Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Battle for Arrakeen. Part I.

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
                                                           -from Manual of Muad'Dib by the Princess Irulan

It is hard to believe that Frank Herbert’s DUNE will be 50 years old this year. No other work of fiction has been so personally influential and to celebrate the anniversary I’ve decided to finally fulfill one of my long-time hobby dreams: to build a scale Arrakeen in my basement and re-fight the “historical” battle between the Emperor’s vaunted Sardaukar and the fanatical forces of Muad’dib. The fact that the 50th anniversary comes at a time when I now actually have a basement is fortuitous.

Concept art from Lynch's film.
So I’m planning on using the blog here to keep track of the project’s progress for anyone interested. Over the course of the next few months, I hope to have the terrain built and painted. I also hope to have updates on what figures and models I’ll be using. On this subject, I can’t really say much yet, except that I’ve enlisted the help of some very talented friends. The illustrious Dave Taylor and talented Rich Erickson have both agreed to help me with a little commission work. They’re tackling two of the most iconic pieces to this puzzle. But, again, more on that over the next few months.

First Arrakeen "test" buildings.
I also have a set of rules I’m working on. Massed combat in DUNE is unique, in a few ways. Close quarters fighting is the decisive factor in the Battle of Arrakeen, but it’s a battle that also sees the use of atomic weapons and giant sandworms. Plus the potential use of Holtzman shields and lasguns. So, obviously, not your straight forward wargame. I’m contemplating incorporating some elements of the beloved DUNE video games (remember the Atreides sonic tank?), but I’m not 100% on that yet.

For now, I’ll start with the basics. The table itself will be comprised of three 2’ x 4’ sections. These are from IKEA, actually. Nice thick composite board. I’ve textured the boards, first, with filler putty to give them some basic shape and contour before the sand goes on. I think this worked out; the sections are basically flat, but have enough texture to give them some realism and scale.

I brushed on the first two coats of paint then airbrushed another 3-4 colors. Arrakeen sits on a massive plain of bedrock. This, and the massive cliffs of the Shieldwall, protect the city from sandworm incursions. To that end, I wanted the terrain to look more “rocky” than “sand duney”, but still “deserty”, if this makes any sense. I’ve finished the first two sections (I need to go back to IKEA for another board and some meatballs) so far.

Another shot of the first structures.
I’ve also started painting the first Arrakeen structures. These beautiful ‘lil 6mm gems come from Brigade Models in the UK. I can’t recommend these enough – the resin is crisp and the sculpts are very clean. I didn’t need to do much to prep these for painting. I’m airbrushing mine. I do them in small groups and I’ve used a few different schemes. I do this so the city doesn’t look TOO uniform. After the airbrushing, I do a few weathering washes on each structure to give them the sand-blasted look of buildings suffering through years of storms.

I added the accents of red in geometric patterns to give the city a little bit of a retro 60’s sci-fi look. I just have to be careful not to overdo this, I think.

The middle board section will be where the main action takes place – the landing field where the Emperor Shaddam IV has constructed his giant plasteel fortress-tent and encamped his legions of Sardaukar. The third section will have the cliffs of the Shieldwall (with a large gap courtesy of Gurney Halleck).

My working plan for boards 1 and 2.
So far, so good. I’m happy to answer any questions or hear any suggestions. I’m going to have to find good 6mm groundcars and ships for the landing fields. So if anyone has used anything they think would work well, please let me know. Anyway, thanks for reading. TSMF.