Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review: Storm Raven

So I had originally posted this review on Bolter and way back when.  I've decided to re-post it here just for simplicity. Plus it's a nice filler post.

So I've been seeing lots of posts about the Storm Raven model kit, and lots of people's opinions on the model and it's design. Well I decided to stop taking other peoples words and check out the model for myself. Then I decided to take it one step further and make it more of a product review. This will be an ongoing review beginning with my thoughts on the model itself, it's design, it's construction, it's options and finally moving on painting and basing it.

 Initial thoughts

My thoughts about the Storm Raven model can be summed up in the follow passage: The model is very solid and is very impressive given GW's typical vehicle kits. I have very few complaints or suggestions for improvement on the model. The vast majority of my points of concern regarding the Storm raven are from the point of the design of the craft. In short: The model is great. The way the vehicle is designed and laid out I think leaves a considerable amount to be desired. So, lets' kick this review off.
 I left several sections unattached to make other sections easier to paint later on. The pilot and gun servitor are the big points I had in mind. Since I can't paint through the canopies, and I can't prime around the canopies if attached, I left them unattached and will glue them after I paint the sections.

Overall the model itself gives the impression of dedicated gun ship more than a transport. It just seems to strike me as more akin to the Space Marine version of an Apache gun ship rather than an Mil Mi-17 transport. The major problem I have with this vehicle are the sheer number of weapons it mounts compared to it's transport capacity. As a point of comparison, look at the Rhino model. We all know the model can't actually hold 10 marines in battle gear plus internal systems plus crew. There's no question about that. But if you don't really think about it, and just go at first glance the Rhino looks like it can hold the ten marines. So it kind of works if you suspend your disbelief a little. The Storm Raven by comparison mounts a metric crap ton of guns and can carry 12 marines and can carry a dreadnought yet it's transport area is noticeably smaller than that of the Rhinos. So there's this conflict of ideas in the basic design of the model.

If the craft were a dedicated gun ship, say like a flying predator with no transport ability It would work a lot better visually in my opinion. Conversely if it just mounted the nose guns it's transport capacity would be more viable. So just visually the model almost looks like it's a gunship that is trying to be a transport. And it just doesn't work for my thinking.

Moving on from the basic concept, I think the model is just too stubby and short. I really want the tail to be longer and the engines to be further back along the body. I'm also a little confused by the design of one aspect of the model: the number of VTOL thrusters on it. The Presence of 4 VTOLs present the idea that the Storm Raven is a hover craft, but the presence of the Jet engines make it appear to be a dedicated air craft. It can be suggested that the Storm Raven is intended to operate like the Osprey aircraft, switching between engine configurations as operations require it: Using the Jet engines for speed when traveling and making use of the VTOLs during landings, take offs and deployment of troops enabling it to hover in place. But the model itself doesn't bore this theory out because the VTOLs are designed to rotate from the vertical to the horizontal. If they rotated back, like the harrier jump jet's, they could serve as secondary thrusters to the jet engines. I am still rather dumbfounded as to why the VTOLs rotate from a down position to an outward direction, facing out to the sides of the main body. Now that's enough about my thoughts about the design of the model. Let's talk about the model itself.

So I bought the Storm Raven and quickly opened the kit. Initially I was somewhat underwhelmed by the content. For a box as big as this one, and considering other sheer part density of GW models in the last couple years, I was expecting considerably more parts to the Storm Raven. If you look at the Grey Knight, Dark Eldar Warriors, or Space Wolf Sprues you will notice that the couple sprues you get in those kits are absolutely crammed full of pieces and parts. There is very little dead space in them. The Storm Raven Sprues are much looser with more empty space in the sprues. On top of that, the box is much deeper then is really needed for the four sprues. I really think the box could have been 2/3 the depth that it is and still fit all the sprues in it. I'm not really sure why GW decided on this particular box size. Perhaps their box supplier simply doesn't have a box that's 2/3 as deep as this one. Perhaps something else.

Looking at the parts on the sprue I noticed that the parts weren't quit what I was expecting. I was honestly something more like the Rhino with Wings and something that assembled along the same general concept. I have to admit I was surprised with how the designers went about 'breaking the model' down into it's respective parts and pieces. Rather the pieces are very nicely designed to hide the part edges with in the body of the model. With very little effort on the part of the modeler the points of connection between respective parts can be hidden. Given the different approach that GW took in constructing the model I felt it smart to read the instructions before assembling. So I cleaned the sprues, and left them to dry while I looked at the instructions.

The biggest surprise I ran into was the liberal use of the clear crystal plastic in the model. Based on the images of the storm I was expecting the canopies, one for the pilot and the other for the gunner. It turns out that the model actually makes use of 5 separate crystal plastic pieces. The two canopies obviously are the clear crystal plastic. The pilot also has a clear aiming reticule that is made of the clear crystal plastic and there are two running lights on the wings that make use of the clear plastic.

I was rather surprised by something with the model. The canopies for the pilot and gunner servitor, not the clear plastic parts, but the hard plastic sections. Rather than being one single plastic section that the clear crystal can be glued to, the canopy shield are actually 3 parts. The single large section and 2 smaller canopy runner bars that be attached to the canopy. You can see what I mean in the image below. The red section is one part, while the blue and green parts are two other parts. I can't really decide whether this is good, bad, or neither. They simply are.
Of the entire model, there only a couple points that I can look at say "These kind of bother me" or "That could have been done better from a design stand point." The Hurricane bolter sponsons are one of them.
 My problems with these are 2 fold. Firstly, they sit too low on the side of the body. If you look at the positioning, you'll see that only the upper 2 pairs of bolters can fire and not hit the body.

My second problem with the Hurricane bolter sponsons is the fact that when taken, on the model they take up the side entrances of the Storm Raven, yet do not affect the ability of the Marines in it to deploy through those same entrances. This kind of exemplifies my major problem with the entire model. Even though it's meant to be representative rather than functional, I would still expect them to at least some effort to make the accommodation on the model to have the Hurricane bolters and not block out the two side entrances when the rules don't support the trade off.

The nose turret I'm rather impressed with. The designers did a really nice job of making the turret rotatable with out resorting to the typical "plate on a pin" (like the Falcon turret) that a lot of the vehicle designs go with. I also really like the built in Auspex array in the turret. But again, this makes me think of the model more as a dedicated gun ship then a transport.

When building the turret, I magnetized the parts so I can swap out the multi-meltas, heavy bolters and missile launchers. The only real problem I had with this was the missile launchers. I tried to put metal pins in the plastic so the magnets in the scanner plate would have something to attract to. This approach does work, however I messed up and the metal pins come out the front very slightly. I do not think it will be noticeable when I paint them though.

The Heavy bolters and Multi-meltas were easier to magnatize and simple needed a magnet in the base of each weapon part.

I have to give props to the designers on the pilot. It would have been extremely easy to simply make the pilot and cockpit a series of 3 or 4 parts; one comprising the legs and torso and head, one being the seat, and one for the arms, shoulder and controls. Instead they made the legs, torso, head, right arm, left arm, control board, shoulder pads and back of the control bay each a separate part. While this doesn't seem like a huge deal to the outcome of the model, think about what it means to be building several of these. Unless you are explicitly trying to make each one identical, there will be little variations. The torsos will at slightly different angles, the arms at different elevations, ect. Those little variants will individualize each pilot and provide the ability for the modeler to make something really dynamic with the pilot pulling to one side hard in an effort to pull a hard bank. It's those little details that can really add up to an individual model.

Moving up we come to the Servitor controlled gun turret. Model wise the turret is very well designed and built. They could have very easily gone with a simple Razorback turret design for the twin-linked weapons here. Instead they went with a completely new designed Assault cannon, Plasma Cannon and Lascannon with a new selection of bits for the control system. It's very easy to imagine the Storm Raven being in a fire fight and having the servitor tone out "Acquiring target. Firing."

I have to say I'm somewhat disappointed that they went with a completely different mounting collar for the turret. For the Predator and Razorback turrets, it's simply 26mm collar fitted into the sleeve of the turret base. The turret of the Storm Raven is a hair smaller and uses a pair of inset tabs to 'lock' the turret to its' base. If you look below you can see a comparison between the turret base of the Razor back and the Storm Raven.

I magnetized the weapons on the turret in order to facilitate swapping them around. Due to the size of the axle I had to be somewhat unique with my approach to placing the magnets. I placed magnets inside the weapons themselves and passed a length of metal rod through the axle of the turret. This allows the magnets in the weapons to be attracted to the axle. Simple pressure fitting also helps with swapping weapons around.
Moving further back on the model we get to the engines. Now when I first saw the engines on the Valkyrie model I was thrilled. They look very beaten, worn and mechanical. Very much like something built by man. By comparison the engines of the Storm Raven seem to be something else entirely. They look all together more Cybertronian then 40k Space Marine-ian. Beyond the initial intake at the front of the engine there appear to be no working parts to the engine. if you look at modern day jet engines there are many parts that move, though the vast majority of these are hidden inside the engine compartment. Even so, the engines of the Storm Raven just don't feel like they would actually work. I think the next time I do a scratch built Thunderbolt I'll use the forward intakes from a Storm Raven for it.

 The Wings are the craft are fairly impressive. While they're not overly wide, they do appear to be functional, at least as functional as any sort of machine is in 40k. Like the forward section, there are 2 VTOLs on the wings, one on the left wing and one on the right. I have to say I'm a little disappointed by the design of the missiles. I was honestly expecting them to be actual missiles, not just launchers with the tips of the missiles sticking out. I do really like the fact that there are spaces for the clear crystal running lights. It's these little details that make me seriously consider coming back and wiring up a Storm Raven with actual LEDs and batters so it's lights up.

 And finally we get to the tail of the craft. Now I know you're probably thinking "The tail? What's the big deal with the tail?" Well, in a weird way that IS the big deal. That's not a big deal. The tail seems to be very short relative to the rest of the body. I think this more than any other single part is what gives the Storm Raven it's stubby look. Design aside the tail seems to be the least well thought part of the entire model. The tail seems like it was added in after the design of the rest of the craft almost like they designed everything back to the end of the engines and then someone pointed out that they had not added a tail so they stuck one on, and made some basic changed to where the engines attached to make it look like it was always supposed to be.

The biggest point of.... annoyance I have is in the tail. Actually it's not in the tail as much as it's on it. See the Storm Raven is supposed to have a lifting mechanism to hold a dreadnought in place. So... where is it on the model? I'm expecting a lifting cage with mag-clamps or something like that. Oh... wait... there it is!

 Yup, the entire "Can hold a dreadnought up in mid air" mechanism comprises a single plate detail that is glued to the underside of the tail. It vaguely resembles some sort of clamping claw with a cable spool. So... the Grey Knights and Blood Angels are going to hang their venerable Dreadnought encased brethren from a rope in mid air...? Am I the only one that finds that questionable? And then on top of that the designers of the model wouldn't be bothered to do more then add a plate that you glue to the bottom of the tail that looks as if it itself was added in after the fact? I don't know, maybe I'm just being petty here but I find that a little insulting as a hobbyist. That they're just going to throw that bit on there when the ability it's supposed to imply is 1/2 the reason people will use this unit in games anyway.

So, that concluded my review of the construction of the Storm Raven. I'm not actually finished building mine just yet for a couple reasons. Firstly, there are sections I want to paint before putting other parts on over them. The pilot and servitor being the two big examples. Also I'm going to mount the flight stand on a large size diorama from Dragon Forge Studios. I ordered that the other day and I expect it like Thursday or Friday of next week. I really love Dragon Forge's bases. He does outstanding work and I'm looking forward to using the larger base for the Storm Raven.

 In hind sight, with my intention to paint the pilot and control consoles I should have left the pilot's torso, arms and forward console separate from the rest of the cockpit. Leaving the pilot out would have allowed me better access to the back of the cockpit and the rest of the controls. I should have thought ahead more when I built it. Oh well. Live and learn. That little fubar aside I have to say the cockpit lights very well with only a little bit of paint. I actually tried my hand at blending on a couple of the displays. Annoyingly I can't get my camera at the right angle to get pics of those effort.
 One of the really cool parts of the model is the targeting reticule. As I previously mentioned the display for it is caste in the clear crystal plastic. I added some color to it by painting the center reticule red. It took me a good 5 coats of Baal red to do it.

 I do have to mention that the addition of the targeting reticule only helps to reinforce my view that the Storm Raven model was intended as an attack craft rather than a transport.

 Curious problem I ran into when I went to attach the cockpit shield to the body: It doesn't fit. I had to clamp it down, and hard, in order to let the glue set. I don't know if I built the pilot wrong, or if the piece got warped somewhere, or what. But that shield did not want to go on properly. Major disappointment for the model.
Before I get too far though I need to apologize. I did paint the servitor and the control console for the turret and I had pics of it before I attached the canopy and shield. Where those pics are now I have no clue. If I can find them I will post them.

 Anyway, moving along.
  As you can see I've got the boltgun metal base coat down. I got a little inventive and used a make shift wet pallet to paint this bird. For those that don't know what wet pallet is, it's basically a layer of parchment paper on top of a sponge of some form in a bowl. You put water in the bowl and the sponge absorbs it and then you use the top of the parchment paper like you would a painting tile. The water can travel through the paper via osmosis (holy crap I remembered some biology!) and keep the paint wet but the paint can't soak through the parchment paper. It has made a world of difference in painting especially with the larger area of bolt gun metal. It was really nice to be able to use paint for 2 hours with out needing to refresh my ready supply because it had dried up on the tile. 

The base I ordered from Dragon Forge Studios came in the other day. I wasted no time in cleaning it, priming it, and getting some paint on it so I can mount the flight stand on it. I do so enjoy Dragon Forge's work. Anyway, I got the Slate wasteland base and painted it up in martian red. I don't know why, but I've always just loved the look of Grey Knights against a red land scape.

When I build the Storm Raven I wanted to make the forward turret weapons switchable so I wouldn't be locked into using Multi-meltas, or heavy bolters or whatever. in order to magnetize the typhoon launchers I passed a length of steel rod through the piece but I was just a bit off center and it almost came through the front of the missile plate.
 The good news is now that's it's primed black you can't see that almost-fubar! YEAH!

On the GW site, the Storm Raven's pictured there have flat black engines. I gotta be honest... I'm not so keen on that look. I mean the engines already look like something from Cybertron, now we're just going to make them look like cartoon engines by making then jet black? yeah... not on my bird. I'm taking a different approach. First I based the engines in boltgun metal. Once that was dry I went back with a half dozen coats of Badab black. I wanted to take the color waaaaay down on it. To give it more of a metallic black looking. Make it look like the engines actually do something.

 I wanted to add some heraldry to the Storm Raven and I decided to emulate the heraldry I had done on my Grey Knights many a moon ago but I wanted it be a bit cleaner. So I actually used some tricks to make sure I got good straight and clean lines on the heraldry. 

I designed the pattern in Photoshop and then broke it down into the 3 major parts:
The Red field
The Black Box field
The White field

Then I printed out the parts, laid them over some painters tape and cut the tape as needed. I then used it mask out each part of the design as I went. First the red field, then the black field and finally the white field. Once I painted the color in question I pulled off the tape. The effort was about 90-ish percent successful and only needed some minor clean up along the way. 



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