Thursday, August 4, 2016

Starcraft. Bag O' Terran Marines and Bag O' Zerglings

I am pretty much unfamiliar with Starcraft and Warcraft. The only thing that caught my eye were these figures, which Billy Hill posted in the Army Men Homepage FB page. What with my recent work on sci-fi topics, I had to have them. They looked like superb characters for a sci-fi skirmish game.
Starcraft Terran Marines
I ordered a bag each of Terran Marines and Zerglings. What I gathered from a Starcraft fan site is that the Marines are armored and use weapons that fire metal spikes. The Zerglings are creatures with sharp appendages that can do great harm in hand-to-hand fighing. They seem to be a mix of insectoid, crustacean and reptilian features.
Terrna Marines and Zerglings
This reminds me of a starter set for Warhammer 40,000 from ten years or so past. We carried it in a hobby shop where I worked at the time. The game set had Space Marines versus a swarm of buglike critters. Starcraft’s Marines and Zerglings seem like a similar kind of nerdware.
On pages and sites of those selling the figures, each stated that each bag has nine figures. One said there were nine figure and six poses of the marines. He was mistaken. In reality, there are three each of three poses. The marines have one pose rushing with rifle pointed, one standing with rifle up, and one rushing with shield and rifle. There are three Zerglings in three poses. (Zergling sounds like something they would name a Pennsylvania beer). The figures have a lot of overhangs, which means they were originally molded in parts that were assembled prior to packaging. Marines are in light blue; Zerglings are brown.
Marines and Ajax Spacemen. Marines are shorter but just as thick.
Despite their thickness, the marines are about 54mm to 60mm size. It is their overall thickness that dwarfs Star Wars and Galaxy Laser Team figures. These guys are thick. The Zerglings have all sorts of appendages and it takes a while to figure which part is the head. Detail on marines and Zerglings is very nice. They could easily be fit into a game like Laserblade. (When I finish the Sci-Fi supplement for OMOG, I will have to accommodate figures like these. They are too cool!)
Marines with Galazy Lasrer Team. Marines are much larger.
The Terran marines resemble the space-marines of popular nerdware Warhammer 40,000. Of coure, they are not the same. I am sure that nerds who play both Warhammer and Starcraft can point out all the differences.
Zerglings with Galaxy Laser Team
These Terran marines and Zerglings would both look great if they were painted.
Marines and Hasbro Star Wars 54mm figures. Similar height, but the thickness of the marines makes the Star Wars figures look smaller.
Even if you do not want to add elements of Starcraft to skirmish games, you could use both Marines and Zerglings for other things.
Zerglings and Star Wars figures.
Good plastic sci-fi figures are a treasure. In 2015, we had Hasbro’s excellent Star Wars Command figures. These were 54mm size and had a nice variety of types and poses. An interesting set was a 40mm scale bag soldier set of Aliens Colonial Marines and Aliens. Though far from ideal, they gave fans of the Aliens franchise something with which to work. An old favorite, reissued by Tim Mee is the Galaxy Laser Team. The team is a source of various figures, from turtle-monsters to conventional astronauts. Throwing the Terran Marines and Zerglings into this mix could provide some intriguing scenarios for space skirmish games.
Marines and MPC Astronauts (Mercury - Gemini Type). Marines are massive compared to astronauts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: The Lionel Fastrack Book by Robert Schleicher

I came across the Lionel Fastrack Book in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. The mark-down price was $8.00 and change. I bought it. I had read a couple of other books by the author, Robert Schleicher. They were reviewed here a few months ago.
The original list price of The Lionel Fastrack Book was over $25. In my opinion, it was not worth the list price. This was mostly a book about building layouts. Many of the track plans were cribbed from older Lionel publications such as The Manual for Model Builders. Most layouts used wider radius track. Obviously, the preferred audience is people who have a lot of space to build a very large layout.
Large layouts by hobbyists were used for illustrations. These were basic green tables with a little scenery and a few operating accessories. The impression I got was that the layouts could be changed on a whim. The book took the time to discuss TMCC far better than Schleicher’s prior work, the Big Book of Lionel. In that book, mention was also made of Fastrack but no layout plans were offered.
Not bad for a beginner to use, but he would still have to learn to use TMCC or Legacy as well as get a handle on the track system. Though conventional blocks were discussed and illustrated, the author pushed TMCC and Legacy.
The talk on scenery, accessories and other accompaniments was all too brief and lacking. For the most part, scenery was stuff just placed on the table. There was little reference to serious scenic effects. The emphasis was on temporary or quick-change layouts rather than realism.
Frankly, the book lacked that indefinable quality that would have given it weight. It did not make me enthusiastic about making a layout or using Fastrack. Almost all of the information could have been gotten from Lionel’s own manuals and instruction sheets.
Not bad for $8.00 and change. Not worth $25. Aside from the emphasis on Fastrack and a but more detail on TMCC, there was really nothing new here. It does not do for Fastrack what the old K-Line Track and Accessory manual did for tubular rail and conventionally-operated trains.
The emphasis on large layouts using wider radius curves means that layouts will have to be bigger, and that requires having the space and the money to do it. The author claims that wider curves allow operators to use Lionel’s largest locomotives.

I run my trains conventionally and use O and O27 tubular rail. I have a lot of it and see no point buying other track. These new systems do not offer me enough of an incentive to change. Ditto for TMCC. I had tried it a few times and found it was not as much fun. The price of a TMCC or Legacy or even DCS system is daunting. So are the prices of locomotives equipped for them. The Lionel Fastrack book reminded me, by comparison, that it’s all about enjoying the trains. For me, that means transformer control and tubular rail.