Federation Constitution-Class Heavy Cruiser (CA)
U.S.S. Constitution, NCC-1700

1:3788 Scale Amarillo Design Bureau Gaming Miniature

Copyright
2011 Jim Lewis/GunTruck Studios
All Rights Reserved Worldwide

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Like nearly every fan and player of Star Fleet Battles, I've had a bunch of these gaming miniatures since the early 1980's, locked away and stored with care. Sometimes, I'd take them out and play. Other times I'd just take them out and marvel at them. I can't explain the fascination with them, but if you've got some - you understand what I mean. I have always wanted to build a little squadron of the ships presented in the Franz Joseph (Schnaubelt) Star Fleet Technical Manual since I bought it in the mid-1970's, but have put the idea off countless times over the years. This year, I decided to just go ahead and do it. The timing also coincides with these venerable line of 1:3788 scale gaming miniatures being replaced by a larger and more detailed line aided by computer drafting technology. I'll always love these plastic miniatures, however...

The Constitution-Class Heavy Cruiser is a popular vessel in ADB's Star Fleet Universe, a capable workhorse with an admirable blend of speed, firepower and research capabilities for those players on the side of the United Federation of Planets. It would seem that all starships are measured against it. In the game system's Timeline, the Constitution Class Heavy Cruisers were launched in Year 126, with the versatile ship quickly becoming the centerpiece of mostly all the numbered fleets - and being named the flagship class vessel by Year 130. Throughout the rest of the game system timeline, these vessels would receive numerous upgrades and refits, almost to the point to where I imagine no two looked identical.

This is the beauty and charm of the ADB game system - I don't feel compelled to strictly follow the suggested painting guide for finishing a miniature. It is there to assist you and inspire you, but there is room for imagination. I finished my miniatures the way I envision them at different times of service within the game's timeline, and even in different degrees of use - as no two should look alike. I also wanted to stay away from the "television look" for my minis, but tried to maintain a certain degree of familiarity. However you approach finishing them, these miniatures look great on a gaming table top - and even at home on your desk.

My gaming miniatures are built and finished to be both appealing to look at and rugged enough to play with. They can take a moderate amount of punishment, but are quite fragile at the Warp Pylon attachment to the Secondary Hull, so be leery of knocking one over too many times. When I put them together, I always imagine a ship in Star Trek: The Animated Series. I like to finish my Franz Joseph-style ships akin to the way the Enterprise was drawn in the animated show, and not strictly to either the canon television series or suggested gaming details.


Below, USS Constitution in original trim and fittings. The additions would be small, but brings it into line with the rest of my Constitution-Class Heavy Cruiser gaming miniatures.

Below, the upgraded USS Constitution with decals and additional Phaser mounts on the Secondary Hull above the Hangar Bay Doors and a set of four Photon Torpedo Launchers on the Primary Hull's B-C Deck blister.

I knocked USS Constitution over while moving it into a new storage bin (a malady many SFB gamers have experienced before) and snapped the starboard Warp Pylon off. I consider myself fortunate to reattach it to the Secondary Hull in relatively good alignment and without major damage to the original finish. This mishap prompted me to upgrade it and my other CA minis.

I work with acrylic-based paints mostly for painting, and enamels for finishing. Once seams and ejector pin marks are cleaned up, I prime the assembled gaming miniature with ModelMaster Acryl #4768 Flat Black. Tamiya's XF-1 Flat Black works equally well too, depending on availability. I thin the paint coats up to 80% so as not to obscure any of the tiny details present on these types of miniatures.

The color coat I prefer using for my Federation-based gaming miniatures is ModelMaster Acryl #4763 Flat Gull Gray. After drying, it appears to have a slightly bluish cast, but after the clear coats and decaling / weathering process, the final color is close enough to concrete in photographs to give a good result.

Donning an Optivisor (I'm using 3X power right now), or reading glasses, you can better pick out the small details for painting that make a gaming miniature come alive. Sharply painted details really enhance the appearance of a gaming mini, and it is worth a little extra time to pick them out. For hand painting details, I use Vallejo Acrylics mostly, and I thin them about 50% with tap water to keep them wet and to avoid excessive buildup of paint on the miniature - which will happen if you're not careful.

For Phaser Blisters, I use Vallejo #994 Dark Grey.

For the Bridge Dome and Planetary Sensor Dome I use Vallejo #70948 Golden Yellow.

Warp Bussard Domes and Photon Torpedo Blisters are base-coated with ModelMaster Brass enamel paint. I allow this to dry thoroughly and then overcoat it with a thinned-out coat of Tamiya X-27 Clear Red enamel paint. I allow this to dry completely too, and then overcoat the detailed area with Future Floor Finish - the acrylic floor finish will protect the enamel paints from being obliterated in the later enamel weathering stage somewhat. Every time I perform this technique, I catch myself wishing Tamiya would formulate a clear acrylic based version of these paints to make life easier.

The Deflector Dish and small sensor details on the leading edge of the Primary Hull is painted with Tamiya XF-28 Dark Copper.

I pick out the small square boxes around the periphery of the Primary Hull upper half with 50 % thinned Vallejo #820 Blanco Pergamino white acrylic paint. The thinning with water makes it a milk-bottle translucence color that looks good in the tiny scale.

For the Engineering and Warp Nacelle details, I generally pick them out with Vallejo #994 Dark Grey. Sometimes, to denote a different ship, batch or just to be non-conformist, I will use Vallejo #884 Stone Grey on the Primary Hull's Engineering Spine and Impulse Engine section. The trim rings around the front and tail sections of the Warp Nacelles is done with black decal trim film - simply a neat expedient to put the detail missing on the plastic part without attempting to hand-paint it. With a little practice, you can hand-trim four lengths in pretty much the same width with a brand-new X-Acto Blade and a straight edge.

The base color for all the Running and Formation Lights is Vallejo #864 Natural Steel. For this small scale, I stay away from the obvious and way too bright, silver or chrome colors. When the acrylic Vallejo paint is dry, I overcoat the detail with appropriate colors from Tamiya - in this case X-24 Clear Yellow (instead of white for "white" lights), X-25 Clear Green and X-27 Clear Red. Note, just like above, I overcoat these with a drop of Future Floor Finish to protect them from being washed away in upcoming enamel weathering steps.

Next comes simple and basic weathering for interest, since "weathering" something that doesn't really exist, in conditions we've never experienced before and have only conjecture to base attempts on is subjective, I stick to simplicity to get the point across. Pristine starships in a game of tactical and strategic combat just look kinda dull, and this is a game of starship combat.

First, I employ AK Interactive #A045 Dark Brown as a pin wash all over the miniature's detail - which is surprisingly a lot given the scale. As this is enamel-based, it does not affect the acrylic-based paint coats, but will affect the enamel painted details if you don't protect them with an acrylic-based clear coat beforehand. I let the AK Interactive Wash setup until the carrier has evaporated (i.e. until the wash isn't shiny anymore - approximately 20 minutes) and then remove it with MiG Thinner for Washes, or AK Interactive's thinner - they both work equally well and you have a lot of working time with this step.

I then use very small amounts of MiG Productions #P028 Europe Dust for rendering the "Dust Ring" and other surface stains and discoloration with a fine detail brush on the matte paint surface to simulate what might accumulate from encounters with nebulae, comets, gas giants and ship-to-ship combat.

I do not apply a pigment fixer nor a protective sealer over the MiG Pigment to keep it in place other than a light misting of Polly Scale Satin finish as the precursor to decaling. I shoot under 15psi, and do not flood the surface of the gaming miniature - and have never blown away or diminished the pigment effect.

Letting the Polly Scale Satin finish set for approximately 30 minutes, I then go into a decaling phase. I use, and very highly recommend, decals offered by Starfighter Decals for your gaming miniatures in this scale. Simply, these are the nicest wet decals I have every used, and a Godsend for finishing these miniatures to a high degree. They just bring out the best in them, and makes them come alive for you.

The method I employ with decaling my miniatures calls for application of Future Floor Finish to the area in which you are going to apply the decal - just prior to soaking the decal in water. I then soak the decal for five seconds for this brand of decal and let it sit on a piece of paper towel for the excess water to wick away. Then I take the decal and separate it from the backing paper with a dampened brush dipped in clean water. I apply the decal to the area damp with Future Floor Finish. You know you have done this technique correctly when the Future Floor Finish sucks the decal down onto the surface of the miniature. To move it and adjust for alignment, simply wet your application brush with more clean water, and move it around. When you have it in place, leave it alone! As the Future Floor Finish levels out when drying, it sucks the decal down too, and will not leave edges if you perform the technique correctly.

I then let the Future Floor Finish setup and level out between 30 minutes to one hour, and finally inspect for any trapped air bubbles. If any are present, poke them with a needle and apply a paintbrush dot of Future Floor Finish to the bubble - it with take care of it. Allow the Future Floor Finish setup for at least 30 minutes before applying another thin layer to overcoat the decaling, and you'll be pleasantly surprised with no decal silvering when you flatten the overall finish later on.

I then apply one more thin coat of Polly Scale Satin to even out the overall finish on the miniature. This is important to even out the finish and eliminate "hot spots" of unevenly reflective areas before the final finish.

Lastly, I overcoat the miniature with Polly Scale #F404106 Flat to seal things up.


All content Copyright 1998 - 2017 Jim Lewis, guntruck.com, guntruck.us, guntruck.org, guntruck.net and GunTruck Studios.
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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