Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making Tracks: Chimera APC

My Valhallan army, when completed, will have six armoured vehicles, of which this Chimera is the fourth.  Heading in to the back half of vehicle construction has me looking at the various bits, bobs, sundries and accessories I have collected over the years that might be affixed to a vehicle.  Clearly the time has come to 'use it or lose it', and as a result, this troop transport has over a dozen such additions to the stock kit.

It's also important to understand that from a practical standpoint, an armoured personnel carrier (APC) for the Imperial Guard is kind of a ridiculous concept.  Every other race in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is either faster, stronger or better equipped than the puny humans who make up the rank and file of the Guard, and often in more than one category.  The idea of using an armored transport to get closer to the foe is more than a bit foolhardy.

That said though, 40K is still a game, and you can't win the game by hanging back and shelling the foe into compliance (sigh); objectives have to be taken and they have to be held, and shielding some of your troops with a protective metal shell could be the difference between them getting to the objective with enough strength to hold on to it, or getting there in the first place.

And then of course, there is the aesthetic side of things, which gives me just as much enjoyment as the game-playing component. I only have one Chimera, and figured it would go to either my regimental command element or my veterans. Once I saw that the veterans could be upgraded to a demolitions team (hands up if Crazy Harry is one of your favourite Muppets!), my decision was made for me.

Because the Chimera is not a fighting vehicle per se, I opted for a distinctive paint scheme, different from both my artillery and tanks.  My plan is for the squad that rides this track to be very much a 'character' unit, something with a cachet like that of 'The Dirty Dozen' or 'Kelly's Heroes'  (failing that, perhaps 'The A Team'...), so I thought the Chimera should reflect this as much as possible.

I also figured that if this vehicle was going to be right in the thick of things, there was no better place to depict this than in the turret, with a crewman blasting away with the heavy stubber, clearly trying to keep enemy infantry at bay while his comrades use the assault ramp in the rear to get out and plant their deadly melta bombs.  Using a Valhallan heavy weapon crewman as the commander also meant that I had to make a decision regarding the camo I will use for my infantry, and I went with a simply pattern of grey and black blotches, since I will be painting an awful lot of it.

The extra-large searchlight also seemed to fit the theme of both mine-clearing (which a demo team might reasonably be expected to do) or just blinding enemy troops inside a bunker while the bombs and flamers come into play. 

The Demo Team vehicle needs a an evocative name, and I ended up choosing Petrograd Express, and painting this just below the turret on the starboard side.  (I realize Petrograd was what they called St. Petersburg back in the days of the USSR, but as a pseudo-Slavic version of Oiltown it proved impossible to resist. Still, I think I will be leaning heavily towards more Imperial themes for my two remaining tanks.)  Both sides of the Chimera's hull include auxiliary fuel tanks as well as racks of spare lasguns in case ammo should get low or the situation become sufficiently dodgy. 

The pick, shovel and crowbar are all meant to cultivate an aura of preparedness as well as independence; after all, none of the other units are going to want to get too close to a squad carrying that many explosives, even they don't happen to be in a minefield at the time.

The most striking feature of the Express however, is no doubt the mine plow on the front.  This is an add-on made by Dragon models for use on an M1-A1 Abrams tank, and is called a 'track-width mine plough'.  The scale is not precisely correct, but is certainly close enough for me.  Ironically, the instructions for this one accessory are actually more detailed than the vehicle it is attached to, but I managed to get enough of it completed that I could mount it to the piece that normally holds a bulldozer blade on the Leman Russ.  The black and yellow 'danger stripes' I added for no better reason than I just thought they looked wicked, and masked out the stripes with tape, my first time doing so.  It was by no means a perfect job, but I left the marks where some leakage occurred on the advice of my wife, who rightfully pointed out that I was going to weather and chip the blade anyways, and would never achieve such organic results intentionally.  I'm certainly glad I listened to her!

It's a long ways from perfect, but I am already looking furtively at the approaching deadline, and I am pretty happy with the Petrograd Express given the time I had available.  I don't anticipate having a lot of painting or building sessions in December until my Christmas holiday begins, and I have to crank out two more Leman Russ tanks before the end of January if I don't want to be rushed painting my infantry or their air support (dun dun DUN).

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