Friday, 2 March 2012

Tanks for the memories

Yes I did perpetrate that pun.  So sue me.

As promised, here's a look at the WIPs on my VSF vehicle painting queue. I generally prefer to use the word "landships" rather than "steam tanks" to try to emphasise the VSF nature of the game.  As you probably know, back in World War One, the British research team working on the first armoured fighting vehicles did in fact call themselves "The Landship Committee", and the name "tank" comes from an attempt to foil enemy spies by pretending the factories working on them were producing water tanks.  Harry Turtledoves "Southern Victory" alternate history series has a fun alternative to this, in his world the new armoured fighting vehicles are put together in a barrel factory, resulting in armoured fighting vehicles becoming known as "barrels".  Which lends an extra meaning to the words of the old wartime song, "Roll Out The Barrel".

First up, I received a long awaited order from Ironclad Miniatures at the start of the week.  So naturally instead of doing the terrain work for the Victorian City that I was supposed to be doing, I started assembling them instead.  This is Steam 1, described as a Small Scout Tank.  It's little more than a box on tracks armed with a single machine gun.  It reminds me a lot of the real-world Carden-Lloyd tankettes from between the World Wars, and I'm pretty sure I've seen this used on at least one VBCW battlefield as an improvised steam machinegun carrier.  I got this because I'm planning to do some lower-intensity games between the British and the Fenians, where conventional cannon armed landships would be considered overkill, but a self-propelled machine gun like this would be an effective support without totally overwhelming the infantry.

Its big brother is Steam 3, billed as a Medium Tank, pictured here with just basecoat and black detailing.  It's about the same size as the "Spanner Tanks" I'm currently using as the mainstay of my British landship fleet, so fits well with them.  It's a lovely model, but I must admit I'm a little conlicted about VSF tanks that look to much like... well tanks.  Apart from the steam boiler at the back, this is another vehicle that wouldn't look too out of place on an inter-war battlefield (and again, I'm pretty sure I've seen it used as such). 

 The last of the Ironclad vehicles is this little rascal, Steam 4 Armoured Steam Carriage.  I've drafted this one into Fenian service along with several other wheeled vehicles, as I wanted the Fenian armour to look somewhat improvised.  This is probably the most technically advanced looking of all the Fenian vehicles.  I chose to arm this with a Nordenfelt machine gun instead of the usual Gatling, again because the Nordenfelt with its side-by -side barrels is an obsolete design that really helps give the thing a VSF feel to me.  Like all the other Fenian vehicles, it's daubed with graffiti'd Republican slogans, and unfortunately this one is a little rude, hence the pixellation. (hint: think Father Jack!)

The next two vehicles are from Scheltrum, and are also desribed as Armoured Stagecoaches/Wagons.  To be honest I'm pretty much undewhelmed with these models and can't honestly recommend them, but they're part of the batch of items I bought pre-2003 so I may as well get some use out of them now.  In the photos they are basecoated with decals and black detailiing - they need drybrushing and possibly a wash to be completed.

I ran into some problems with the decals I was planning on using on these green Fenian vehicles.  One weakness of print-your-own decal paper is that it can't produce white, meaning that your only option is to paint white under where the decal will go, which shows through clear parts of the decal.  You can see in these pictures where I've had to try to tidy up around the white backing of the Hibernian Brotherhood emblem(the flags on the side front).  In normal lighting conditions this is no-where near as noticeable as the flash photography makes it look, but I still need to do a little more blending work to be happy.

But I hadn't realised how much the lighter colours depended on a white background to give them their luminosity.  I had several graffiti slogans created as decals in yellow text.  But the decal yellow was only semi-opaque, and on a green background merely looked like a lighter green.  They didn't look good on either a green background or a white background, where they blended more than I'd like.

Finally the pride of the Fenian Brotherhood's armoured forces, Liath Macha (pron Lee-ah Mocker), named after one of the Irish legendary hero Cu Chullhain's chariot horses.

You might be forgiven for thinking this is another GW conversion, based this time on the Rhino APC, but in fact it's the Iron Grumbler from Ramshackle Games, with extra wing gun sponsons from their Tridlins range.  There's something about sponson-mounted weapons that again says "VSF" to me.  In real life they're less effective than turret or centrally mounted weapons, but they just look so funky.

In Ramshackle's original "Nuclear Renaissance" post apocalyptic setting, the Iron Grumbler is an improvised junkyard construction thrown together.  The model looks like it, and requires quite a bit of sanding  and tidying up to make the pieces fit together.  What you don't get from this picture is a sense of how much resign you're getting for your money with this vehicle.  It's easily as big as any two of the vehicles in this post put together, while costing under a tenner (plus a couple of quid for the sponsons).  If Ironclad Miniatures' vehicles are like a carefully orchestrated string quartet, Ramshackles seem to be a punk-rock guitar band - loud, brash and full of character, if somewhat lacking in technical precision.  The Ironclad models are clearly better sculpts, but I find myself liking the cruder Ramshackle vehicles more and more.

This isn't the entirity of my vehicle painting queue.  I've still got several ex-dwarven steamtanks from Grendel to complete, along with the armoured traction engine and Medium Landship from Black Pyramid.  But I'm hoping that after this weekend's game is done and dusted, having the Fenian vehicles completed and ready to play will be enough encouragement for me to finally knuckle down and paint the infantry and cavalry to go with them.


  1. A nice array of armour. I like the look of all, except the stagecoaches - they look to boxy and the wheels too skinny. The rest are great :-)

  2. I agree about the Scheltrum Stagecoaches. I could live with the boxiness, but those wheels just don't look like wheels to me. In fact all the Scheltrum vehicles I own look like assemblies of random parts from the bitz box rather than coherently designed vehicles. Makes me reluctant to shell out for any of their other more expensive landship models.

    The one silver lining is that it should be very easy to scratchbuild virtual duplicates of these from foamcore, for a lot less than the resin asking price.

  3. The stage coach design looks out of place due to our modern view point. I think they're all great.

    I'd agree with Scott though, although they look like traction engine wheels, once those things got bogged down in the mud a few times I'm sure they're be some improvised methods at widening them pretty sharpish.

    Something like this..

    I'm starting to wonder (with all this mechanism) will you be planning some Steam Rally skirmishing? (You'll be needing a steam powered carousel and organ, and perhaps a threshing machine) :)

  4. Great review. I have one of the Ironclad landships,a dn want more. They are very nice, as you described. I passe dover the Scheltrums many times. Just never got the right feel from them. As for Ramshackle, I like the look of several of their pieces as well, especially the big spider tank. Good to hear a review of how well they are made.

    As for mine, I will soon post photos of the Ironclad on my VSF blog, here: