Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colonial Marine Conversions #5: PIG


Initially, I was going to build the missile teams as-is. When I got around to working on them, I was a little ambivalent because with all the other conversions done so far, the standard IG missile launcher just isn't zorty enough, and not converting them in some fashion would feel like a cop-out. So, I put the missile teams on the back burner until last night.

I was watching Aliens again, and there's a scene where Hudson is being obnoxious, and the phrase "phased plasma gun" piqued my interest. I immediately went to consult Professor Google on the subject, and after several different search queries, I finally chanced upon some online excerpts and scanned images from the Colonial Marines Technical Manual for something called a M78 PIG. This Plasma Infantry Gun, it turns out, looks exactly like a conventional shoulder-fired missile launcher with a separate power pack. Now that's something we can do with the leftover bits in the Cadian boxed sets!

Anatomy of a PIG

According to what I've read, the PIG is basically the BFG 9000 of the Aliens setting. When this particular pig oinks, something explodes spectacularly. So, it's definitely something we want to add to our little arsenal for antimateriel punch.

I didn't want to just run a cable from the normal missile launcher to some converted power pack because, well, it'd look like a normal missile launcher attached to a power pack. This is fine for cinema, but not for miniature wargaming. People acquainted with Warhammer 40,000 generally already know what an Imperial Guard missile launcher looks like, and if we left the missile launcher as-is, people would automatically think "missile launcher" when they look at it. So, we want to change the way it looks a bit.

I decided I wanted to make it look a little bit more like a gun than a missile launcher, while still retaining the overall form factor of a tube-shaped shoulder-fired weapon. Looking through the leftover bitz, I found that the autocannon and lascannon remnants would do a nice job of changing the silhouette of the weapon, and the leftover voxcaster halves from the Sentry Gun conversions would make great power packs with a little work.

Required Parts

The photo below illustrates the parts needed for this conversion. When only a small portion of a part is required, the important piece is highlighted in red. (Save the leftover pieces! They'll come in handy later.)


The photos below show how all the parts listed above go together to assemble a PIG.

Plasma Gun Assembly
  1. Slice off the front section of the missile launcher right in front of where it meets the sight. The "ring" that the sight is attached to and the handgrip assembly both form a nice guiding line all around the tube to use as a cutting guide.
  2. Slice off the rear section of the missile launcher, from the very back of the shoulder rest.
  3. Carefully slice the longest barrel section off the autocannon barrel segment, leaving only the "ring" and two short tubes. Be careful doing this, as you need both pieces in usable condition.
  4. Clean up and trim the 2-tube segment of the autocannon barrel so that each tube is about 3mm long. Glue that to the front of the missile launcher body.
  5. Slice off the tube-like cap on the front of the missile launcher blast shield. Make sure the back of the cap is nice and even.
  6. Glue the blast shield cap to the front of the autocannon barrel segment attached to the missile launcher body.
  7. Slice the muzzle off the lascannon barrel. Remove the angled segment so that the muzzle is flat on both ends.
  8. Glue the lascannon muzzle segment to the back of the missile launcher body, with the grooves facing up.
  9. Glue the finished PIG to the normal missile launcher arm and set it aside to dry.
Power Pack Assembly
  1. Remove the remaining aerials from the voxcaster pack, and slice off the speaker assembly on its right side. This will leave a roughly 45 degree bevel along the upper right side of the pack, so clean and shave that area until it looks natural. Essentially, you want to make sure the bevel is nice and even along the whole edge. This forms the upper half of the power pack.
  2. Slice off the little box on the left side of the voxcaster pack, and shave the side down flat.
  3. Align the longer autocannon barrel segment with the bottom of the voxcaster pack, then trim and shave it so that it is the same width as the voxcaster pack. This will form the bottom half of the power pack.
  4. Glue the trimmed barrel segment to the bottom of the voxcaster pack, and test the power pack's fit on a loose Cadian torso to make sure it seats properly.
Power Cable Assembly (Optional)
  1. Take 2 lengths of soft metal craft wire, one of a thinner diameter than the other. Hold them together side by side, then twist the thinner wire tightly around the thicker wire. Continue twisting until you have approximately 26mm of ribbed cable. (Note: this process is very quick if you have a pin vise handy. Simply insert both wires into the chuck, tighten it, then twist the pin vise while holding the thin wire perpendicular to the thick wire.)
  2. Snip the cable out, leaving approximately 3mm of the core wire protruding from each end.
  3. Using a drill bit of equivalent thickness to the core wire, drill one hole in the back of the PIG's shoulder rest and another hole on the bottom right of the power pack.
Figure Assembly
  1. Assemble the figure's base, legs, and torso only.
  2. You will need to shave off the boxlike protrusion on the back of the figure's helmet.
  3. Glue the power pack to the figure's back, then glue the head into place.
  4. Glue the right arm to the figure. Note that the right arm may need to be gooshed around just a little bit, as the missile launcher wasn't designed to be used with a backpack.
  5. Glue the left arm to the figure, making sure you add a little dab of glue to the underside of the left hand's fingers. (This will be attached to the sighting unit.)
  6. After the glue has set, bend and twist the power cable so that it fits on the PIG and its power pack nicely.
  7. Apply a dab of superglue gel (cyanoacrylate adhesive) to each hole, then insert the power cable permanently.
Consult the photos below for clarification on where to drill the holes for the power cable, and how to install it so that it sags nicely:

You're done! Repeat this one more time, and you'll have a pair of PIGs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Colonial Marine Conversions #4: Autoloading Mortar


This conversion actually has nothing to do with Aliens, but it uses several leftover bits from the Aliens-themed conversions, and follows the "waste as little as possible" philosophy. We're going to use up most of the leftover autocannon bits to make a pair of autoloading mortars.

Anatomy of a Thumper

The mortar we're going to make is called a "Thumper" because that's the name that immediately popped into my head when I saw the finished product. Because the rear half of an Imperial Guard autocannon (left over from the last few conversions) looks too cool to waste, I decided to see what I could turn it into. Initially, I was simply going to do a snub-nosed autocannon, but because I don't have anything to mount a snub-nosed autocannon on, that wasn't an useful option. When I looked at the heavy weapon sprues again, I noticed the mortar parts and everything clicked.

Tube mortars seem so ghetto compared to the conversion work we've already done so far, so an autoloading mortar is exactly the kind of thing that goes well with the nature of the other conversions, and it's also a nice companion to the sentry gun and missile launchers.

The two smartgun conversions use up one and a half of the heavy weapon bipods--one bipod yields two barrels and two waldo attachment points, so the only thing that comes off the second bipod is the cradle that you glue the targeter to. That leaves two usable sets of bipod legs, albeit without the cradle/yoke doohickey on top. Those cut-down bipod legs happen to be exactly the right height for this application. The grenade launcher barrels left over from the sentry gun conversion are also used in this conversion.

Required Parts

The photo below illustrates the parts needed for this conversion. When only a small portion of a part is required, the important piece is highlighted in red. (Save the leftover pieces! They'll come in handy later.)


The photos below show how all the parts listed above go together to assemble a Thumper.

  1. Slice the baseplate off the mortar half where the ball socket meets the tube. Follow the angle of the ball-and-socket connection when cutting, as you will need that angle to properly seat the new mortar.
  2. Slice off the little nub near the business end of the mortar. Make sure it's nice and even at the back.
  3. The upper back of the autocannon body has a box-shaped overhang--cut that off so that the back of the autocannon is completely flat.
  4. Slice off the little pin on the yoke that normally fits into the hole on the tripod.
  5. Glue the ammo drum to the autocannon body.
  6. Glue the grenade launcher barrel to the front of the autocannon body.
  7. After the glue sets on the parts you just attached in Steps 4-5, glue the mortar baseplate to the back of the autocannon. You want to position the baseplate so that the bottom rear of the autocannon body is sitting directly on the front "petal" of the baseplate, about half a millimeter in.
  8. After the glue on the baseplate sets, glue the whole thing to a 25mm slottabase, positioning the baseplate so that it hangs over the edge of the slottabase by a millimeter or so.
  9. Immediately apply some glue to the feet of the bipod and position it so that the bottom rear of the yoke is resting on the "pins" of the bipod legs, and the top of the bipod is aligned neatly with the yoke.
  10. Run a bead of glue across the joint where the top of the bipod and the yoke meet.
  11. Glue the mortar bipod nub to the top of the bipod, upside down, so that the 45 degree slope on the nub is as close to the autocannon yoke as possible.
You're done! Repeat this one more time, and you'll have a pair of Thumpers.

In the next article, we'll build a pair of piggy-wiggies.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Colonial Marine Conversions #3: Flame Unit


Another staple of the Aliens film is the flame unit, which is a rifle-sized weapon with an attached fuel canister, so we gotta have at least a couple. This conversion is a slightly modified version of the flamer in Stupid Bitz Tricks #5. At that time, the flamer I found in my bitz box had already been converted to use the muzzle from a Cadian flamer.

This time, we're keeping the original Space Marine flamer's muzzle. We're doing this conversion now because it uses another leftover bit from the Sentry Gun conversion.

Anatomy of a Flame Unit

The Cadian box comes with a delightfully retro-looking flamer that has large backpack fuel tanks and a massive wand, which isn't quite going to fit in with the rest of the Aliensy stuff we're doing. So, we're going for something closer to the movie weapon in look and feel, and we'll be doing this by shortening and trimming down a standard Space Marine flamer. The Space Marine flamer already has a reasonably close form factor, that being a rifle-sized weapon with an attached fuel canister.

Required Parts

The photo below illustrates the parts needed for this conversion. When only a small portion of a part is required, the important piece is highlighted in red. (Save the leftover pieces! They'll come in handy later.)


The photos below show how all the parts listed above go together to assemble a flame unit.

  1. Slice the muzzle off the flamer.
  2. Slice off the remaining barrel stubs on the flamer so that the muzzle will fit flush with the front handguard.
  3. Slice off the "hook" on top of the flamer.
  4. Slice off the entire grip assembly on the flamer, using the front of the flamer's trigger guard as the guide.
  5. Glue the flamer body to the front of the grenade launcher grip on the right arm.
  6. Glue the flamer muzzle to the front of the flamer body.
  7. Carefully slice the open left hand off at the wrist, and do the same for the closed fist on the Cadian flamer left arm.
  8. Glue the open left hand to the wrist of the Cadian flamer left arm.
  9. You may have to goosh the arms around a little bit to get a nice angle on the flame unit, and you might also need to tweak the left hand a little so the flame unit sits in it nicely. When you glue the arms into place, consult the photo below to see how the arms should be positioned.

You're done! Repeat this one more time, and you'll have a pair of flame units.

In the next article, we'll make a pair of autoloading mortars.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colonial Marine Conversions #2: Smart Gun


Another Aliens-themed item is the smart gun, which can be made easily from a couple of heavy weapon bits and a set of flamer arms. This conversion also requires one bit left over from the Sentry Gun conversion.

Incidentally, the original version of this weapon used an Imperial Guard vehicle heavy stubber, but that part makes for an expensive conversion, so I went back to the drawing board to find a way to get the same sort of weapon from cheaper and more common bits.

Anatomy of a Smart Gun

The basic idea behind the smart gun is that it's a large and somewhat cumbersome machine gun that automatically tracks targets by means of sensors and an actuated harness system, while the actual firing is done by the operator. The significant characteristics of this weapon are, therefore, its size, the auto-tracking capability, a high rate of fire, and the fact that it's fed by a drum magazine. We are going to incorporate those themes so that while the converted smart gun does not look exactly like the one in the movie, it will still have the correct look and feel.

Required Parts

The photo below illustrates the parts needed for this conversion. When only a small portion of a part is required, the important piece is highlighted in red. (Save the leftover pieces! They'll come in handy later.)


The photos below show how all the parts listed above go together to assemble a smart gun.

  1. Shave off the details on the right side of the flamer, making sure the surface is as flat as possible. (The eagle, rivets, and tubing)
  2. Slice the flamer up so that only the parts highlighted in red remain.
  3. Glue the flamer grip section upside down to the front of the flamer.
  4. Shave the back of the flamer muzzle so that it is completely flat.
  5. Glue the flamer muzzle upside down to the front of the flamer.
  6. Slice up the bipod so that only the parts highlighted in red remain.
  7. The smartgun barrel is formed by the bipod leg--slice off the bipod foot and the leg swivel, and the barrel is the leftover section.
  8. Shave the front and back of the barrel as flat as possible, then glue it to the front of the flamer muzzle.
  9. Clean up the leg swivel so that there are no remaining traces of the leg that you sliced off in Step 6. Glue that to the bottom of the flamer, directly in front of the handgrip. This adds more visual weight to the back of the smart gun, and suggests a waldo attachment point.
  10. Glue the bipod cradle to the right side of the flamer.
  11. Glue the heavy weapon targeter to the "knob" on the bipod cradle.
  12. Slice out the ribbed autocannon barrel segment. This will be the ammunition drum--make sure the front and back are nice and flat, then glue it to the lower right side of the flamer where it meets the bipod cradle. There is a peg on the bipod cradle that will serve as a convenient guide that fits between the 2 ribs on the drum.
  13. When you glue the smart gun arms into place, consult the photo below as to where the left hand should be positioned.

You're done! Repeat this one more time, and you'll have a pair of smart guns.

Important note: One heavy weapon bipod yields two smart gun barrels and two waldo attachment points. So, if you do both smart gunners, you'll actually be using one and a half bipods, not two whole bipods. Use both legs and the bipod cradle of the first bipod, then remove only the bipod cradle from the second bipod. This way, you'll have two intact bipod leg assemblies to use in the upcoming autoloading mortar conversion.

In the next article, we're going to make a couple of flame units.

Colonial Marine Conversions #1: Sentry Gun


The first conversion we're going to start with is the sentry gun, because we'll need some of the leftover bits for later conversions.

Anatomy of a Sentry Gun

In order for a weapon system to convey its autonomous nature, it needs to look the part. So, the sentry gun conversion has 3 major components: the weapon itself, the transceiver module, and the sensor module. The transceiver module is essentially just a box with an antenna on it, and it suggests to the casual observer that the thing is remotely operated. The sensor module contains the imaging, targeting, and fire control systems, and further builds upon the autonomous impression given by the transceiver module. To make it look somewhat portable, there are two carrying handles on top of the sentry gun.

Required Parts

The photo below illustrates the parts needed for this conversion, nearly all of which come from the heavy weapon squad box. When only a small portion of a part is required, the important piece is highlighted in red. (Save the leftover pieces! They'll come in handy later.)


The photos below show how all the parts listed above go together to assemble a sentry gun.

Component 1: Weapon Body
  1. Lascannon: Slice the lascannon barrel and rail off completely, so that only the lascannon body segment highlighted in red remains. Shave the left side of the lascannon segment flat (just the rivets and a couple of details on the "armor" section)
  2. Heavy Bolter: Slice off everything behind the feed/ejection ports, so that only the heavy bolter segment highlighted in red remains.
  3. Test fit the heavy bolter and lascannon pieces. You may need to bevel the bottom rail on the bottom rear of the heavy bolter to a 45 degree angle to ensure a flush fit. If the test fit looks good, glue them together. Fill any gaps with Squadron putty if needed.
  4. Slice the muzzle brake from the autocannon's barrel. Glue it to the heavy bolter's barrel.
  5. Carefully cut the drum off the grenade launcher arm. Do this by first removing the barrel, then by slicing off everything behind the drum. Make sure you don't damage the grip section or the hand--you will need the arm later!
  6. Shave down the top of the drum so that it is flat. Test fit the drum to the feed port on the right side of the heavy bolter segment. It should fit in snugly--if not, shave the front and rear of the drum a little more until it seats nicely into the feed port. Once the fit is just right, glue the drum into place.
Component 2: Transceiver Module
  1. Cut the bottom half and the antenna off the voxcaster backpack.
  2. Test fit the voxcaster bottom half to the right rear side of the weapon. You will need to shave off 2 button-like details from the lascannon segment to ensure a good fit.
  3. Once satisfied with the fit, glue the voxcaster bottom half to the right side of the lascannon segment.
  4. Glue the antenna to the top rear of the voxcaster half to finish off the transceiver module.
Component 3: Sensor Module
  1. Glue the lascannon power pack to the left side of the lascannon segment. The power pack is large enough to cover the entire left side of the armor "cowl", with a slight overhang to the rear.
  2. Cut the binoculars into front and rear halves at the spot where they taper from the middle.
  3. Glue the front binocular half to the lascannon power pack to finish off the sensor module.
Finishing Touches
  1. Glue the tripod to the bottom of the sentry gun assembly.
  2. Cut the carrying handle off the autocannon drum half. Do this carefully so you can ensure a nice level fit in the next step without shortening it too much.
  3. Make sure the flat pieces at the front and back of the handle are level. If not, shave or file down the longer of the two flat pieces until the handle will sit level on a flat surface.
  4. Glue the carrying handle to the top right side of the sentry gun, across from and lined up with the other carrying handle attached to the sensor module.
  5. Glue the sentry gun to a 40mm base.
You're done! Repeat this 2 more times, and you'll have a full set of 3 sentry guns.

In the next article, we'll build some smart guns.

Colonial Marine Conversions: Introduction


In this series of posts, I'm going to show you how to convert a bunch of plastic figures into ersatz Colonial Marines like those in "Aliens". We're not going to literally make identical likenesses to the characters in Aliens, but we are going to borrow several visual themes from the movie that will make these plastic figures look and feel like Colonial Marines. These conversions started out as one-off prototypes from the Stupid Bitz Tricks series, but were refined and/or revised so that they would be as easy as possible to make with the fewest necessary purchases.


To start with, you should have the following tools to convert the figures. They'll make your life a lot easier.

  • A: Hobby knife with sharp blades. X-Acto #11 is good. This is your primary tool.
  • B: Sprue nippers. These help get parts off the sprues without damaging them.
  • C: Big paintbrush with thick bristles. Good for brushing plastic crumbs off parts when shaving or cleaning flash.
  • D: Clay shaper. This is a soft-tipped tool, good for knocking off hard-to-reach plastic crumbs or smoothing gap-filling putty.
  • E: Dental pick. This tool is really useful for getting flash out from between fingers and scraping crumbs out of recesses.
  • F: Plastic cement. The bottle in the photo has a metal needle applicator that gives you very good control over where the cement goes.
  • G: Squadron green putty. This stuff is used to fill gaps between parts. Useful if you mess up a cut and have parts that don't fit flush.
These tools are all cheap, readily available, and will make life a lot easier for you.

Required Sets

You want two boxed sets: the Cadian Shock Troops box, and the Cadian Heavy Weapons Squad box.

These two boxes have enough goodies to make the following items:
  • 2 squad leaders
  • 2 smart gunners
  • 16 riflemen
  • 3 automated sentry guns
  • 2 autoloading mortars
  • 2 plasma gun teams
Extra Bits

You will also need 3 40mm diameter bases for the sentry guns, plus 8 25mm diameter bases for the plasma gun teams and autoloading mortars. You can buy them in bags from Games Workshop or as loose bits from The Warstore.

Optional Bits

If you have 2 Space Marine flamers handy, you can upgrade 2 riflemen to flamer operators.

If you have a couple of Space Marine auspexes handy, you can use them as motion trackers issued to the 2 squad leaders.

Space Marine belt pouches, holsters, and magazine pouches are also useful to have, but are strictly optional.

These Space Marine bitz can be purchased from the Battlewagon Bits department of The Warstore. If you buy the Cadian boxes mentioned above from The Warstore as well, you get a nice 20% discount off the boxed sets.

Another thing you may find useful is a length of thin plastic rod and some sheet styrene. While you can get away with not having these extra items, they are very helpful in further reinforcing the Aliens visual theme. The sheet styrene and rods are sometimes sold under the Gale Force 9 brand in hanging baggies at the local gaming store, but are often way cheaper to buy from hobby stores that sell plastic scale models and whatnot. Look for the Evergreen or Plastruct brands.

The Plan

Over the next several installments of the Colonial Marine Conversions series, I'll show you how to convert the Cadian plastics, one item at a time. Once all of the conversions have been completed, I will also be posting a painting guide for them with some easy-to-paint color schemes that evoke the look and feel of the Colonial Marine uniforms.

I strongly recommend reading all of the articles first, before doing any of the conversions. This way, mistakes are easier to avoid, as you won't accidentally destroy a part that you might need in a later conversion. For example, if you cut one leg off all 3 heavy weapon bipods while performing the smart gunner conversion, you won't be able to build the autoloading mortars, as the mortar conversions assume that you used both legs of one bipod to make the barrels for both smart guns, and that you have 2 intact bipod leg sets left over. So, check all the articles first.

The first conversion article is here, and covers the sentry guns.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Stupid Bitz Tricks #8: Squad Leader


I needed a squad leader, and just using the standard sergeant would have been a total cop-out after all the conversion work done on the grunts. Besides, I don't want a chainsword-waving least not unless my squad is going into battle against an army of homicidal trees. My bitz box yielded a splendiferous abundance of parts that would make the squad leader look like an actual leader, not a superheroic lumberjack with pretensions of being the next Patton.

This is the result:


The photos below show the bitz used and their configuration. (Click on each photo to view it at full size.)


I kept the sergeant head because the Shouty Command Face expression and the headset make him look like a seasoned NCO firmly in charge of things. I also kept the laspistol arm, but used one of the open-handed left arms instead of the chainsword arm. I glued a Space Marine auspex into the open hand, which makes a pretty cool "motion tracker" device. Orienting his head in the general direction of the auspex makes him look like he's barking out orders in response to the tactical picture on its screen.

One thing that annoys me about the Cadian sprues is the lack of holsters for the sergeant's laspistol, so I swiped a bolt pistol holster from my Space Marine bitz, shaved off the bolt pistol's grip, then glued that to the squad leader's belt. I also took a bolter magazine pouch and cut it in half to make a single pouch, and glued that to the left side of his belt in order to visually balance out the large holster. For the finishing touch, I took one of the Cadian grenade pairs, cut it in half so there would be 2 separate grenades, and glued one grenade to each side of his belt. The canteen/ammo pouch/knife bit was glued to the back of the squad leader's belt.


I like this guy. He looks competent, characterful, confident in his authority, and I suspect that entire forests of plastic trees are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the absence of close combat weapons manufactured by Black & Decker.

While performing this conversion, the motion tracker game mechanics popped into my head. When using this guy in Guncrawl, I'm going to have his motion detector actually grant the ability to use Unknown Contact markers. During the Enemy Phase, UC markers are placed according to the standard enemy placement rules (in the nearest tile out of direct line of sight), and the players then have a tactical picture of where potential hostiles are.

If the squad leader dies or is dragged off by aliens, the ability to use UC markers is lost, and all UC markers on the map are removed. From that point on, a die is rolled for each surviving squad member at the beginning of the Enemy Phase, and the results are checked on the table below:

Ambush Table A
Roll Effect
1 Dragged off! The squad member is dragged through a floor grate or hoisted into a ceiling crawlway by an ambushing xenomorph. Roll on Table B.
2-3 Sneak attack! Place one xenomorph in the closest empty space, on any adjacent corridor or junction tile. The xenomorph acts normally during the Enemy Phase.
4-5 Place one xenomorph using the standard enemy placement rules. The xenomorph acts normally during the Enemy Phase.
6 Nothing happens to this squad member.

Ambush Table B
Roll Effect
1-2 The squad member disappears screaming into the darkness. Remove the model from play.
3-4 Struggle! Roll again on this table immediately.
5-6 Xenomorph loses its grip and disappears into the darkness. The squad member is shaken, but unharmed.

If a squad member rolls a 3-4 on Table B, any friendly models in adjacent spaces will automatically attempt to help free the trapped squad member. Each helper grants a +1 bonus to rolls on Table B, up to a maximum bonus of +3.

Note: These mechanics have not been tested yet, and came to me out of the blue in mid-conversion. Rolling on these tables does not use any actions, and they are meant to be short and dramatic moments that add cinematic flavor to the game.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stupid Bitz Tricks #7: Face-hugger Prototype


Upon reviewing the Tyranid bitz in my collection, I had an epiphany that would finally allow me to easily turn the adrenal sac bitz into something resembling the face-huggers from Aliens.

This is the result:


The photo below shows the bitz used and where they go. (Click on the photo to view it at full size.)


The Genestealer boxed set contains 4 infestation markers, which have always looked like eggs to me, and that's what I used for the face-hugger eggs.

The face-hugger itself is composed of 4 parts: one pair of short Tyranid Warrior flesh hooks, one piece of the long Tyranid Warrior flesh hooks, and an Adrenal Sac bit. The short flesh hooks were carefully bent with a pair of needle nose jeweler's pliers into something approximating insect legs, and then the side that normally glues to a Tyranid Warrior's ribcage was shaved flat. The flat ends of the left and right leg sets were then glued together to complete a full set of 6 legs.

The next step was to snip the pointy bit between the two short rear legs, where the left/right sets meet, into a flat surface that the tail could be glued to. The longest of the three flesh hooks on the longer set was carefully sliced off, the end was snipped flat in order to mate up with the leg assembly, and the flesh hook was carefully rolled into a sort of snakey S-shape with the help of a convenient dowel. I also bent it a little in the perpendicular plane so it would sort of droop towards the ground. The reshaped tail was then glued between the rearmost legs.

I snipped off the 6 tubes on the adrenal sac and shaved off the remaining nubs to get a more or less smooth shape around its perimeter. I also shaved down the bottom to make the adrenal sac a little bit more flat, then I glued it to the top of the leg assembly.


2 boxes of Genestealers yields 8 egg clusters and 16 Genestealers to use as xenomorphs, which is plenty for what I have in mind. After the xenomorph conversions, there will be plenty of arm bitz left over for converting. The Tyranid Warriors that the flesh hooks came from will be representing fully grown feral Tyranids, and they will be using the leftover Genestealer arms to replace the ranged weapons.

The face-hugger prototype is pretty rough because I was primarily interested in whether or not it could be done, and I didn't clean the parts as well as I ordinarily would have. (It was an "Eureka!" thing--20 minutes from start to finish.)

Next time, I'm going to heat the flesh hooks in hot water for 30 seconds before bending them, then I'm gonna stick them in ice water so the shape will take. This will probably simplify the conversion considerably, as it required some fairly delicate bending work at room temperature.


I forgot to add this to the Conclusions: each box of Warriors yields the following constituent bitz:
  • 3 of the short flesh hooks
  • 3 of the long flesh hooks
  • 3 adrenal sacs
These bitz are enough to make 3 face-huggers. That may not sound like a lot, but that's actually plenty because of the specific game mechanics I plan to use, and you don't really need more than 3 to 6 of the things at any given time.

First, only the egg clusters are actually deployed on the table to begin with. The mechanics are set up so that facehugger models are only placed on the table under certain circumstances, which means the number of times that an actual facehugger model is placed on the table is pretty low. (I had the tables all worked out, but I can't insert them into my blog for some stupid technical reason. I'll have to post them in PDF format later.)

----------------------Update 2----------------------

Finally figured out the table thing. Here you go!

Basic Definitions
  • Triggering model: Any model that is within 2 inches of an egg cluster at any point during its movement. The model must stop at that point, and the player rolls on Table A below.

The facehugger's stats depend on what game you're using it in. The basic guidelines below should be applied when you choose the appropriate stats for the game you use this conversion in:
  • Speed: Facehuggers should move at least 6 inches per turn.
  • Toughness/resilience/whatever: Facehuggers are weak, but difficult to hit. If the game you use has a saving roll mechanism or a target difficulty number, give it a good enough value that players will have to shoot at least a few times for an effective hit.
  • Attacking: Facehuggers shouldn't roll to hit or anything like that. Instead, the thing should mindlessly attempt to move within 2 inches of the nearest model, at which point you can assume it automatically leaps onto that model. Roll on Table C to resolve all attacks made in this manner.
Facehugger encounters should primarily be considered a "map threat" or some form of hazardous terrain encounter, and shouldn't happen more than two or three times per game, and should ideally be limited to a specific "egg chamber" region of the map. Otherwise, gameplay might be slowed down.

If the triggering model has friends nearby and rolls a 2-4 on Table C, his/her friends can try to help the triggering model. Each friend helping adds a +1 bonus to the next roll on Table C, up to a maximum bonus of +3.

Event Resolution Tables

Face-Hugger Table A
Roll Effect
1 Egg opens! Roll on Table B.
2-4 Egg quivers visibly, and an audible sloshing noise is heard. Roll on this table again, ignoring results of 6.
5 Nothing happens...this time. Triggering model completes its movement as normal.
6 Empty eggs. Remove cluster from table. Triggering model completes its movement as normal.

Face-Hugger Table B
Roll Effect
1 Facehugger explosively erupts from egg and clamps onto the triggering model's face! Triggering model is now a casualty.
2 Facehugger leaps from egg, but triggering model raises its arms or a weapon just in time to partially block the attack. Roll on Table C.
3-5 Facehugger leaps from egg, but misses the triggering model completely. Place facehugger model anywhere within 1d6 inches of the triggering model.
6 Legs slowly appear one by one at opening of egg. Triggering model may immediately complete its movement or attack.

Face-Hugger Table C
Roll Effect
1 Not good enough! Facehugger finally succeeds in clamping to the triggering model's face. Triggering model is now a casualty.
2-4 Struggle! Triggering model and facehugger spend the turn grappling. Roll again on this table in the next turn.
5-6 Get off me! Facehugger is thrown off triggering model. Place facehugger model 1d6 inches away from triggering model.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stupid Bitz Tricks #6: Grenade Launcher


I don't like the grenade launcher that comes in the Cadian boxed set because it looks like something knocked together out of 8-inch PVC pipe for a Halloween costume. However, it's a very useful bit because the arms can be used for other special weapons, and the grenade launcher itself contributes two important parts to the sentry gun from Stupid Bitz Tricks #2.

One other weapon that I dislike intensely is the Space Marine scout shotgun, which looks funny to me. I also don't use the bolt pistols and swords with my scouts because I'm not a big fan of the whole "charge each other with oversized powered cutlery" tactical approach, and I'd rather have as many ranged weapons as possible. My scouts also carry bolters and a heavy bolter because they look more like elite commandos that way, which leaves me with a lot of unused shotguns and bolt pistols.

The bolt pistols have targeters and barrel extensions that are useful for conversions, and I also like the ammunition cassettes on Terminator storm bolters. Since there will usually be 2-3 storm bolters left over from a box of Terminators, the ammo cassettes aren't a hard bit to source. I used those 3 bitz items to prototype a grenade launcher to replace the originals.

This is the result, shown along with the flamer and SAW conversions for scale:


The photos below show the bitz used and their configuration. (Click on the photos to view them at full size.)


The left hand was shaved off the scout shotgun completely, and that area of the shotgun was also shaved down flush with the rest of the shotgun body. I sliced off everything directly behind the shotgun's top rail and sanded it flat. The original shotgun barrels were also sliced off completely.

I sliced off the barrel of a scout bolt pistol, making sure to include the little tube above the barrel, and glued that to the front of the shotgun body. I also sliced off the little "flange" at the bottom of the bolt pistol's magazine and set it aside.

I went through my collection of surplus storm bolters, and settled on one that had a "half-hopper" style box magazine rather than the giant double cassette or the twin banana-style magazines, then carefully cut the magazine off. I had to shave off a little bit of excess, and I also removed some details from the top front and rear of the magazine. This was then glued to the bottom of the shotgun body where the left hand used to be, and the flange from the bolt pistol magazine was glued to the side of the shotgun, above where the magazine meets the shotgun body.

I also sliced off a bolt pistol targeter and mounted it to the left side of the rail on top of the shotgun. (I like offset sights, and it visually balances out the magazine.)

I used the normal grenade launcher left arm with this conversion, and the only change I made to it was to shave off the little peg that fits into the hole on the normal grenade launcher, as the converted grenade launcher doesn't have a hole for it.


It's not a particularly exciting conversion visually, but it's more in proportion with the other converted weapons, and more importantly, it doesn't annoy my aesthetic sense as much as the original grenade launcher does. I'm also not sure if I like it with that left arm, and I might try using an open left hand with one of the other arms instead, like with the flamer.

I think I'll be looking through my bitz box for additional detailing to put on the thing, especially on the flat sides. I'll see how it looks painted first, though.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stupid Bitz Tricks #5: Fun With Flamers


I wanted to add a flamer to my converted Imperial Guard squad, but the standard flamer is much too heavy-looking next to the carbines and squad automatic weapons from Stupid Bitz Tricks #4. I wanted something a bit smaller and more Aliensy in style, so I raided my long-suffering bitz box again.

I found a Space Marine flamer, the front half of a Cadian flamer that was cut up to make the smartgun-style heavy stubber in Stupid Bitz Tricks #3, grenade launcher right arms, and some open-handed Cadian left arms. This is the result:

This flamer is smaller and shorter than the normal backpack flamer, and fits in better with the armament of the rest of the squad. The backpack flamer therefore got promoted to a heavy flamer, and certainly looks the part next to the converted flamer:

This conversion is pretty easy, and looks different.


The photos below show the bitz used and where they go. (Click on the photos to view them at full size.)


The barrels and muzzle of the Space Marine flamer were sliced off where the front handgrip ends. Next, the grip section of the Space Marine flamer was sliced off immediately behind the fuel tank and tubing. The grenade launcher arm was also sliced up so that only the grenade launcher handgrip and the rear section of the grenade launcher remained, and the flamer was glued to that. Next, I sliced off the barrels of the Cadian flamer and shaved the back of the muzzle flat. The muzzle was then glued directly to the front of the Space Marine flamer, completing the weapon.

The hand on the left Cadian flamer arm was sliced off at the wrist, and the same operation was performed on the open-handed left arm. The open left hand was then glued to the wrist of the Cadian flamer arm. That's all there really is to it.


This flamer fits in nicely with the rest of my converted weapons, although I wish the constituent flamer bits were just a little bit smaller. I also need to clean up some more flash and fuzz from this figure--it's amazing how many flaws and goofs the camera can pick up!

I plan to use the normal backpack flamers as heavy flamers, because the word "heavy", when applied to flamers, says to me "shoots more flaming liquid a longer distance", and not necessarily "bigger than a regular flamer". Because the much larger backpack fuel tank and the beefier wand definitely do suggest exactly that, it's perfect for a heavy flamer. It also looks nice next to the bulky heavy stubber.

The converted flamers with the smaller tanks will be gas flamers like the ones in Aliens, and I'm toying with the idea of further differentiating the standard gas flamers and the heavy flamers by having the gas flamers act like jet/spray weapons, while the heavy flamers have a longer-duration incendiary effect represented by placing and removing flame markers that last until the end of the turn.

I think the next time I do this conversion, I'm gonna try making the muzzle shorter and bringing the length of the weapon down a little more.


I made two more changes to the weapon that made me a lot happier with it visually: I popped off the muzzle and shortened it further, then shaved off the "hook" on the top of the flamer. These changes made it look noticeably smaller, and removing the "hook" made it look less like a Space Marine flamer. Here are the updated photos:

I'm much happier with it now. Yeah, there's another carbine conversion and another SAW conversion in these photos--I have 5 carbines, 2 SAWs, a flamer, and a squad leader finished now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Painting The Lazy Way #1: Macragge Genestealers


I used to be a good painter. When I was younger, I had the patience and motivation to try and make my figures look like they did in the glossy magazines and whatnot, and it wasn't unusual for me to spend hours and hours on just one figure.

A decade later, I find myself much less interested in painting to an extremely high standard, and more interested in just getting the figures painted to a "good enough to play with" standard. Part of it is the fact that my eyesight and coordination aren't what they used to be, part of it is a lack of time, and part of it is a simple refocusing of my interests from painting to playing. So, my painting style changed, with an emphasis on picking figures and color combinations that were quick and easy to paint.

For this first installment, I chose figures that are incredibly easy to paint: the snap-fit Genestealers from the old Battle for Macragge starter set. The color scheme is based heavily upon the classic blue and purple Genestealer scheme from earlier editions of 40k, but I tweaked the palette slightly because blue and purple don't look 100% harmonious to my eye. Instead, my Genestealers are a very dark cool purple that looks almost blue, and a lighter shade of warmer purple. The claws are also a slightly darker bone color, rather than the bright ivory of the "official" palette.

The reason the Genestealers are so easy to paint is because there are really only 3-4 areas of color, none of them are too fiddly to paint, and the colors used are easy to work with. The large amount of raised and inset surface detail on the figures also means they take washes and drybrushing very well, which speeds things up significantly.

The results are more than good enough to play with, but they'll probably make hardcore painters cry, because my quality dial is set to "looks a little better than a prepainted plastic figure" instead of "makes the 'Eavy Metal painters turn green with envy".


The painted figures are shown below. Click on the photos to see them at full size.

As you can see, it's a pretty basic color scheme, and the model's surface detail does most of the work for you.

Paints Used
  • Vallejo Game Color Royal Purple
  • Vallejo Game Color Warlord Purple
  • Vallejo Game Color Earth
  • Vallejo Game Color Bone White
  • Vallejo Game Color Charred Brown
  • Vallejo Game Color Scrofulous Brown
  • Vallejo Game Color Dark Flesh
  • Vallejo Game Color Gory Red
  • Citadel Leviathan Purple Wash
  • Citadel Gryphonne Sepia Wash
Painting Overview
  1. The entire body, with exception of the head and hands, was painted Royal Purple.
  2. The head and hands were painted Warlord Purple.
  3. Leviathan Purple wash was applied liberally to the entire figure and allowed to dry.
  4. The main body was drybrushed with Royal Purple until smooth to the eye.
  5. The hands and head were drybrushed with Warlord Purple until smooth to the eye.
  6. The claws were painted with a 1:1 mixture of Bone White and Earth.
  7. The teeth were gently drybrushed with the 1:1 mix of Bone White and Earth.
  8. The tongue was painted with Dark Flesh, then highlighted with Gory Red on the top surface only.
  9. Gryphonne Sepia wash was applied to the claws and teeth, then allowed to dry.
  10. The base was flocked with sand and painted Charred Brown.
  11. The flocked portion of the base was drybrushed with Scrofulous Brown.
When drybrushing, make sure your paint is a little more watery than normal, and don't be afraid to repeat the process until the blending looks relatively smooth. (Dry paint causes a chalky buildup.)

When drybrushing the teeth, touch them only with the tip of the brush, and gently drag in one direction only--from the back to the front. Repeat until the teeth pop out visually. (It's easier to do than it sounds.)

Using the Citadel washes requires some faith on your part. Don't worry about how hideous the model looks while the wash is still wet--when it dries, it will look like it's supposed to. The drybrushing step simply restores shading definition and smooths out the blending a bit.


This color scheme is a homage to the classic Genestealers, but darker, more subtle, and much less garish than the brightly highlighted official scheme. Despite the number of steps involved, it's easy to do, and the lack of fiddly details means you can get quite a lot of them finished in a short time.

Stupid Bitz Tricks #4: Fun With Lasguns


This is another attempt to come up with a squad automatic weapon for the Imperial Guard plastics. In a previous Stupid Bitz Tricks entry, I showed how to turn a vehicle heavy stubber and some leftover bitz into an Aliens-style smartgun, but not everyone has ready access to the vehicle heavy stubbers. So, this conversion needed to use cheaper and more readily available bitz.

This time around, the trick in this particular conversion is actually to make everyone else's guns smaller, then build up the squad automatic weapon from a standard lasgun. This is the result:

By shaving down standard lasguns into carbine-length weapons, the squad automatic weapon version of the lasgun suddenly looks much bigger and more substantial.


The following photos show the bitz used and their configuration. (Click the photos to see them at full size.)


For this conversion, I thought a more contemporary look to the weapons would be nice, as well as making it an easy conversion. So, most of the troopers would have carbine-sized weapons, and the squad automatic weapons would be full-length, with some extra bitz added to make them look different.

To start with, I dug out my lasgun bitz and separated them into two piles. All lasguns on which the left hand is completely behind the front sight hump went into the carbine pile, and all lasguns on which the left hands were slightly forward of the front sight hump went into the SAW pile. I took a lasgun from the carbine pile, then shortened it by carefully cutting off everything forward of the front sight post, then sliced off the muzzle and glued it back onto the shortened lasgun. The winged skull motif on the side of the lasgun was also shaved off.

I also shaved off the "sight tube" that runs through the front and rear sight humps. (When I get more plasticard, I'm gluing a strip to the front/rear sight humps to form a carrying handle like the one on the Aliens pulse rifles.)

For the SAW, I chose a lasgun that had an attached bayonet, then carefully removed the blade and trimmed the rest of the bayonet a little so it would look like some sort of gas tube. The original magazine was shaved off, and I needed something that looked like it had a very high capacity to replace the original magazine with. I found some leftover flamers in my bitz box, and there was a portion of the flamer that looked like it would make a good high-capacity power cell. That portion was sliced out and shaved down a bit, then glued to the bottom of the lasgun's magazine well.

I had a lot of leftover Space Marine Scout bolt pistols and a couple of heavy bolter bipods, which I didn't use on the Scout heavy bolters because they looked too goofy to me. I sliced off a bolt pistol targeter, shaved its bottom flat, then glued it to the upper right side of the lasgun receiver. The heavy bolter bipod was simply glued to the front of the lasgun.


I like how the Cadians look carrying the short carbines, and the squad automatic weapon is kinda interesting. The main appeal to me is how different the carbine/SAW pairing looks, and it lends a nice contemporary feel to an Imperial Guard squad.

Next time, I'm going to see if I can convert the winged skull motif on the carbine to a single-winged skull rather than shaving the whole thing off entirely, and I'll be looking into alternative bitz for the SAW's high capacity magazine and bipod.

Stupid Bitz Tricks #3: Aliens-style Heavy Stubber


I'm a firm believer in the old adage "waste not, want not", so when I carve up something for bitz, I'm always looking for something to do with the leftover pieces and scrap. The sentry gun from Stupid Bitz Tricks #2 yielded several useful pieces that I decided to put to work filling another hole in my Imperial Guard roster: the lack of squad automatic weapons. I had a pintle mounted heavy stubber in my bitz box, and I'd always wanted to find a way to make it a handheld weapon system. However, it wasn't until after doing the sentry gun that I realized I could convert the heavy stubber into something that looked like an Aliens smartgun. This is the result:


The images below show the bitz used and their configuration. (Click the photos below to view them at full size.)


The main parts used are a spare set of Cadian flamer arms and the heavy stubber from the Imperial Guard Vehicle Upgrade sprue. The flamer was sliced apart in two places so that only the rearmost segment with the handgrip and the sling remained attached to the arm. The heavy stubber's barrel was shortened by clipping out everything between the muzzle and the ventilated shroud, then gluing the muzzle directly to the shroud.

Next, the upper surface of the heavy stubber was shaved clean of all large protuberances (the lever-looking thing and the sight hump), and the rearmost end of it was squared off so it could mate nicely against the flamer's handgrip. The bottom was also shaved flat, then glue was applied to the front of the flamer handgrip and the front sling swivel on the right flamer arm, and the heavy stubber was then pressed into place. The ammo drum was the ribbed section of the autocannon barrel that was left over from the sentry gun project, which was shaved flat on both ends and then glued into the notch on the bottom left side of the heavy stubber.

The sighting system is a Space Marine targeter that was left over from the sentry gun also, its front end having been sliced off to serve as the sentry gun's sensor lens. The front of the targeter was sanded flat, and the targeter was then glued to the upper right side of the heavy stubber, above the ejection port. The next step was to incorporate the visual suggestion of a waldo system, so I rooted through my bitz box and found the lascannon barrel that was left over from the sentry gun project. On the bottom of the barrel, there's a long rail--the frontmost, tapered section was sliced off.

The lascannon barrel rail segment was glued to the bottom of the heavy stubber, directly in front of the flamer handgrip, so that the flat end was flush with the heavy stubber's receiver and the tapered end of the rail segment was pointing to the left side of the heavy stubber. This is what gives the visual suggestion of a waldo system. The next step was to add a vertical handgrip on the side of the weapon, in order to make it look more like an Aliens smartgun, and I used a leftover autocannon ammo drum handle for this purpose. The ammo drum handle was cut so that only one flange remained on it, and glued to the lascannon barrel rail segment.


If you happen to have leftover heavy stubbers from Leman Russ or Chimera kits, this is one way to make them man-portable. It's also not a particularly difficult conversion, and it follows the same basic Aliens-inspired theme as the sentry gun.

One other fun thing you can do with the Imperial Guard Vehicle Upgrade Sprue is to use the tank commander parts to make a junior officer with upraised hand and binoculars, which would be a good stand-in for Lieutenant Gorman. You could also just use the tank commander's head with the Cadian sergeant bitz to make a more heroic-looking lieutenant, so long as you remember to shave the sergeant stripes off the chainsword arm.

I think the weapon is a bit large, however, so I'm going to shorten the flamer handgrip and the heavy stubber body the next time I perform this conversion. I figure if I shave one or two more millimeters off the overall weapon length, it'll be snugged in a little closer to the body and look a little less oversized.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stupid Bitz Tricks #2: Sentry Gun


I've wanted a couple of the Forge World Space Marine Tarantula sentry guns for a while now, because I've had a thing for sentry guns ever since watching the director's cut of Aliens. In that movie, there were a couple of scenes in which the Marines deployed some UA 571-C sentry guns and used them to fend off the xenomorph onslaught. However, I have some problems with the Forge World Tarantula models, namely the facts that they're too expensive at the current GBP-USD exchange rate, Forge World doesn't deduct the 15.5% VAT for overseas customers, and I'd actually like something a bit smaller anyway. So, I decided to check my bitz box and see if I could make my own.

The Prototype

I found enough of the right bitz, and this is the result:

It's small, looks the part, is surprisingly easy to make, and can be made solely from leftover Cadian and Space Marine bitz.


The next two photos illustrate the bitz used and where they go. (Click on the pictures to see them at full size.)

The Design

I chose to use Cadian heavy weapon bitz because I wanted the sentry gun to be plastic and fit in seamlessly with my GW plastic figures. The main body of the sentry gun is a lascannon with the entire barrel removed, and mounted on a tripod. The front half of the sentry gun is a heavy bolter with everything behind the ammo feed/ejection ports removed. I took a Cadian grenade launcher arm and removed everything except the drum, then cleaned it up to serve as the ammunition drum for the sentry gun. The drum was glued to the feed port of the heavy bolter.

At this point, the sentry gun looked a little unbalanced, so I added the muzzle brake from an autocannon to lengthen the barrel. I also sliced off the carrying handle from an autocannon ammunition drum and glued it to the top of the lascannon body. Next, I needed some sort of sensor cluster on the left hand side of the sentry gun in order to balance out the drum and make it look more like a sentry gun, so I rescued the grenade launcher's barrel and shaved it down to serve as a large sensor housing. The rail along the bottom of the grenade launcher barrel makes a nice mounting point, so I applied glue to the bottom of the rail and attached it to the side of the lascannon body. The targeter from the heavy weapon sprue was glued above it, along the angled portion of the lascannon body.

I liked the way it looked, but it still didn't quite say "sentry gun" to me yet. I decided it needed two more elements: some sort of control box that would make it look like a remote weapon system, and the sensor I made from the grenade launcher barrel really needed a lens in front. I went through my bitz box again, and found a Space Marine targeter and a baggie full of spare voxcaster backpacks. I sliced off and glued the front of the Space Marine targeter to the grenade launcher barrel, and it finally looked like a proper sensor. I cut off the bottom half of a voxcaster backpack and removed the long antenna from the top. To form the control box, the bottom half of the voxcaster was glued to the right side of the lascannon body, behind the ammo drum, and the antenna was glued to the control box to finish it off.


You can make a sentry gun out of one $13 heavy weapon team box and leftover bitz from a box of Cadians, and still have enough bitz left to make a missile launcher team and a mortar team. Use the kneeling legs for the mortar team, and the missile launcher bitz work with regular standing Cadians pretty nicely. You'll use the included 60mm base for the mortar team, and the sentry gun will need a spare 40mm base. If you buy the $35 heavy weapon squad box, you'll get 3 sentry guns, 3 missile launchers, and 3 mortar teams out of it.

I'm thinking about using the leftover sandbags and stuff to set up a sentry gun control station, with some sort of scratchbuilt command display, a communications unit, and a couple of kneeling guys on a 60mm base. One of those could control multiple sentry guns, and it'd look pretty cool on the tabletop.

Looking at the completed sentry gun model the next day, I think I'll do it a bit differently next time. The heavy weapons sprue has two autocannon drum carrying handles, so the next sentry gun will have two carrying handles on the top of the body, along the angled bits of the lascannon body, which would make the sentry gun look like it could be carried by a couple of guys. The smaller targeter from the heavy weapons sprue would be moved up top, between the carrying handles and close to the front. I'll probably leave the larger sensor on the left side of the sentry gun exactly where it is to visually balance out the drum on the right side.