Comic-Con 2012 Hasbro Terrain Inspiration

For a number of years Hasbro, the manufacturer of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Star Wars, and My Little Pony toys, has shown off the latest G.I. Joe and Cobra action figures in its booth at Comic-Con. Hasbro employees or contractors pose the figures in elaborate dioramas and this year I believe they had at least four separate scenarios being enacted behind the glass cases. I contacted Hasbro to find out who built the dioramas and for details about their construction, but never heard back from the huge, global toy company.

The Cobra Installation

Two vignettes really caught my attention. The first is obviously a Cobra installation with Cobra Commander and his lieutenants Storm Shadow and Destro surveying the Cobra troops. Two Decepticons have bolstered the Cobra ranks. During the 80s and 90s, there were occasional crossovers between the two toy franchises in the Marvel comic books. The modeler or modelers have created a very convincing layout with a number of flat surfaces weathered to show a little exhaust and grime. While the red translucent cases and their loading carts come from the Comic-Con exclusive release of the H.I.S.S. Tank/Shockwave, most of the building seems to be scratch-built, using pieces of cardstock or styrene to create texture.

Diorama at the 2012 Hasbro booth at Comic-Con with GI Joe action figures lined up in a huge Cobra facility

I spot Iron Grenadiers, some new B.A.T.s (Battle Android Troopers), Alley Vipers, a regular Viper, a Night Viper, the Shockwave H.I.S.S. and Starscream, I believe. I love the stenciled Cobra logo on the floor.

Red Cobra stencil on floor of detailed diorama in the Hasbro Booth at 2012 Comic-Con showing Cobra Commander and Transformers

I am a little surprised that the modeler(s) didn’t add activity on the monitors for the two Cobra members on duty at the right, simply by printing out a miniaturized scene from a cartoon or comic. They also do not appear to be Tele-Vipers, which would have been extra cool. Their searchlights though probably do swivel. Can you spot the Soundwave in the picture? Who is he ejecting?

Looking down on Starscream and Shockwave as a H.I.S.S. in a GI Joe diorama at Comic-Con

Ninja Bridge Battle

The other diorama that also looked realistic to me (and therefore inspiring for building terrain for wargaming) was this Ninja Bridge Battle which seems to come straight from the second movie, Retaliation. If you have not seen the GI Joe: Retaliation trailer, these ninjas will have an aerial battle, anchored by ropes, on a mountainside in the film, battling against Snake Eyes and his team, including the yellow and black-clad ninja, Jinx. GI Joe: Retaliation‘s release date has been pushed back to March 29, 2013. These enemy ninjas are called Red Ninjas in the comic books appropriately enough.

Red Ninja action figures from GI Joe by a building and bridge at the Hasbro Comic-Con 2012 booth

The one criticism I have of this vignette is the choice of red to fill in some of the grout in the stonework. I gather that it is supposed to be blood, but if it is, the splatter is curiously not sticking to the stone faces, but instead running into the cracks. The building at the end of the bridge appears to be a straightforward construct, but the addition of the black trimming partway up makes it more believable. The clay tiles on the roof look good and 28mm modelers can achieve the same with the Hirst Arts Clay Tile Roof Mold.

Red Ninjas lay dead or falling in a bridge attack action figure vignette from Hasbro with a grey mountain backdrop

It’s scenes like these that had me playing with GI Joes throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, but back then we were limited to catalogue pictures that were nowhere near as imaginative with their environments. Similarly wargaming scenery brimming with castles, cobblestone streets, and lush forests drew me into Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40K.

Dust Tactics Operation Cerberus

Distributed by Fantasy Flight Games and made by Dust Studio, Operation “Cerberus” is the latest expansion for Dust Tactics. While previous expansions have included two new miniatures, Operation Cerberus features a plastic 3D building as well, easily making it well worth its SRP of $44.95.

Of course, the expansion is just that: an expansion. While I got it solely to add its building to my terrain, it does include two new hero miniatures. The Allies get The Chef, a dual-flamer wielding maniac. The Axis feature the skirt-wearing, sniper rifle-wielding Angela Wolf. The expansion rulebook suggests some tactics for them, introduces further rules and units, and has scenarios involving the new building, as well as instructions on putting it together.

The Operation “Cerberus” Building

The Operation Cerberus building from Dust Tactics viewed from the front.Those directions are actually useful. While the pieces are intuitive, building three separate floors and then placing them together requires great dexterity and patience. Instead, upper pieces should be placed on the top tabs. The other panels slide down vertically into the waiting grooves. The pieces “lock” in at the top, leaving the lower portion freer to potentially pop out. This is more apparent in a smaller build as adding floors further stabilizes the building. The building is also designed more as a facade than for both detailed interior and exterior use. The plastic used is also lightweight and very hard, which makes it brittle and more prone to snapping than other plastics typically used in wargaming. Jerky motions can be rewarded with a connector snapping off and getting stuck in the groove.

Modularity

Modularity is restricted by the design of the corner elements as well as the linking mechanisms between pieces. 3 Inside Corners are provided, while there are 15 Outside Corners. Are they really that different? Yes! Their upper tabs and their bottom slots both differ, as well as the aesthetic difference between having inside and outside designs. The other pieces are further divided between narrow panels and wide panels. Narrow panels are 51mm wide, not including their connectors. The Wide panels are about 71mm across, again not including the connectors. The measurements get even more confusing when the set’s two Support Doors and two Support Windows are factored in. They share a 92mm width. Lastly the other connectors, including the corners, have a standard width of about 27mm. Because of all these varying measurements, I have stayed with one of the standard configurations from the book, which is used in scenarios 1-6. Otherwise, some thought or moderate experimentation is required in order to get a building that will match up. There are also no T-intersection pieces.

Visual Design

Its design is perfect, of course, for Dust Tactics, which takes place in the alternate WWII timeline of 1947. Besides fitting well into any other WWII era wargame, it also carries well into the present. Want a building to fend off zombies from? Check. Need a building to stage your own “Assault on Precinct 13”? Check. It fits in well for use as a building for Heroclix. It also bears up well in more futuristic sci-fi settings.

Adding Basswood Floors

The Dust Tactics Operation Cerberus building as seen from above with basswood roofing.The building comes with card floors that insert into the grooves. Unfortunately they don’t run the entire length of the building. I knew for other wargaming use, I would want actual floors and quickly ruled out plasticard as an option as it lacks rigidity and would collapse downwards with any serious weight. I happened to have 1/16th inch basswood strips on hand from Revell, purchased at Michael’s. They slid in easily into the building’s grooves. My strips were 4x24x1/16 inches, so I next began trimming them down to size.

The dimensions I eventually arrived at were:

Long Piece A – 180mm x 92mm
Long Piece B – 180mm x 85mm

The two large pieces fill in a 2×2 area on the Operation Cerberus board. I suppose you could split the difference and have two pieces both 180mm by 88.5mm or so. There is some wiggle room allowed. Very importantly: the plastic structure can bend and bulge depending on how you cram flooring in. I know that my pieces are causing it to bulge slightly.

I roofed the asymmetrical portion that extends off, which I would call a 1×1, with two separate pieces of basswood, because I had run out of a large enough piece. Together they measure: 91mm x 85mm.

A more precise hobbyist will get more accurate numbers, but the dimensions I used were enough to have a sufficiently convincing roof that is relatively easy to remove and reattach.

Painting the Tarred Roof

While basswood has some slight texture, I saw that I would want more and used Spray Adhesive on the uppermost roof pieces. I then poured dental plaster over them, briefly shook them off after a small wait, hit them again with the Spray Adhesive, and did a final layer of plaster. I avoided PVA glue because it is usually too thick and I didn’t want to warp the basswood strips. A simple black coat of craft paint later, I had a passable tarred roof reminiscent of asphalt. The lines were added with a sloppy drybrush of light grey paint. Then I sprayed them with Testor’s Glosscote. Despite the gloss finish, they are relatively flat.

The other floors did not receive as much attention with two colors painted on, followed by a light grey drybrush. Depending on how you are going to use your building, you may want more additional roof areas which would be as easy as preparing other basswood strips.

LITKO Industrial Tower System (ITS)

ITS Overview

I originally began with only one of Litko’s 3-Hex Industrial Tower System (ITS). The basic hexagonal design was refreshing. Unlike other CNC terrain manufacturers, parts are sent in individualized plastic bags with labels, already punched out.

Getting the Pringles can in through the laser-cut central holes was a bit of an effort and a very tight squeeze. I thought I might break something, but it ended up working. I saw enough potential to order three Base Plates and another 3-Hex tower. Using the ITS for games of Necromunda is a no-brainer, as well as for games of Infinity, Dust Tactics, Combat Zone, and Void. Of course, the ITS towers can also be used in larger games like Warhammer 40k, Dark Age , or AT-43. It is also industrial enough to fit into modern wargames, though I have never seen a stucture quite like it.

Assembly is a snap, quite literally. I haven’t glued any part of the ITS. To my eye though, a Pringles can is too short an object to be convincing as a smokestack or exhaust. I added two widths of PVC piping to create, I hope, a more convincing exhaust. There is more on the innards of my metal smokestack in the Youtube video.

Another thing I like about Litko’s wooden products is that they give you the parts that were laser removed. In the case of the tower system, it’s the 2.75 inch diameter plugs that were cut from the centers. The same is also true for their movement trays: you receive the base-sized wooden cut-outs. I love versatility and variability in my terrain, so being able to add the plugs back to the hexes for a larger playing area is excellent.

Floors are separated by 3 inches, perfect for Warhammer 40k. If you have the Pringles can in the center of the 3-Hex, you only have about 34mm clearance, so models on 30mm Dark Age bases (including Warmachine bases) are fine. Otherwise larger miniatures on 40mm bases like Terminators and Meganobz are too large. You could always arrange with your opponent whether they can walk around the smokestack or not.

Getting the Most From the Industrial Tower System

One way you could possibly use your product is having a rust-stained, dirty filthy hex tower. If you want a clean version of the same tower, just flip it upside down. The rusty dirty tower will then be on the bottom, out of eyesight while the clean parts are face up on your gaming table. Another variation of this would be to have industrial toxic sludge made with Water Effects tinged with paint on one side of the platforms, while the others were “clean”. You can get a lot of extra mileage out of “the Flip”.

I also like that a larger tower can be constructed in a second or two from two smaller ones simply by stacking them. The thickness of the wood is only about 1.75mm and not that noticeable if you decide to stack yours.

If you are using the Short Wall Sections, it is possible to have reversible pieces with decoration on one side and the other left plain. This is much more viable if you have the Pringles can inserted to block the internal view.

Leaving off two supports creates a different feel to the tower. I can’t vouch for its stability after doing so, but it’s another direction you could take your build in.

A Few Drawbacks

As seen in the Youtube video, the tower sections cannot be joined up next to one another while still preserving the ability to install the short wall pieces. The supports can be turned inwards and then the hexes can butt up against one another, but then the wall sections do not fit in. They can imperfectly adjoin each other though and just be off by a centimeter or two. I don’t know that many buyers might want to adjoin them like I do, but it’s possible. I really envision six or seven hex stacks adjoining each other to create one mega hex.

The other related drawback that I can see is the design of the wall pieces themselves along with their pricing. To pay $9.75 for 10 pieces of thin wood is a bit much, especially when they don’t fit in precisely. Instead, the tabs used to hold them in place remain a bit conspicuous and there are gaps. When inserted, there is a 3 millimeter bit of vertical support sticking out past the wall sections.

Litko’s Shipping

Having placed two orders with Litko now, I must say that they have the slowest shipping times of any manufacturer I have yet encountered, Terranscapes excluded. An order placed on Jan. 1 wasn’t shipped until Jan. 24, while my first order was placed Dec. 12 and shipped on Dec. 28. In every other respect including their email list, website design, and wide selection of products, Litko seems like a burgeoning small business, but when the order is actually placed, I get the feeling that it is a one man operation.

Final Thoughts

As I’ve already said, I’m very pleased with how my 2 3-Hex towers have come along. The design problems are minor and I recognize their existence now and look forward to working within their parameters. I will be adding a few more 3-Hex towers and trying out some of the other wall sections and the railings, so check back for those in a few months.

Amera Plastic Mouldings Modular Buildings

Amera Plastic Mouldings is a British company whose vaccum-moulded plastic terrain I have seen before on the walls of a local gaming store. I have not been too impressed with most of what I have seen from them, but the online pictures of these modular buildings caught my eye.

The Bad

The plastic is as smooth as sheet styrene. The Modular Building with Door’s door is not distinguished well from the surrounding wall. For me the smoothness was a potential problem for painting. This is exactly what GW Rough Coat was inteded for (it has been discontinued), but I used Spray Adhesive instead combined with dental plaster to create texture that I could use for drybrushing. The walls are also so thin that I would not cut them to make a ruined building.

The Good

I have not seen many sci-fi structures with this sort of design on the market. The sides of the finished building measure 9 inches by 11 inches. That is a lot of space on the table. Whole skirmishes can be fought on the roof. Make taller buildings by stacking more of the variant without the doors. Easy enough. Yes, GW’s Cities of Death sets can be had for almost the same price and offer a huge variety of configurations. These Amera buildings will add a bit of variety to your cityscape. Perhaps more importantly, there are a number of sci-fi or modern games where Cities of Death buildings would just look too distinctly Warhammer 40K to use them. The Amera buildings are generic enough for most systems.

As I mention in the video, I have plans to expand upon these two buildings. I may want to buy another floor or two in the future, but for now I can add foamcore inserts to divide up the buildings inside, blocking line of site. I am also curious to try adding little window panes of laminating sheets and see how that looks. I want to cut out an access area on the roof, which would then then need a closed door. Some ventilation in the form of an air intake/fan, roof top pipes, or a little stairwell shack might add visual interest as well as further cover for any rooftop models.

Pegasus Hobbies Technobridge

The Pegasus Hobbies Technobridge is an elegantly designed snap-together plastic kit usable in both modern and futuristic wargames. The packaging boasts that it is over a foot long and they are being quite literal: at its longest it is 12 and 1/8thh inches. The internal width is just under 6.5 inches. Yes, a Baneblade can use it to cross a river or canal, and of course your troops can as well. They could get a cover save from the sides from the 1 inch tall railings. It comes almost ready to use out of the box, snapping together, and cast in a dark grey plastic. I am in the middle of painting mine, but even unpainted it looks pretty good.

If you purchase two of the Technobridges, the central bridge sections could extend the length of the bridge. You would need to use your judgement for how many sections could realistically span the crossing. Each central portion (not the ramp) is 3 inches of more bridge, so you could move up to an 18 inch bridge with another box, leaving two leftover ramp portions. I think it’d still be reasonable if the bridge were 6 or 9 inches longer, but extending it further without modeling further supports might strain the suspension of disbelief. Making the bridge wider would require a good deal of work.

Warmachine players may even be able to make use of it, but traditional swords and sorcery fantasy games or pre-1800s historical gamers will not find much use in it.

Pegasus Hobbies Wooden Crates

Another great prepainted product from Pegasus Hobbies is this blister of 8 wooden crates. 4 of the crates are hollow, but the other 4 have all six textured sides. They are on the larger side of the spectrum for use with 28mm or 30mm miniatures. They most likely are intended for use with 1/35th scale military models. The crates are made of plastic.

For an Inquisitor Scale 54mm model, they would also be perfect, but below I have used them in my Hirst Arts dungeon for Dungeons and Dragons, as well as for fantasy miniature games like Warmachine, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, or Mordheim. Do they have wooden crates in space? Sure. They could also be used in Warhammer 40K or Necromunda. I can think of at least one Necromunda scenario with gangs battling over crates and recovering what loot they can.

Size Comparison and Product Comparison with Hirst Arts Crates to come!

At the time that I shot the packaging (before throwing it away) I was using a different lower-quality camera. Editing the following three videos in iMovie would have further degraded the quality of one complete movie, so here they are unedited.