Building the Dragon

Excepts from the Imperial Archives, Vol. MMMCMXVII Appendix 88,943,022
“Sector Six: Military Capabilities of Minor Factions During the Age of Decline”

Continuing from the last volume,
the 4th Reich, in a daring surprise attack, captured the 34th Imperial Titan Legion on its home base of Xochoi.  Not just the Titans were captured, but the entire logistical train and manufacturing infrastructure. After their capture, the Titans were renamed the “Reich’s 1st Titan Army” and became the vanguard for the Reich’s next offensive. (Link: HERE)  Additionally, Officers of the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe began to appropriate the huge Titan weaponry from the factories onto new starship hulls. Obviously, the relative size of these weapons were miniscule compared to actual Imperial Navy ordnance, but when deployed against their equally insignificant military rivals within Sector Six, this was a massive advantage. Thus the ostentatious classifications of “Battleship” and “Battlecruiser” on ships that would be outclassed by even the smallest of Imperial escorts.

Below are two pictures retrieved from the RS Die Drache's maiden voyage.


Ok, while designing the Dragon as part of my joint project with airbornegrove, one thing became very obvious to me. Since I’m not invested in playing the bad guys, my Reich’s troops and equipment have been very one dimensional. They mostly get painted as targets. To get the most out of this build and really make it sing, I had to emotionally invest in the bad guys. No flexibility. This ship is going to be a Nazi ship, with a Nazi crew, Nazi fighters, assault pods and markings. She’s bad!

This is my 4th major ship and each has been built using a different base structure. The previous build, the Mary Shelley, I would describe as a "layer cake". The first deck had  compartments and an aircraft elevator, then the main deck had the runway and AA guns, and finally the traditional carrier “island”. Thinking on that, for the Dragon, I wanted to build “underneath” the hull to emphasize the 3d aspect of space. That idea can best be described as a “slab” type of hull. Essentially, a main deck with items stuck on the top and bottom.

The slab is  2” thick high density foam. It’s light and strong, perfect for the job.





My concept was to build the “opposite” of the Mary Shelley in terms of how it was laid out. The Shelley has a “carrier” main deck, and then her “battleship” guns are underneath. The Dragon has a “battleship” main deck and then “carrier” compartments under.

She had to have massive guns, so I used 2” diameter pvc tubing mounted on 6" Lazy Susans for her main battery.




This caused a major problem, and the first deviation from the plan. Pvc is unexpectedly heavy. The turrets unbalanced the original flying stand, so I had to build a new one with a significantly larger footprint, and I had to reinforce the slab with a 1”x1” rail for extra support. That rail comes back later… Also, the weight of the turrets meant that I left them off the model while I was building so I could easily flip it over and work on the underside.

As for the carrier compartments underneath, I had an L shaped maintenance deck 
and then a couple of compartments aft for the launch bays.
BUT THESE LAUNCH BAYS LOOKED HIDEOUS! 
It made the ship look like a riverboat from a cheap ABC movie of the week circa 1977. I kept waiting for Kenny Rodgers to break into "The Gambler". Ugh.
So I ripped them out…
NEVER be afraid to take a step back. ALL of my failures have been when I decided I was “too far along” or “I could just live with it”. Or my favorite excuse…”but, these building supplies are precious”. Look, those projects end up in the closet and never see the light of day anyway. So the building materials are still wasted. Rip it out, step back and build what works. It’s the only way.

Moving on…

I also had another problem. To have my planes parked on the tarmac I usually build a landing gear tray like these:
but the Russian Technolog fighters have a very irregular underside that does not lend itself to something easily made using this technique. And then it struck me, unlike my pvc turrets, the small Technolog fighters were very light. I could glue magnets to the top of them and then glue magnets to the reinforcing rail (remember, I said it would come back) and have them hang from the underside of the ship like parasite fighters.
Now the next part was dealing with the boarding action aspect of the games we are planning. I didn’t want a ram on the ship, but I did want the ability to take a ship in a boarding action AND a nod to the concept that Capital ships are the “allthing”, like a Battlestar or Star Destroyer. I had gotten this funny walker from playmobil, and it was pretty perfect, and first I thought about the infantry being robots on external racks. I mean you could even store the robots on the outside of the pods on the outside of the ship exposed to space.

but I never could really make it work visually for me. It was like trying too hard, and seemed forced.

The pods needed guns. I found some fantastic gunmounts from “Death Ray Designs”. The walkers serve double duty. When embarked, their guns are the close defense AA batteries. When they launch, they act as Assault Pods, internally carrying a squad each.
Next up, I found a building from another mdf scenery company called Lasercraft Workshop that had a tower, and I felt the building would be a huge upgrade to be the superstructure. So again, tear something out to move forward. Be savage.

I went from this...

To this...


It’s a great kit. Lasercraft stuff comes pre-punched, so a huge plus. AND while the model is complex, assembly is not. I only wish Lasercraft had a wider selection. But what they have, is outstanding.


Hatches and accent parts are from a company called Miniature Scenery from Australia. (they also designed the Orxwings and the Growler) Lastly, most of the griblies covering the hull are leftover from various kits already built, and bits of mdf sprue.

To finish off…
I really like how it turned out, so the evaluation below should not be taken as dissatisfaction, just a view toward best practices.

What Worked
Huge Turrets, the Super Structure and the Hanging Fighters. To me, those details define the model.

What did not…
The L shaped deck underneath is so invisible that it is lost space. Viewers cannot see it and it is too awkward to place scenery or figures.
The “slab” style really limits the available real estate to place crew “doing things”, and might limit the scenic scope of a boarding attempt. A “layer” or “sandwich” might work better…

…next time.

Comments and Questions Welcome!

Comments

  1. So if the Imperium dispatches a light flotilla of six or so Destroyers and four Cruisers and a half dozen escorts and one carrier......this sector is pacified, Don't worry I'm not telling them ... ;-)

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    1. The Empire believes this to be true....

      ...until it's not

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  2. Thanks for the insights into the build process. It's a great looking ship!

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    1. Thanks Preacher, it's been a massively fun journey.

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  3. Madness but Brilliant Will a real joy to behold :)

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  4. Awesome post! Very interesting indeed!

    A question on the gaming aspect of the ship: Did you build the ship (including fighters, walkers, etc) based a planned out force, or did you build what you felt like building and developed the rules around that? (This is quite convoluted)

    Also, would the reich ever deploy the walkers and their assault squads planetside, or would this compromise too much of the integrity of the ships security?


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    1. Great questions. The Dragon was built to a "scale" of a force. What I mean is, airbornegrove and I came around to the idea that a ship would generally carry 4 fighters and 2 bombers. In our brains we are extrapolating that out to 2 or 3 full squadrons and then bathtubbing down, but that seemed to be a good gameable size. From there we customized, but we will stay within that range. The Shelley carries fighting complement of 4 fighters, but only has one bomber at present. (The Ministry of Defense has not agreed to fund another... yet)

      As far as drop pods involved in a planetary assault... absolutely, the Assault Pods are designed to go planetside. But, yes, you have discovered the weakness to the Dragon. She could not have everything, and compromises had to be made. If she deploys the Pods, it strips her close in defenses.

      As a narrative gamer, to me, the indestructible is boring. The Shelley, despite mounting 6 huge guns in her main battery, will never be able to fire more than 2 at a target. The Dragon is stupendously powerful in a gun duel but lacks a bomber wing to strike from a distance. Plus, as you have noticed, her combat resources have to be carefully allocated.
      airbornegrove designed the LoneStarr as sentient, so it could freak out at any time.

      Those wonderful flaws drive scenario /story design.

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    2. Your very concise and comprehensible answer to my rather mangled questions are very much appreciated! It makes a lot of sense and I cant wait to see them all in action again!

      Also thanks for the "manning the rails" shot... The background really helps it stand very nicely!

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    3. Thanks Joshua,
      I don't think I've ever found a gamer who wasn't willing to go on and on (and on) about his stuff when somebody asked. ;)
      I am no different, I appreciate the questions.

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  5. It's pointless to use words as amazing, awesome or wonderful. They all are a terrible understatement!! :O :O :O

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    1. Too kind.
      Maybe Don Quixote should pay a visit.

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  6. Truly awesome build (yeah I used one of the words, sorry!). The painting, the ingenuity and the photography all resound! I love the pods - Playmobil?! Again, great creativity- do you have a link to Dark Age Designs?

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    1. Thanks Ragsta,
      Yes, Playmobil, Amazon had a special on them, so I picked them up cheap. Apologies, I meant "Death Ray Designs" for the AA guns. (You aren't losing your mind, it used to read "Dark Age", but I fixed it in the post.)
      Death Ray is here: http://deathraydesigns.com/

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  7. Sorry I took so long to reply Maj, work shit and all that.

    All of your design changes have really made big difference, from the Walkers to the tower, the under slung fighters etcetera, all have improved it immensely. I totally agree with you, can't get to precious about designs that don't work, just keep changing things till they work. It looks fucking amazing Maj! Awesome!!!!!

    They differences between yours and Grove's ships will make for an extremely interesting and unique gaming experience. Can't wait to see who's ship gets totaled first :D

    Oh, and yeah, invincible ships are boring.

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    1. Just so you know, I originally bought just 1 playmobil walker, and I intended to follow your build on this: http://papafakis.blogspot.com/2014/06/tada.html

      Then this project came along and hijacked the concept. Good ideas are stol.. I mean borrowed from the best.

      Between the ships for the battle, I have dreams of dogfights, broadsides, and then grove's ship suddenly have an apocalyptic freak out in the middle of it all.

      What could go wrong?

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