Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Star Blazers/ Space Battleship Yamato: Gamilon Ships Part 1

After working on the WWI African project for so long, I thought it was time to take a break and work on something else.  This past summer I was in Japan, where I discovered Bandai had released a new batch of models celebrating the old  Space Battleship Yamato (宇宙戦艦ヤマト) series from the 1970's. As a kid it was one of may favorite cartoons (marketed in the U.S. as Star Blazers), and years ago I had purchased some miniatures and rules from starblazersonline.comThey had sat unbuilt due to a lack of opponents, but the nostalgia drove me to dig them out this month and do some work on them.

Start of the Gamilon fleet
Before working on the star of the show, I thought it best to get my feet wet by building and painting spaceships from Earth's enemies, the Gamilons ( Gamilas in the original Japanese).  The show depicted them in a variety of garish color schemes, so these were the perfect change from the various shades of khaki and tan I had been painting.

A mid-size ship type. The brass fins have been added to the ship on the left.
The ships aren't particularly huge, ranging from about 1.5cm for the small escort ships, to 5-6cm for the main battle craft.  In the original show, the artist Leiji Matsumoto (松本零士) loved to draw spaceships with all kinds of fins and antenna sticking off of them. While it may look good onscreen, it's a nightmare for miniatures. 

Casting them in white metal would have resulted in something that was quite fragile, so Musashi Enterprises instead provides etched brass pieces instead.  While I think this is the best option for the situation, they are very challenging to work with. Most of the pieces are in the 0.5cm range, and I found them difficult to remove from their frames without leaving metal burrs on the edges.  I did try filing them down, but due to their size, they had a tendency to pop out of the needle nose pliers during the process, resulting in several lost pieces (luckily I had purchased enough ships that I had spare pieces available). Your best bet is to trim them as close as you can with an X-acto blade and just live with them.  

Attaching them is also a difficult process, involving quite a bit of swearing. Many of the ships have grooves where they are supposed to fit, but they aren't always there or are too shallow to be much use.  Some of the pieces have pegs on them that are supposed to help with positioning, but I found they didn't work well and just cut them off.  As such, I would not recommend these ships for new modellers or those short on patience, but I was happy with how everything looked after assembly.

The ships are supplied with plastic flight stands, but I was concerned the pegs to mount the ships on would not be strong enough and could snap during game play. I decided to drill them out and use some stiff wire to connect the ships to the stands. Musashi also makes adapter heads for the flight stands that allow you to attach more than one small ship to each stand (it appears the rules allow multiple ships to occupy the same hex without risk of collision unless you get over a certain total tonnage).

Be prepared to do some detailing
As seen earlier, the folks at Musashi are kind enough to include a sheet with each kit detailing the fins needed for each ship and the color schemes from the show. Painting single colors results in a rather bland looking ship that hides the details, so you will need some black ink and highlight colors if you wan these ships to look decent.

The ship sculpting was fairly well done (especially on the larger ships), but you can tell these were all done by hand, as there is a bit of asymmetry in some ships. I also had some pieces that didn't fit tightly, so I needed to use super glue to fill the gaps. Casting quality varied; while no ships were horribly cast, some ships had pitting and flash indicating the molds were wearing out. It seems like they are switching over to resin with their newer ships (all my purchases were white metal), so maybe that will help. 

OK, on with the ships completed so far: 
2005 Gamilon Destroyers
 The destroyers are some of the smallest ships I purchased. I thought they would look a bit goofy if I mounted them one ship per stand (plus would take a lot of time moving them on the table), so I decided to group them in squads of four. Being so small, the sculpted detail on them is fairly minimal, so you'll need to add that detail in with your painting.

2024 Gamilon Strike Cruisers
 Though it was a bit tricky getting the fins glues on these crisuers, I think they are a rather fun design and I enjoyed painting them.  Overall the casting was fairly good, though one ship seemed to be missing part of the top of the bridge, and had some flash build up on the tail that had to be filed down.

2022 Gamilon Battle Carrier II
 The improved battle carrier is an interesting ship design; when not launching fighter and bombers, the landing deck rotates under, revealing additional weapons systems. Being a ship without fins, it was fairly easy to put together and painted up nicely.  Sadly most of my highlighting doesn't show up well in the photo.  Casting quality was good.

2007 Desslock Command Ship II
The last ship for this round of painting is the second version of Desslok's (leader of the Gamilons) command ship.  A bit goofy looking due to the SMITE pods on the nose, these pods allow the command ship to teleport other ships around the battlefield.  This was a well cast kit and fairly easy to paint.

I still have a few more Gamilon ships on the painting table, so I'll share those in a future update before I move on to the Earth ships. Despite some of the assembly frustrations, I think the miniatures capture the spirit of the show and will look nice on the table.