Thursday, April 25, 2013

Collected John Carter of Mars - Volume Three

Last week, I finished reading Volume Three of the Collected John Carter of Mars, which contains four stories: Swords of Mars,  Synthetic Men of Mars,  Llana of Gathol,  Skeleton Men of Jupiter, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a further story, John Carter and the Giant of Mars credited to him, but clearly written by someone else [supposedly by his son].  (Also see my post discussing Volume One, and the one discussing  Volume Two).

Swords of Mars features John Carter infiltrating Zodanga as part of his campaign against the Assassins guild.  There he works for a scientist who is building a ship to travel to the martian moon Thuria, while by night he thwarts the attempts of the assassins guild to kill him.  Deja Thoris is again kidnapped, and is taken to Thuria in an attempt to keep her from John Carter and the Heliumite fleet.  Carter of course pursues to Thuria, there are subsequent adventures, and they return to Mars.  Marred somewhat by an abrupt end, this story was still interesting because of the development of the space ships and the parts of the novel that involve John Carter sneaking about Zodanga, spying on and ambushing the various assassins sent against him.

Synthetic Men of Mars is a story that concerns the actions of Ras Thavas, the Master Mind of Mars, and his ability to create life from vats.  In the natural course of things, the life he creates is both repulsive and revolts against his control, so instead of creating a superior race of being as he hoped, he is forced by these synthetic men to produce massive armies of hideous hormads, with the idea that they will take over the whole world.  Vor Daj, the hero of this story, has his brain transferred into the body of a hormad, and works within the polity the synthetic men have created to liberate the captives and collapse the imperial ambitions of the hormads.  This story also introduces the malagor, a previously extinct giant bird creature, which the hormads use to transverse the swamps. 

Synthetic Men of Mars would be very interesting to use as the basis of a D&D campaign, as you could have the players transferred into the bodies of the "monsters" and work within to effect change in the direction of the an invasion for example.  There also exist perfect miniatures for the hormads, although I believe unintentionally.

A couple of leather straps, and some moved ears, and bam! Hormads!
Llana of Gathol features the adventures of John Carter in trying to recover the titular Llana, his grand daughter, in four shorter linked stories. As is common in ERB stories, Llana is the object of obsession by a number of uncouth folks, who kidnap her, leading to adventures.  She and her grandfather encounter the long thought extinct white men of mars, the piratical black men of mars, invisible men of mars, and the yellow men of mars, the leader of whom started this problem in the first place.  This story introduces some details about the functioning of the martian navies, invisibility pills, and the concept of freezing soldiers for storage until they are needed.

Skeleton Men of Jupiter is a short story where in John Carter is kidnapped and taken to Jupiter in an effort to make him divulge the military secrets of Helium.  There he leads a slave revolt against the titular skeleton men, and has a few adventures under the ever red skys of Jupiter.  (Jupiter is lit by ever burning red volcanoes, and the gravity issue is negated "by the high rotation at the equator") Wikipedia says that it was intended to be part of a series of linked adventures as in Llana of Gathol, but ERB did not complete the later pieces before his death.

John Carter and the Giant of Mars is a terrible story that has a number of errors, both in regards to physics, and with the Barsoom setting.  The red martians suddenly have radio, airplanes, parachutes, machine guns, and other earth technologies, while at the same time are unable to use any of these to any degree in order to advance the "plot".  This story was so poor it put me off the whole book, and I nearly did not finish.  According to Wikipedia, the thought is that it was written by ERB's son, which should be no excuse for its quality. I advise you to skip it completely.

In any case I have enjoyed reading the Barsoom books, so much so that I have requested the first of the Venus books from the library as well.

I already finished reading another Martian story (of sorts), the graphic novel Scarlet Traces, about a post Martian invasion England.  The story was somewhat interesting, but it did not really spark any ideas for gaming or figure conversions.  Next up is Monster Manual II.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

INQ28 - Workbench

Here is a shot of my workbench taken this weekend.

Seen here in various states of completion are a guard vet, an Interrogator, Masque, an investigator, Deathwatch Marine, Tech Priestess, and the bits for an inquisitor and the Xenophile. (and a bunch of random bits and pieces).  Of these, only the Marine is "done", and it still needs to be rebased.  So loads more work to go.

Baneblade Prime

As mentioned last week, I finally finished building the Baneblade after three years of on and off construction, and got it primed.
Parts splayed out for spraying
 As you might notice from this picture, I have a number of the old style Citadel Colour sprays, which is what I ended up using for this job.  The black primer cans must be at least 8 years old, if not more, but worked like a charm. It is a pity that they changed the formula, since I really like these (and obviously they last as well, which is uncommon in spray paints).
Baneblade in all its primal glory!
So now that I have completed basic assembly and priming, the next step is to break out the old air brush, and give the armor panels a nice base coat of Russian Green, and then get to work painting the details, crew, and 1001 rivets.  Then weathering.  Maybe I will be done in a further three years...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

15mm Hammer's Slammers

Hammer's Slammers, the mercenary regiment of the future as detailed by David Drake, is what got me into the whole Dirtside/6mm thing.  Reading about columns of tanks advancing under fire, and artillery desperately trying to penetrate their defenses was inspiring enough that I sought out a rule set that would let me game it. [which is something I still hope to do sometime]

However, as you are probably aware, 15mm is where most of the excitement is in scifi games lately.  The ability to have a full company of infantry and support units interact in a meaningful and semi realistic way is certainly appealing to most gamers, and 15mm is a size that still allows for figure detail, while to taking too much table size.  StarGrunt is the classic rule set for this sort of gaming, but there are many others.

So 15mm Hammer's Slammers would appeal to a lot of gamers, and there have been a few attempts to build a proper Slammers' blower tank, both official models, and unofficial ones.  Anisty Castings is now the licence holder for the official 15mm models, taking it over from Old Crow.  With the new licence, they also updated the models to be correctly scaled at 1/100, and they are just gorgeous as you can see. [painted by John Treadaway]

£8, John's painting not included.
Anisty is also making new models of the combat car, which will also have photo etch details for the canopy and other parts.
£5.50 with crew
So, while I do not [yet] have any 15mm scifi forces, I certainly will be taking a look at these, and if you like the Slammers, or just great hover tanks, you probably should too.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Universal Truth

There are few universal truths in life, like death, taxes, and so on.  One of them is that primer will show all errors on a model.  Smart builders, of course, expect this, but there is always at least one problem area that is surprising...

and yes, after three years, I finished building my Baneblade and primed it today.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Perry Releases

As you may be aware, the Perry brothers have their own miniature company which produces historical miniatures.  I have a few that I am using for D&D figures, (and I need to finish painting them and show them off!) but they have over 13 ranges of metal and plastic figures covering everything from Agincourt to Choson Korean forces.

One of their new plastic releases is British Infantry for the American War of Independence (Revolutionary War).

38 plastic figures for £18?  Buy three boxes and get a free mounted Colonel? Sure!
Each box makes a battalion pretty nicely
These appear to be suitable for the majority of battles in the New England campaigns, and are easily supplemented by their extensive metal lines.  Unlike the Napoleonic wars, the AWI seems more suitable for skirmish and small battalion combat, as even the largest battles had fewer than 50,000 combatants on both sides, and the decisive parts of the battles were very small.  After visiting Valley Forge a few years back, I have a not very secret interest in reproducing this war... so maybe some day.

The Perrys are also releasing British infantry for World War Two, with a box of "Desert Rats" (again for £18, and again with a three box deal).

This campaign does not interest me as much as some, but with a couple of these boxes and some forthcoming Germans (and Italians) it seems like you could have some pretty satisfying large skirmish battles.  The box may also be useful for providing bits for use with Games Workshop figures, if one were interested in converting Imperial Guard figures for instance.  I also expect that they will come out with metal ANZAC and Indian heads too, to further expand this box.

Anyway, I am also looking forward to what comes next from them, as they typically have 3ups for next year's releases at Salute, which is next weekend.  Who knows what it could be?  WWII Italians? AWI American Continentals?  Plastic artillery for the ACW?  Dare I wish for Landsknecht?

Friday, April 5, 2013

John Carter

Pardon for the paucity of posts lately, but with Easter and some sickness, I just have not been able to manage it.  Hopefully next week will be better in that regard, as I still have five more lists for the d1000 Inquisitor project, and then hope to wrap up everything with a finalized list.

My wife and I did manage to watch John Carter this week.  This is the second time I have tried to watch the movie, the first failed due to lack of time before our vacation, so I was doubly determined to get through it.  Spoilers if you have not read the book or seen the movie previously.

The movie loosely follows "A Princess of Mars" in retelling John Carter's first visit to Barsoom.  Briefly, John Carter is a washed up gold miner, who is recruited into the US cavalry, refuses to join because of his desire not to fight, escapes has a brush with Apaches (caused by the cavalry), finds the cave of gold, and then slays a Thern and accidentally travels to Mars. There, his side of the story goes mostly as told in the book, and it is not until we get to Dejah Thoris that things deviate.  In this version of the story, there are only two Red Martian cities left, Zodanga and Helium, and Zodanga is winning through the influences of the Therns. Dejah is the daughter of the Jeddak (rather than granddaughter), and is a scientist involved in research into the 9th ray (not currently used by the Red Martians).  She flees, is captured by the Tharks (as in the book), but is immediately given to John as war booty, rather than being distant.  The immediately escape with Sola and Woola to travel down the river to Issus, which they think is related to the Therns.  There, they find out about transporting John Carter back to Jasoom, get attacked by the Warhoon tribe, and then are rescued by Helium's one ship navy. 

Dejah agrees to marry the prince of Zodanga to bring peace, John Carter does not want to fight, and will return to Earth.  Naturally, he starts to change his mind, and is then captured by a Thern, who through a succession of shape changes, tells him about the Therns, who are somehow taking energy from Mars to fuel their race, and want Zodanga to destroy Helium. John naturally escapes, goes and collects a Thark army, sacks Zodanga to prevent the wedding, finds that the wedding is in Helium, goes there, and stops it.  He then marries Dejah himself, and everyone is happy, until the next night when he is sent back to Earth by a Thern.  He awakens in the cave, and then spends his life tying to find a way back to Mars.

Some of the changes help to make the movie easier to understand in the limited time span, although since they expected to make a trilogy, some of the other changes do not really make that much sense (showing Issus, using Therns as they did, sending John back before he can have children, and so on).  Zodanga also has a walking city for no reason.

A few small things annoyed me about the movie, such as the moons not appearing correctly, John's jumping ability being so.. superman like, the flying ships were not ships, so much as dragonfly winged galleys, white apes as giants, and Woola was great, but far too fast.  Mars also appeared to be far more dead in the movie than in the books, as the ever present ochre plant life was not ever present. (and there were no farms, canals, or other plant life either)

Dejah Thoris could have been cast better, I was expecting someone more like Ornella Muti in Flash Gordon, i.e. someone who could plausibly be the most beautiful woman on a planet full of them. (I did not expect book accurate clothing in a Disney film).  John Carter was not lusty for battle in the movie as he was in the book (originally written pre-war), but that may have been hard to pitch in this more pacific era.  The introduction of a dead wife and child to his back story was puzzling, because it both prohibited him from falling in love with Dejah when he met her, and meant that he was less of a mercenary drifter as a broken man.  The Sola/Tars Tarkas sub plot was handled and condensed quite well.

Overall though, it was worth the price I paid for it, and worth spending a few hours watching.  If you are a Barsoom fan, I suggest you watch it.

I am currently on the last volume of the Collected John Carter of Mars, so more Barsoom to come. (contain your excitment!)