1:72 Armored Core "Bishop" (C01-GAEA)
A couple years back Kotobukiya started releasing injection plastic kits of the robots from the Armored Core video games. When I first heard about this I was disappointed that the kits were all coming from the "Armored Core 3" series of designs, rather than the "Armored Core 2" series that was my introduction to the game - but nevertheless, the prospect of affordable Armored Core models was exciting (in the AC2 days, there were resin kits available but I wasn't yet comfortable with paying the price for a resin kit). When I started playing Armored Core, my interest in building model robots helped fuel my interest in the game - and then when Kotobukiya started releasing kits, the opposite happened: my interest in the game had me buying up all their kits, the option parts, and so on.
However, there is one problem with the idea of Armored Core model kits: that is that the games encourage a high degree of customization. A major part of the game is finding a combination of AC parts that works well for your playing style and the particular mission you're in - and so to me it is not only distasteful, but almost unthinkable to build an Armored Core kit in its default configuration - with a few exceptions perhaps, the notion that my AC model could be mistaken for anyone else's is very unappealing. Armored Core models, in my opinion, should reflect player ACs in the game: each one should be unique. Even with five AC kits released (plus sixteen option sets) and more on the way, the potential for custom builds is fairly limited.
So, I have a problem. I want my AC to be unique in structure, payload, and decoration. I don't want the customizations to be a simple mix-and-match from the first two kits that came out - but at the same time, I also don't want to be scratchbuilding half the machine, not for my first AC model. So for this project I decided to make a model that would be mostly the Kotobukiya "GAEA" kit, but replace some parts with ones from the weapon sets, and make some new ones myself that aren't yet available from Kotobukiya. I hope that in this way the end result will be reasonably distinctive, despite being made 90% of the kit's stock parts. To that end, I spent some time in the game designing my "Bishop" AC based mostly on the parts from the Kotobukiya "C01-GAEA" kit.
The Kotobukiya Armored Core kits are quite nice, by the way - and very intricate compared to Gundam kits. In particular, they're very partsy. Like Gundams, the parts are broken down by color and the practical demands of assembly. But in addition, the Armored Core kits feature a lot more parts separation to allow detail to be molded from the proper angle. AC kits have lots of tiny little parts: the sort that can get lost if you don't glue them on, but can interfere with your ability to sand and paint other parts if you do glue them on. It's manageable, though, and I think the results are very rewarding.
I issued an Armored Core challenge on Child of Mecha, hoping that it will motivate me and others to produce some finished models from these kits. The "logged time" at this point doesn't reflect any of the time I spent initially snapping this kit together, my various early attempts at scratchbuilding the replacement head, it's mostly just the time I spent on the kit tonight.
Tonight I took the legs apart, worked out ways to break them down into easy-to-paint subassemblies, and then glued the assemblies together. It's actually a bit surprising just how much easier the kit is to handle with a little of that sort of work: a lot of the kit already breaks down pretty conveniently, there are just a few areas that are significantly easier to deal with if you make a few small changes.
For instance, I altered the upper legs so that the knee joint, the back plate of the upper leg, and the hip joint could all be removed from the upper leg, after the upper leg was glued together. I expect this will simplify the painting process significantly: without this change I would have had to paint the hip joint, then assemble the leg, mask the hip joint, and then paint the leg. This way I can continue immediately with the assembly and cleanup of all these parts, and paint them with little need for masking. In an earlier session I did similar changes to the upper arms: the elbow joint was already quite modular, but I made the blue part of the shoulder and the upper arm separable from the shoulder joint, so again, painting is simplified.