Classic Starship Miniatures
Overview
Space Gamer 21
Ares issue 5
 
Starfleet Wars
Terran Federation
Entomalian Empire
Avarian United Worlds
Aquarian Alliance
Carnivoran Republic
 
Stardate : 3000
United Planetary Federation
Alien Star Empire
 
Space Squadrons Stellardate: 2998
Earth Federation
Auxiliary Belt
Andromeda Aliens
 
Space Fleet
Gothic Imperial Fleet
 
Galaktik Taktik
 
 
Sci-Fi Crossover Menu
Full Thrust Fleet Resource
 
Miniature Spaceships
A Capsule Summary of Models for SF Gaming

by Michael Willner
Photographs by Redmond Simonsen
From Ares Magazine issue 05 - November 1980



Space ship miniatures, and the rules (or using them in plav, popped into existence shortly after the advent of the television series, Star Trek. This popular show, which prominently featured the highly detailed Enterprise-class star cruiser, prompted gamers to simulate the epic star battles be- tween the space forces ot the Kllingons, Romulans, and the Federation. Lou Zocchi, adventure gaming entrepeneur, was the first to introduce a set of space ship rules a system played on the floor using cardboard discs and thread. Before long, gamers began using whatever miniature space vessels were available to replace the cardboard. As more attention was drawn to both miniatures and science fiction gaming, other companies began to introduce lines of space ships as well as sets of playable rules.

The use of miniatures in games can best be demonstrated by a look at a represen- tative game. The Star Fleet Battle Manual (Zocchi and Zurtick) uses a cardboard disc with a 360 calibration around the edge An overhead view of the ship appears on the disc, and a bookkeeping sheet records damage, weapons, movement, and power allocations. To fire, a player examines the position of his opponent's ship in relation to his own and then calculates (or makes a guess at) a line of fire through a degree along the disc edge. A thread is stretched between the centers of the discs along the chosen degree; if the thread intersects the ships, the enemy is hit and the line of intersection in- dicates where it took the damage. After damage is assessed and recorded, counter- fire is initiated. Other factors, such as launching photon torpedoes and powering shields, are included in the turn sequence.

More recently, Game Designers' Workshop has brought out their excellent science fiction role-playing game, Traveller (see the review in this issuel, and a refined ship-to-ship combat system, Mayday. The latter game comes with a conventional hex sheet, but it is well suited for use with miniatures. There is still the need for a separate bookkeeping sheet to keep track of the details of play, but GDW has added new twists. Players design their ships, installing armament and computer systems to suit their tastes. Movement uses an inertia-vec- tor system, and combat maneuvers are handled by the ship's computers. How "smart" the computer is determines how many maneuvers, weapons, evasive tactics, etc., it can "know" and properly utilize.

There are a number of other sets of rules on the market, but all share similar character- istics: low unit density (two to six ships total), separate bookkeeping records of greater or lesser detail, and descriptions of nigh energy beam (laser) and missile weapons.

It is not surprising that most of the miniatures on the market are patterned after the popular Star Trek and Star Wars space ships. The simple, clean lines of the Enterprise contrast strongly with the baroque, highly complex design of the Star Destroyer. As important as the cast of the ship itself is the application of paint; most ships look best when given a white base, off white, and a wash of gray or black to bring out the details. Too much or too many colors will ruin the stark appearance of a space-going vessel, while a simple white "spraypainting" will make the ship boring. Painting miniatures is a subtle art, due to the limited size involved.

The four major manufacturers of spaceship miniatures are Lou Zocchi, Valiant, Superior, and Eisenwerk. Each manufacturer offers a different look in their line of models.

The Zocchi figures are modeled on Star Trek vessels, including the complete line of ships thai appear on the show and additional models extrapolated from the series. Most of the figures are lead castings, but there are plastic models as well (that include phosphorescent, "glow-in-the-dark" ships for those who have figured out how to play the games in the dark). The ships are simple, yet carry sufficient detail to look interesting when painted. The sizes vary, and they are priced in the $3 range.

The Valliant ships have a unique design The entire line is hypothetical, and they tend to be smaller than Zocchi's ships. The ships have a Star Wars feel, with many little bumps and doodads that may be interpreted as weaponry, access bays, etc.; the detail work is quite good. The line appears to break down into Destroyer and Cruiser class vessels, with large task forces and fleet organizations. The ships appear to be lightly to moderately armed, depending on support from sister ships in combat. The figures run 3 to 4 inches by 1/2 to 3/4 inches, and are priced around $4.

The Superior line is extremely impressive; their ships are really massive. The "carrier" type ships run as large as 6 by 3-inch wedges of solid lead. The super-detailed, finely crafted figures put Superior at the top of the list.

Superior also uses the Star Wars look in their line, offering ornate and detailed surface patterns. The line seems to be designed with the idea of a "one ship fleet." The monster vessels pack enough firepower to level a whole solar system. The smaller ships  (1 1/2  to 2 inches) seem hopelessly outmatched by their big sisters. The larger ships also act as "aircraft carriers," since they come with four to eight tiny fighters in the box. (The fighters lack detail and are awkward to handle in play.) The price tag for this line is high: $20 for the giant "Ring" space station, and an average $6 for the others. Some smaller types are available packed two in a box.

The Eisenwerk line is not particularly unique; the figures are about the same scale as the Valiant line and are of a similar design. Details are lacking; they tend to look more like cigarettes with bumps and ridges than space ships. One might argue, however, that real space ships would tend to look like the Eisenwerk line rather than the pretty designs of science fiction art. These ships are quite servicable in play and are reasonably priced in the $3 range.
(Note: The Eisenwerk line of minis later became the Galaktik Taktik line of minis from Pewtercraft.)

The whole field of space ship miniatures is beginning to enjoy wider public attention. More companies are offering ships, and many new, enjoyable rules are appearing each year. The pressure of competition should cause manufacturers to upgrade and extend their lines. The starship captain of to- day can find a wide array of miniatures in his local hobby store to use when out hunting Klingons

A special thanks to Lou Zocchi and The Compleat Strategist for their assistance.

For further information about the lines of space ship miniatures, contact the following companies:
Eisenwerk Industries, Inc.
1208W. Pasadena Freeway
Pasadena, TX 77506
Superior Models. Inc.
P.O. Box 99
Claymont, DE 19703
Valiant Enterprises, Ltd.
97 Hickory Commons
Antioch, IL 60002
Zocchi Distributors
(Gamescience Corp.)
7604X Newton
Biloxi, MS 39532
The contact information above is from the orginal article and 40+ years later is not accurate.