16 March 2023
Part one from Miniature Wargames Magazine Editor John Treadaway.
The game is based on the TV show UFO from 1970. Produced by the Andersons (of Thunderbirds fame) this live action SF show is often seen as the ‘poor sibling’ of Space 1999, which is a shame: the UFO show actually predated 1999 by more than five years although – in it’s initial configuration – the later show was designed as a direct sequel to UFO (set in the early eighties) but was swapped out into a stand alone series after some of the modelling work for the putative UFO2 had been finished (items like the Eagle Transporters and big moon base). The popularity of the original series waned when it started sliding a little in terms of ‘mission creep’ (the show took a six month production break slightly after half way through the run and the directors and screen writers spent a little too much time watching shows like The Prisoner and the quality of UFO suffered accordingly!).
Anyway, potted history aside, the show itself was a quite alarmingly unpleasant story of Alien visitors coming to earth and taking away humans for the purposes of harvesting spare body parts to keep themselves (or – more accurately – their enthralled ex-human servitors) alive. A special team of super-secret people (SHADO: Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) have bases around the planet with an HQ hidden under a film studio in the UK. They also have a base on the moon with space-launched interceptors as a first line of defence against the Alien’s flying saucers. I’ve written a game based on that moon-based interdiction, details of which can be found on in various issues of this very magazine. Additionally, I’ve worked with other gamers from my group on an offshoot game with a ‘land attack’ on Moonbase: that game was called Dark Side of the Moon and – once again – that game has been covered in this magazine so you can see I’m quite keen on the source material... The question for me was: is there any meat left on the bones? What happens if the Alien craft get past the Quick Reaction Force style interceptor launch on the moon and get to earth?
Well, in the source material, after a failure by the Moonbase interceptors, SHADO has a fleet of subs with an attached fighter aircraft on the nose, each capable of stealthy sea launch. These are called SkyDivers 1 through 4 (there are at least four by the time the show ends) with the detached aircraft called SKY and then numbered for the submarine (so SKY1 SKY2 etc). I duly added a Sky phase to the Interceptor game: a last ditch attempt as the UFOs hit the atmosphere. But what happens after that...
If the pesky aliens get past the space and air defences, the SHADO folks send in teams of operatives in tracked APCs called Mobiles. These operate in teams of four, generally, comprising a Command Mobile and three Combat Mobiles, each with a crew of only three but with a remote turreted automatic cannon and a mortar as weapons. The crew carry assault rifles and – occasionally – a shoulder launched missile weapon.
In the event that a UFO has landed – usually in some remote – often wooded location or sometimes even under water in a shallow lake – these tracked Mobile vehicles and their crews are transported clandestinely to the area via air or in plain, unmarked transport vehicles with a mission to either recover a UFO or it’s crew or – failing that – to kill and/or destroy them before they can abduct any more of the locals.
This is the scenario that I thought was worth playing.
ENTER LOST PATROL
Games Workshop produced a board game about twenty years ago called Lost Patrol which they revamped in 2016 with plastic figures: five Space Marines, some alien Gene Stealers and some nest models. The game included simple rules and a series of hexagon tiles which – when laid in a random fashion – showed a developing path through a jungle with the objectives being the finding of an escape capsule on the last tile of the ‘deck’ (if you were a Marine) or the annihilation of said Marines by the opposition. Rules were simple, quick and bloody and – for the Marines – an almost impossible game to win.
So difficult was the game that lots of rule modes came out both in White Dwarf and by fans to up the abilities of the Marines (by making them Terminators and/or arming them to the teeth). However – from my quick perusal of eBay – most of the boxed games have been raided for the plastic miniatures and then sold without models. Not really a problem for me...
What I wanted was the tiles and the rules: sure I could download all sorts of rule modifications and copies but I thought it only fair to put my hand in my pocket first. And what I really wanted were the tiles. I also figured that there might be lots of you out there with a set of these tiles in their loft and who might want to repurpose them. But – where to get models? And in what scale?
I’ve been trying to do this for a number of years and the landscape for gaming (pun intended) has changed a lot. I was originally involved with a game thirty years ago where one of the team painted up some superb (roughly) 28mm scaled Imai plastic kits of SHADO Mobiles and they are still available if your wallet is deep enough. What will happen if you try that is that everyone who sees the game will tell you they are Dinky die-cast models and how they had one as a boy but ‘lost the missile’ so you might not think that worth the effort. The Dinky die-casts are – therefore – an alternative. They can be had fairly cheap and bashed up – again on the likes of eBay – and they’ll need repainting anyway as they came in entirely the wrong colours. Figures for all of these in 28mm – including Aliens and SHADO personnel (or reasonable facsimiles of both) are sold by Crooked Dice.
As a third alternative for large scale games, a company called Product Enterprises made a beautiful (if over-weathered) set of Mobiles in three variants in about 1/40th but they are even more expensive and figures to accompany them will be problematic.
So how about going smaller and cheaper? A company called Konami make a (roughly) 1/100th scale, perfectly finished Mobile. These are a Japanese ‘sweet toy’ (collectables that came with a package of some horrible sweets) and are sold fully painted and assembled and made of some hard resin with clear windows and a pair of crew figures inside but all marked as SHADO 1.
These are – again – available on eBay and that’s what I wanted to use (though they're currently running at about £36 each) but – if they are beyond your budget or – more sensibly – you want to just use the tiles from the game set (and the 1/100th ones are way too big for the GW Lost Patrol tiles) – you can play the game just using card counters or – thanks to new technology – you could find someone with a 3D printer and print some out! We found some on a quick scan of the web (details at the end of this article) and a friend printed out a set of mobiles using PLA plastic. Being less than an inch long (so roughly 6mm or 1/300th in size) they were a bit rough using PLA and a resin printer would do a far better job. What the 3D ones were was certainly good enough for testing the game out in a smaller scale using the game tiles before I decided to make the switch to a larger scale for gaming, especially if I take the game to a show.
Well, as 15mm was where I was aiming this, I used the Konami models and scratch built a command aerial array from the bits box with a nice dish from Brigade. I added some custom designed decals that I had previously worked up in a drawing programme on my PC and had them printed off in white ink. To facilitate this change of marking I very carefully scraped off some of the original markings using a scalpel and sprayed over the areas to finish them using some metallic sprays that I had specifically colour matched to the vehicles at a car repair specialists that mix up spray cans to the customer’s specifications. That was only partly successful as the four mobiles I owned were all a slightly different shade of metallic dark silver...
These white decals went down very well with Microsol and Microset and – after some matt varnish – I had four mobiles with the correct markings: SHADO 1, SHADO 2, SHADO 3 and SHADO CONTROL.
As the scale I chose was 1/100th (or 15mm) just because that’s the size of models I had easily available and the biggest size I thought I could comfortable make the hexagonal bases, I now needed to make tiles.
These tiles to suit the AFVs were a special commission from Warbases. They were very helpful when I asked for slightly bigger bases than they normally sell and they custom cut some in 125mm across, 3mm thick HDF. These were first drawn on using a felt tip to reproduce the GW game tiles exactly.
Then cork and sheets of simple brown corrugated cardboard was all hot glued on to provide some low relief.
They were then textured over the card and around the cork using terrain basing material of my own preparation. This is a 1/3 each of three components: brown household acrylic paint, PVA and sand. So that I could see where I was laying them (by having them in a different colour) the paths were delineated using Colour Party’s excellent Basetex. In the end I airbrushed over those paths as they were too much of a light sand in colour and I needed to make them a little less strident but – to be honest – I could have just picked the right colour from the large Basetex range in the first place! However, as ever with a project of this kind, I was working with what I had to hand. I also added some twigs as ‘fallen branches’ to block paths.
The bases were airbrushed, drybrushed and washed using Army Painter colours (including their airbrush range) and then a series of flock items added from my stock of supplies, along with lots and lots of large tufts.
I wanted the bases to look 3D but they had to be usable and not too ‘proud’: I wasn’t planning to shuffle these like the card tiles from the game but I still didn’t want them to be so full up with scenery that I couldn’t easily turn them over to allow the randomising of the tiles before laying them out (a fundamental component of the world building aspect of the game.)
Finally, to make sure that – when inverted – everything didn’t just fall off, this was all held in place with some spray on Geek Gaming scenery fixing glue. I used an entire bottle of the stuff and it seemed to hold pretty well.
There are thirty tiles in the GW box and that’s what I’ve reproduced – exactly – but, as I said, in a larger size and in 3D. There are bends, straights ‘Y’ junctions, a dead end plus a six way Start Tile and an End Tile. This is the location of the target of the SHADO team’s mission: a downed UFO.
FIGURES & AFV MODS
Figures were from Brigade Models (Star Ship Crew) for the SHADO figures and Yenpalo for the Aliens plus I built an aerial for the Command Mobile from the Brigade spares box.
There are three sets of three SHADO teams (one is actually a GZG conversion to carry a missile launcher) and the Aliens had their rather detailed visors removed with a burr in my Dremel tool and then a blob of cyano glue dropped in to each to represent the rounded visor the Aliens have.
All were painted, for the most part, with Army Painter’s new Speedpaints and mounted on coins for a quick and easy win. I had a Konami UFO; I scratch built an ‘escape pod’ (for Aliens to pop out of) and I had models of SKY1 for flypasts in the same scale. The individual Alien figures are mounted on pennies and trios of SHADO infantry were stuck on 2p pieces (surely the best use for these metal disks nowadays) although the four AFVs remain un-based: unless I have a very good reason (like a towed artillery piece) I try and avoid basing 15mm AFVs. The vehicles – including the SKY1 (Konami make one of those too, though the pre-painted one I’m using is by Product Enterprises as it’s slightly bigger) – all stick to that 1/100th (or so) scale.
Painting the infantry involved a temporary card base for the models and a spray of white primer. The Aliens were painted in Blood Red for their very ‘sixties’ look to their space suits, with uniform details like helmet and some panels and packs (after a spray matt varnish) painted in Sterling Silver which was given a wash afterwards with Dark Tone on the metallic parts. Then (as the sanded-down helmets lack detail) a black oval was painted for the visor and then another silver one on top of that to leave – essentially – a black ring. Finally the Aliens had two top coats which I wanted to remain glossy so they went on over the matt varnish. These were a visor ‘lens’ painted on using Green Tamiya Clear Lacquer and their weapons which – though already silver – were highlighted with chrome ink. The guns the aliens carried in the TV series were very shiny indeed and I wanted to reproduce this faithfully. For this I use Molotow Liquid Chrome Refill: twenty quid for a 30 ml dropper bottle but the shiniest chrome paint I’ve ever seen.
Back to the Speedpaint, the SHADO Mobile crews had uniforms in either Pallid Bone or Highlord Blue, all with white details (belts and boots – remember: ‘60s...). I used Crusader Skin for exposed flesh and highlighted the weapons in silver. I did a little
toning with some washes and I was done. All were based using my own brown texture paint and sprinkled with some Geek Gaming Base Ready with more tufts added.
The only scratch build vehicle I had to make was, as I said earlier, the Alien escape pod. This is a silver ball with lots of other small balls around the outside: not a difficult ask on the ‘make it from the spares’ box front.
I started with a small (20mm) expanded polystyrene craft ball. Into that I stuck 16, round-headed sowing pins (which I had shortened the shaft of so that they wouldn’t poke right through the ball...). I lined these up in a circle by eye and then set about hardening my ball. I did this by painting it in three layers of UV resin. The ball was stuck – temporarily – on a scalpel tip and then each coat was painted on as smooth as I could achieve it (with an old brush that I knew was going to be ruined) and then ‘frozen’ hard with a UV torch. by the third coat it had covered the ball with a hard shell and flowed onto the pin heads enough to ‘glop’ them permanently into place.
I spray primered and then spray silvered the ball, mounted it on a 2p piece with some basing compound and gave it a tonal wash and I was done with the escape pod (revealed next month!).
FINALLY: ON TO THE GAME
This I’m also going to leave for next month. So: stay tuned to find out if the SHADO team locates the UFO and – if they do – whether it takes off, blows up or if they capture their first one intact and reveal its alien technology. Or – alternatively – maybe the humans all get captured and turned into spare parts to be taken back to Proxima Centauri! It’s all good wholesome fun...
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