war through present day.

Professional? Embarrassment

     I have long been a fan of the storage boxes sold by I-94 Enterprises and have purchased hundreds of them over the years.  Dave Winfree is a great guy to work with.  Any issues I’ve ever had with his products, and there very very few, he fixed immediately.  I wanted extra foam inserts, no problem.  I wanted extra data card inserts, no problem.  I-94 is a class act all the way around.

     Raiden Miniatures is a company I discovered only relatively recently, back in 2009 I think.  What has impressed me about their models is the range of available aircraft, both WWII and Modern, the pace with which new models are added, and the price.  The Raiden aircraft I’ve purchased are very good models, some minor flaws here and there but very good none the less.  The only miniatures company out there with a better product is GHQ.  With prices roughly 33% or less of GHQ’s prices the value of Raiden’s miniatures is much higher.  GHQ models are beautiful but they are not three times better.

     So why do I bring any of this up at all?  Well, after doing the piece on flight stands I was looking around the Raiden site to see what they have coming up for release next.  I was excited to see F-104 Starfighters with and without tip tanks are available as well as F-5 Freedom Fighters.  But I was shocked to discover that Dave at I-94 Enterprises bought out Raiden Miniatures!  And it happened back in September!  I guess I should read the news more.

     In a selfish way I’m very pleased to hear this news.  It will make these models cheaper and easier to acquire in the U.S. but obviously others around the world may not see the same savings.  

     Dave, if you ever see this, Awesome job!  Good Luck!

Flight Stands (Update)

     The flight stands worked so well I went through a frenzy of gluing magnets to my aircraft.  Here is another Raiden creation, a Mirage 5 or Nesher in IAF service.  I drilled out the hole and glued the magnet flush with the belly.  Once painted the magnet will be difficult to see.  Two of these models will be finished in IAF colors and an additional pair in Argentine colors for Falklands/Malvinas campaigns.


     Some unpainted Raiden Skyhawks received similar treatment.  Six Skyhawks were prepared, two will go to the IAF, two for Argentina and two for USN service.


     My existing IAF models, a pair of Super Mysteres and a pair of Skyhawks, both types manufactured by Raiden, were given the treatment.  Lighting on this shot of the Super Mysteres shows I need to pay more attention to cleaning the mold/flash lines, oh well.



     For these shots I used one tall stand and one short stand for a sort of parade formation which looked even cooler on the table. 

     To balance things a little I made sure all three Egyptian MiG-21s and the three SU-7B, again from Raiden, have magnets.  Only one MiG is painted and was featured in the last post so no pictures of the others yet.  Then I started playing around with the few remaining magnets on my German Bo-105 helicopters from GHQ.  I like these little guys.  I must have ten or twelve of them half with the new brass rotor blades and the other half with the old plastic disc rotor.