With my HG Gouf Custom built and tucked into the toy display on my desk, I returned to my first MG kit, the lovely Astray Red Frame Kai my wife got me last Christmas.
Nestled inside its chest is its tiny pilot.
The undergated parts make this kit a dream to get off its runners. Most parts have their nub protruding from an internal surface, almost like it’s been slid up alongside it, rather than attached to it or on an external area. Just nip, trim, and move on — it’s awesome.
After 90 minutes of work on my second night (first since late December 2019), I had a finished torso. So. Many. Parts!
The Google Translate app makes assembling Gundam kits a lot easier — and sometimes it adds a dash of humor, too.
I love the use of a reflective foil sticker underneath the clear plastic element on the head. It really pops, and it’s such a clever approach.
By the time I got to the legs, I was back in the groove and moving more quickly. But between the weapons and the rest of Astray’s body I’ve still got several hours of building to do.
I haven’t built any Gunpla kits since I started on the — rather intimidating! — MG Astray Red Frame my wife got me for Christmas, mostly because miniatures swallowed my hobby time whole (in a good way). But on Sunday night, unable to sleep, I was in the mood for Gundam.
The Astray is my first MG and I was feeling a bit rusty, so I jumped into one of the other two kits I currently have on hand instead — an HG Gouf Custom. HG kits are super-relaxing to work on, simple but rewarding, and this was just what the doctor ordered. I popped on Community in the background and tucked into it.
I’m still a Gunpla newbie; the Gouf is my fourth kit, all HGs (Leo, Barbatos, and Astaroth Origin are the other three). After working on plastic miniatures, I have to switch grooves a bit — double-nipping, multi-stage sanding and polishing, no glue, no painting, etc. It’s a fun mental shift.
I started making mistakes around 1:00 am Monday, so I went to bed and picked up the Gouf again at a more reasonable hour.
After finishing the kit, I grabbed my trusty black Gundam marker, pulled off the arms, shoulders, head, and gun, and set to panel lining. Come Monday night, I had a finished Gouf.
I figured I’d stretch the capacity of my little lightbox and get a shot of him in there, too.
This was a fun kit to build, and now I feel like I’m back in the groove. Time to start working on the Astray!
It hit me that when I finish my Space Hulk minis I might, in that happy glow of satisfaction at finally completing a task I began in 2009, stall out and loose my painting momentum. I decided to start a second parallel hobby track, assembling Blood Angels, so that when my Termies are done I’m already in the middle of my next project.
I kicked this hobby session off by getting these two Termies shaded, since washes take a bit of time to dry.
Then I broke out my Blood Angels Tactical Squad box, assembled all my Gunpla tools — plus my newly acquired Citadel Mouldline Remover (paid link). I’ve always struggled with mold lines, and this looked like a handy tool to have.
Excluding the hobby knife (I have a couple), my other tools are from this little kit I bought on Amazon (paid link). It’s been a great kit, and the files and buffing board are useful for minis. The only tool I don’t love is the nippers, but unlike Gunpla — where a bad nip will really mess up the look of an unpainted model — it seems like light nip marks will be masked by primer and paint.
I thought about starting with a grunt in case I made mistakes, but decided to start with the sergeant since he would “flavor” the whole squad: I’ll be naming the squad after him (and naming all my squads, of course).
Ha ha, this little dangling blood drop was too fragile to survive being trimmed off the sprue with a hobby knife. I thought nipping would mangle it, but in hindsight I should have nipped. Ah well, nothing a quick filing-down can’t take care of. It’s only a priceless heirloom that this thousand-year-old warrior has carried into countless battles, after all . . .
It felt really good to glue his little legs down! A literal first step.
I’m also quite liking the mold line remover. The back of my hobby knife is free, but it’s not curved and it seems like it’d be all to easy to cut myself or accidentally snip off something near what I’m scraping.
Compared to the two Deadzone miniatures I started assembling (Huscarl, Captain), which were so poorly sculpted that they prompted me to sell all my Deadzone stuff, this was a great experience. Even though this sergeant is composed of a whopping 14 separate pieces — more than I’ve ever assembled for a single figure — they all went together perfectly, and the whole process was supported equally well by the instruction booklet.
And the reward for using 14 pieces was a staggering amount of customization and a good amount of posability. This is an incredibly detailed model, and having a myriad of choices in how to kit it out was enjoyable.
I’m going by Rule of Cool but also paying attention to the actual 8th edition 40k rules — because while Rule of Cool says this guy would look awesome with a Combi-Melta in one hand and an Assault Cannon in the other, that’s just creating headaches for myself down the line when he can’t actually see table play.
So I picked two weapons that looked cool (but were also valid choices) and test-fit everything before putting glue to plastic. Which was a good idea, because the massive wings on his original right pauldron wouldn’t fit with the Hand Flamer.
And with that, I’ve officially started the process of building my Blood Angels army: Sergeant Karios, resplendent in his glorious nipple armor, reporting for duty!
After that I circled back and drybrushed and sealed Zael and Noctis, leaving me just two more Termies to go before Space Hulk is complete.
I knocked out two more Terminators today but got a bit frustrated with one of them (I didn’t feel like my paint job was up to snuff, but pushed ahead anyway), so I figured it was time for a palate cleanser: assembling space dwarves!
Fortunately, I already own the tools for this because I got into Gunpla in 2019 and there’s quite a bit of crossover. In fact, if I hadn’t started building Gundam kits — something, like miniatures, I assumed I’d be bad at — I might not have gotten back into minis at all.
When I decided to give Gunpla a shot, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could build a kit and be happy with the results. I’m not great! But every kit is better than the last one, and I’ve added more steps along the way: double-nipping, sanding, filing, and polishing are all standard practice now. I also enjoyed the process of building as much as the pleasure of having a finished model; finding that same joy in painting is what’s really gotten me jazzed about miniatures again.
And hey, minis fresh off the sprue are covered in mold lines, nubbins, and bits of flash that need the same attention as a Gundam kit before assembly — nice!
Back to the space dwarves
I’m used to single-piece minis or figures that just need a bit or two popped on — not full-on kits like the ones in the Deadzone core set. One of the first things I figured out was that I have the wrong glue; I assumed superglue worked for everything because it’s worked for everything I’ve ever assembled — but what I need is plastic glue.
So while I wait for a chance to nip over to Mox and pick up a bottle, I thought I’d get the “use these squads for your first game” minis off their sprues and cleaned up so they’re glue-ready.
I started with the default leader, a Steel Warrior Huscarl. He comes in 9 parts: head (with cool dwarf beard armor!), back, chest, hammer arm, gun arm, R and L shoulder pads, legs, and base. It’s a neat mini, and pointlessly gendered name aside the Forge Fathers are a cool faction. But after fiddling with it I’m much less excited about it.
Just from sort of squashing the bits together in my fingers it seems like the amount of assembly is not going to be rewarded with a matching amount of posability. There’s zero in the head and legs, the shoulder pads limit what can be done with the arms, and the torso is . . . so-so.
The torso is made to face straight forward, but it doesn’t do that well: There are substantial gaps all around the edges. But if I turn it a bit, the areas on the leg piece which are made to match up with it no longer do. Poking around online I see that this appears to be a problem with the Steel Warriors that Mantic has never fixed with a fresh sculpt.
I won’t know for sure until I try to glue this Huscarl together, but my initial impression is poor. It feels like I’m about to do a bunch of work to assemble what’s essentially a single-pose figure that could have been delivered in one piece.
Fuck it, I’m going to call it a night and revisit this dude another time.