Monday, January 18, 2021

Super Secret Christmas Present 2020: Inferno Squad

 Another Christmas, another secret Christmas Project! 

This time around I built a diorama of Iden Versio, Del Meeko and Gideon Hask during their mission on Endor from the video game, Star Wars Battlefront II. 

The idea for this diorama came about thanks to the Endor scenario in the game, where you end up fighting an AT-ST on the way to a landing pad while escaping the forest moon.  I had originally intended to use the official fallen AT-ST scenery expansion for Star Wars Legion as the base, decided against it after looking it over and opted for a 1:48 scale Bandai kit instead.

Let's take a look!

Laying Forest Foundation

Much like the Snowspeeder base for the Luke Skywalker project, the first step of the project is building a base for the groundwork using cork sheeting. Unlike the Luke diorama, I wanted the Inferno Squad models to be mounted on their bases and recessed into the surface of the diorama base. 

Recessing models in cork sheeting it pretty easy in the grand scheme of things. Once I had my first layer of cork down, I started layering the second. Only this time I marked where the bases would be and cut out circles the size of Legion bases, that way they would recess into the scenic base nicely. 

The hardest part of this section of the build was making sure the models wouldn't get in the way of the AT-ST. Which meant I needed to nearly completely built that model so I could test fit it onto the base while working on model placement. 

Once I had the slots placed for the Inferno Squad models, it was time to add a bit of extra height to the base for the bulk of the AT-ST to lean on. Which was made using more cork! A bit more test fitting was needed to work out the height that was needed to form a tall enough hill to make it stable. 

Understructure complete it was Milliput time!

So much Milliput. The entire cork structure had to be covered, except for the recesses. Generally for land masses, I like to leave the Milliput lumpy on the surface to simulate the natural unevenness of the ground. I'll also hide chunks of cork on the surfaces to help break up any uniformity. 

For the edge that meets the wood rim of the base and the face of the cliff I used a piece of cork and broke it unevenly. I then pressed it into the sides where I wanted a rough rocky structure to show. 

You might ask, why not just leave the cork edges showing instead? Doing it this way allows me to hide any gaps in the cork as well as control the amount of texture, depth and direction.

In the old days I would have used air dry clay for all of this, but in recent times I've noticed projects that are 4-5 years old are having issues with the basing splitting and cracking. Milliput is a type of epoxy and once dry it is rock solid and not susceptible to those issues.
Ground Cover and Foliage

Endor is a known for its majestic forests, which were filmed in the Redwood Forest in California. 

Unfortunately, I've never been there. But, I have been to Walt Disney World, and while I was there in September I took a bunch of pictures of the outside façade of the Star Tours ride. Star Tours features an Ewok village and Endor style scenery along with simulated ground cover. 

Also in the film, Return of the Jedi, we can see patches of grass here and there. 

Between these references, I decided I'll use the Games Workshop static grass I have on hand, plus some ferns to get that Endor feel. But I wasn't sure what to do about the actual ground.

Thanks to model train scenery, we have access to a bunch of options for plants, flowers and ground cover. Sadly, due to Covid 19 closures, getting to the store to look for things proved difficult and I ended up having to order the ferns online.

While I waited for the ferns to arrive, I had to solve the ground cover issue. 

I had started with a layer of Stirland Battlemire texture paint, which is also how I start the bases of the Legion miniatures. This paint is really meant to be used for muddy surfaces, but I find it adds just enough texture to work well for dirt and the brown of it is very nice. 

The next step, was to figure out the mulch problem. 

I made this issue much larger than it should have been. I had thought of using pencil shavings, or some kind of flocking. It wasn't until I was looking for something else in my cabinets that I remembered I had a tub of loose leaf tea. 

That worked really well! 

With that problem solved all it needed was some grass and ferns and it almost didn't end up with ferns, due to the current state of shipping. The ferns didn't arrive until a few days after Christmas, and I'm actually still waiting on a second set I ordered as a just in case. 

Special Forces Unit, Inferno Squad

The version of Inferno Squad in this diorama is based on the video game, Star Wars Battlefront II, which only consists of Iden Versio, Del Meeko and Gideon Hask and is set during their mission to Endor during the events of Return of the Jedi.

In the Legion miniatures game, when you field Inferno Squad you must have one generic Imperial Special Forces model which Del Meeko and Gidian Hask are then attached to. When I get to painting the rest of the Imperial Special Forces miniatures, I'll paint one more in Inferno Squad colors. This model will act as Seyn Marana, the fallen member of Inferno Squad who appeared in the novel, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad.

Models with all black or dark uniforms can be very tricky to paint correctly, and it's taken me years, and a lot of Warhammer 40k Deathwatch models to get comfortable with them. 

While painting Inferno Squad I tried mixing it up and used different types of grey to differentiate the material types from each other. This was pushed even further by using gloss medium on all of the armor and satin medium on the leather bits, the Iden miniature to the left is pre-varnish. Any cloth areas were left with a matte coat from the varnish spray beforehand. 

This is a trick I started playing with way back in the day while working on my custom Iron Man miniature. Back then I tried painting the entire miniature with gloss, but it didn't look right until I painted the recesses. Here, the principle is the same, only instead we're breaking up the surface with different types of finishes.

A very interesting challenge was trying to do the markings on the helmet. Much like with Luke, I wanted to be as accurate as I could be, while also simplifying some things. 

The Inferno Squad helmets have their insignia on the right side as well as an Imperial emblem on the left. The Inferno Squad insignia was really pretty straight forward, and all I had to do was paint a red circle, fill it with black and then add some lines. 

The Imperial emblem on the other hand was a whole other thing. The best I could do was try and get the general shape of it and hope that from far away it reads correctly. 

For the most part, I think that worked. 

Beating Up a Metal Chicken

Painting Star Wars vehicles can be a lot of fun, especially for something that is usually a single color. 

For this one I started by spraying the entire thing with Vallejo Neutral Grey and covered it with Nuln Oil in a haphazard manner to give it some surface variations. It was then drybrushed with neutral grey again to pick out any edging. 

But the fun didn't start until it was time for weathering!

For this one I decided to build on something I was trying out on the Snowspeeder diorama, which was doing my paint chipping by starting with white.

Normally, I would use a sponge and then go back over the splotches with a bit of white to edge them. but this way I am starting with white, adding a dark grey and then a lighter grey on top to simulate pock marks and dents. 

This way, I can leave any very small white marks alone and control the damage more than if I had relied on using only the sponge to make all of the dark splotches. 

Of course, I didn't rely only on paint for battle damage. 

Along the sides of the main body of the AT-ST I used a few tools, just as my hobby knife, files, a hammer and a pair of needle nose pliers to add some physical abuse to the model. 

I wish I had done some of it during assembly, which would have allowed for some more drastic damage. But it is what it is and I'm happy with how the finished model looks. 

Overall, this was a really fun piece to work on. Once the models were finished and the ferns FINALLY came in it looked great! All of the Inferno Squad miniatures and Iden Versio's accompanying droid are all easily dismountable and useable for games of Star Wars Legion if the need ever comes up. 

Between this diorama and the Luke Skywalker diorama, I've really unlocked a new love for making Star Wars dioramas! I already have new ideas brewing.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I'm working on writing more this year, so stay tuned. Until then, catch me on Twitter and Instagram. I'm always around and showing off projects that I'm currently working on, there you can see all kinds of things I'm working on as they happen. Hit me up and talk shop!

If you like what I do and want to support the site and my painting endeavors,  you can do so a couple of ways. First, you can toss a couple bucks my way on Ko-fi. All it takes is $3 and it's much appreciated.

Also, you can buy The Brush Wizard shirts and such over on my Teespring shop, where you'll find a selection of shirts and other goodies including a new series of Stickers featuring other miniatures I've painted!

Thanks for reading!