“Helga” – shuttle/lander/lighter

“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

Colin from the leadpile and I are planning a gaming man-date at the Oldhammer/Bring Out Your Lead event to be held in Nottingham in a few months.  The theme of our little 40K skirmish is “space pirates”.  Work has been proceeding at a fair pace at the leadpile, with a very nice bunch of astro-cut-throats materialising in a very short space of time.  I recommend that you take a look at it, here.


I have a number of other small projects that I am scheduled to complete before I get stuck into my pirate contingent, but I remained in a cosmonautical state of mind over the Easter break.  With the opportunity to spend a few uninterrupted hours working on something,  I decided to drop every other miniatures project and assemble and paint a small shuttle/lighter/dropship that I bought from Daemonscape a while back (I think that it was originally a GZG kit).  I christened it “Shuttle VIII” (unofficially aka “Helga” as scratched onto the hull in three places).


With images or the Millennium Falcon and Serenity floating around in my head, I decided that I would paint the ship as a battered but functional workhorse type affair.  A sub-system equivalent of a transit van.


The goal was to end up with a ship that could be used in a number of scenarios in a number of roles rather than a distinct addition to a specific faction of miniatures that I have.  Although I added a few markings and other bits of signage, I avoided obviously Imperial iconography.  So no aquilae or skullz.

White Dwarf #112, April 1989

White Dwarf #112, April 1989

The above image was subconsciously in mind during the process too.  I thought that this kitbash of an old toy was pretty much the coolest thing that I had ever seen back in 1989.


This approach had the advantage of requiring a paint finish that is relatively quick to achieve to a relatively decent standard.  It had the disadvantage of not really being the sort of painting style that I am terribly comfortable with.


The end result is OK but in many respects I think that I should have gone for a more colourful scheme that has a bit more “pop”, which in turn would have made the vehicle look a bit less authentic and generic.  My meagre photography skills havent done the paint job many favours either with much of the weathering disappearing in the photography process (you will have to take my word for it that there is some) and the piece appearing shiner than it actually looks.  One way or another, its done now.


Its a pretty big model by my usual standards, far larger than the Sin Eater Rhino APC shown.

I havent decided whether to bring the model to BYOL or not.  It was fun to use the planned game as an inspiration to get a medium sized project like this out of storage and ready for gaming with, but packing it up for airline travel might be more hassle than its worth.


41st millenium baggage handling technology proves significantly less likely to go on strike, but far more prone to incompatible driver issues.

The hinged rear door complete with cargo bay tall enough to accommodate an average 28mm model is surprisingly appealing to me.  Im not sure that it will ever really be of any practical use in games, but I am definitely going to try and engineer a scenario that uses that feature.



26 Responses

  1. Looks nice! It might benefit from a splash of colour – maybe painting some of the paneling in a contrasting (but muted) colour? It’s also a nice way to bring out the weathering more, as you get the chipped paint effect.

    Really like the way you’ve managed to make a large area of bare metal hull look not boring. Not an easy feat to accomplish!


    • Thanks Mikko. Like many of these things, I was running out of patience towards the end of the process, so I decided to go for getting it finished with an option to go back to it rather than trying something risky at the last minute and then having the project stall unfinished. I may well go back to it at a later date and add a few more bits of colour.

      The bare metal look (its actually various greys with a little bit of chipping and rubbing with graphite here and there to give it some “weight”) was a deliberate attempt to get a Firefly vibe going. I think that aspect worked well enough, but I need some time away from Helga before I can get any objectivity about it.

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂


      • That sounds like a great way to do a metal look. Care to share in more detail? I’m looking to create a similar effect on at least one of the jaegers in my Pacific Rim thing.


        • Im not one of the NMM brigade as I dont have the patience or time. I do find that large amounts of metallic paint on a miniature can screw up the scale visually though, so sometimes I try other things.

          The WiP photos in the post part illustrate the very straightforward approach that I took this time. I sprayed the vehicle primer grey and painted some of the panels GW Charadon granite. I then drybrushed the whole thing top downwards once with a mix of a lighter grey. I then applied the transfers and sealed them with varnish and washed the whole thing with GW Badab Black, twice I think.

          After that there was some very light sponging of dark brown followed by sponging of gunmetal in a few areas (which didnt work as well as it would have on a lighter colour to be honest). I added streaks of GW Typhus Corrosion (barely visible in the photos but actually quite cool in person I think) from various panels and details, all heading towards the rear of the vehicle like on an aircraft, rather than heading downwards as they would on a tank.

          I followed that by rubbing some powdered graphite (scraped from a graphite pencil) with my finger along some of the edges, after which I varnished the whole thing. Used well (as in “better than I used it here”) the graphite lends a visual weight I think, making items look less like plastic and resin and more like industrial machinery.

          As I said in the post, the final vehicle is too dark with a corresponding loss of contrast that means that many of those steps are actually a lot less effective that I wanted them to be. The multiple layers of ink and paint did give a visual richness in places I suppose, which might be what you are seeing.

          Hopefully that helps. Elements of that may well be a good approach to take with miniature giant mecha.


  2. It looks sweet. I need a shuttle/small space craft for my games. I will have to look into one of these.


    • Thanks Danny. A little shuttle is the sort of thing that should feature in a lot of small, narrative driven scenarios. Im just surprised that it took me this long to finally get one together and painted.

      Daemonscape are re-tooling this particular model so its temporarily OOP. They do have a cool range of suitable little ships and hover vehicles that might suit you though.


      • She’s perfect! Exactly what I’m looking for as well… which makes it being out of stock doubly frustrating! Ah well, hopefully I’ll get to see it if we both make it to BOYL.


        • The cockpit area is attached to the main hull/chassis magnetically in a bit of an effort to make the model easier to pack if I can manage it. Hopefully I will be able to find a way to bring it.

          Thanks for the feedback stsdobson 🙂


  3. Great model – very impressed to see the old gzg 25mm stuff works with 28mm!
    You’ve got to work in that cargo bay door now that you’ve shown it!


    • Hi Donogh, how are things?

      Not all of the old GZG 25mm stuff works perfectly with 28mm/heroic in my opinion, but the majority of it is perfectly fine. Daemonscape have a GW Cadian on parade next to each of the models in their range so you can gauge if the vehicle looks “right” to you.

      As for cargo bay door related scenario conditions… I expect that most of my miniature antagonists will be sick of the sight of the opening/closing cargo door before I am 🙂


  4. Looking really good. The worry for these projects is that the battered-old-transit van look can tend toward rather drab colours and consequently blend into the background a little. On the other hand, that just gives an opportunity for the rest of your excellent range to take centre stage.


    • You nailed it Argentbadger.

      Is a piece like the Helga terrain or is it a playing piece? In general I quite like terrain to be fairly neutral as I think that it works best as a “stage” for the vibrantly coloured little guys risking life and limb in and around it. Of course while I might say that from time to time, my recent jungle project is jammed with vibrantly coloured terrain to the point of absurdity, scuppering the entire policy.

      So its safe to say that I am inconsistent and essentially undecided. The Helga turned out to be a little more drab then I originally intended and while I may go back to it and add a couple of things to brighten it up at a later date, I am happy enough to use it as is for a while yet.

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂


  5. That’s a great model, and the Firefly look totally works in my opinion. Also loving that Rhino with the boarded up hatch!

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Daemonscape – I just realised that I have one of their Spider drones, originally bought for a Victorian sci-fi project that never took off. They have a great selection of vehicles that would be suitable for my new Judge Dredd project which will hopefully deliver some results.


    • The Rhino is part of the Sin Eaters Nurgle space marine force that I put together between 1998 and 2001 or so. That particular rhino featured in White Dwarf in fact 🙂 Its one of the more ridiculous elements in the force.

      Daemonscape has a wonderful range of vehicles and some very cool post apocalyptic/shanty buildings very suitable for Cursed Earth scenarios. The turbine reminds me of the Duran Duran “Wild Boys” video 😀

      The Helga is a little rough around the edges but should be able to perform her duties admirably. Which is about as appropriate as it could be I guess 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback Subedai.


  6. Nice ship you got there, I’ll bet she could find employment shipping for Jabba any time.

    Nice model, she looks like a real workhorse, and an absolute narrative goldmine for scenarios. Nice idea with the graphite. I’ve not painted many ships or vehicles, it looks like a bit of a challenge, I’d love to get a close-up look at her.


    • I cant remember where I got the idea for the graphite, but I didnt come up with it myself. The guys who weather 1:20 Spitfires or Shermans and the like can do amazing things. Its a completely different set of skills to painting 28mm space men really.

      I hope to work the lander into one of the scenarios that we are planning for in a month or so. You should be able to kick Helgas tyres to your hearts content then 🙂


  7. A very good result. I really like the way you built up the metal. It is true that too much mwtal paint without variation will look fake, but you gave it depth and variations in hue. Also quite cool that you painted the inside and it can actually be used by miniatures during the game. Some very subtle markings might add to the overall effect. Maybe be even orange, red or blue.


    • Thanks daggerandbrush. I think that the scheme is adequate and will be fine for gaming with, but that there is a certain “something” missing.

      There are twenty five transfers on the model in various places, three different scratchily hand-painted “HELGA”s and a part of port/starboard “lights” but none of those have been enough to make the colour scheme pop the way that I wanted it to. As you say, maybe a larger icon of some sort in orange, yellow or blue might be what it requires. On the other hand I am afraid that a move like that will make it Helga too toy-like.

      I think that I need to mull it over for a few days/weeks before I do anything rash 🙂 Many thanks for the feedback.


  8. […] “Helga” – shuttle/lander/lighter […]


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