Making an Imperial Raider that works for me


This is the Imperial Raider. In 2014, Fantasy Flight Games introduced capital ships to their X-Wing miniatures game and wanted an Imperial corvette which could go toe-to-toe with the Rebel Blockade Runner. There was nothing that quite worked within the existing Star Wars canon so LucasArts gave them permission to design something new. The result was the Raider. Since appearing in the game it has transitioned into official canon, notably appearing prominently in EA’s Battlefront II video game.

I’ve had a Raider for several years now, and enjoy playing with it. But the design’s never quite worked for me. I’m not saying it’s bad – lots of people love it – but it’s never quite felt right for me. For a long time I’ve thought about taking a knife and glue to my model and modifying it into something I like better. But it’s an expensive toy and I’ve never quite dared… until now. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve finally transformed my Raider, and I think the result works better – at least for me.

So first of all, what’s wrong with the official design? I’ve got a few, interconnected issues:

  • It all feels a bit too sleek, a bit too one-piece; it doesn’t seem to fit very well within the kitbashed aesthetic of the original movies. It feels a bit video-gamey, a bit too ‘cool’.
  • This is exemplified by those TIE wings. I really don’t like them. They’ve got no business being on a ship of this size – they just don’t make sense within the established design language of Imperial ships. They also cover a lot of the nicest details on the model.
  • The ship feels a bit… faceless. That squat command deck barely commands attention, which is instead directed towards the TIE wings, as the most contrasty parts of the model. The result is a sort of nondescript triangle with some silly oversized wings.
  • Connected with this, the scale is quite hard to read. How big is this thing meant to be? Because it’s kind of faceless, it’s hard to know. This is demonstrated in Battlefront II, where the scale seems to be all over the place, and at odds with the previously established size of the FFG ship. Can this fit fighters inside or not?

Some of these thoughts only crystallised as I was working on the modifications. As I went into the project, I had a couple of broad goals: I wanted a more kitbashed aesthetic that looked like it might have been designed in the late 70s or early 80s, and I wanted to make it adhere more to the design language of larger Imperial ships, in particular those of the earlier part of the war. I only had 2 fairly clear ideas of how I was going to do this: I was going to take the wings off, but add extensions to the hull plating to keep the same overall width, so as to avoid making it even more of a simple arrowhead; and I wanted to increase the amount of details protruding from the hull, adding things like turbolaser turrets, aerials and dishes. I had a few design touchstones in mind, but nothing I studied overly closely.

First was the Consular Cruiser from the prequels. I’d already built one of these and I liked the central section with its array of sensors and communications equipment. As a Republic ship, it would make sense for similar elements to transition into a similarly-sized Imperial vessel.


Second were actual real-world naval corvettes. Just as Star Destroyers echo the design of real-world battleships, I wanted something that evoked smaller military ships. That ties in with the desire to have more ‘stuff’ protruding above the hull.


Finally, I was thinking about other fan designers of Star Wars ships, and particularly EC Henry’s work reinterpreting early, or barely-seen, designs from the original films, such as this:

It’s also worth calling out these fan designs I found on the FFG forum from when the Raider was first announced. They did a lot to shape my early ideas about where I wanted to go with this, and to convince me that chopping up the ship could lead to something I would like.


But as for my actual method, once I’d taken off the wings and made those hull extensions, I pretty much just sat down with my box of spare parts and bits of other models and tried things out till I had something I liked. And here’s what I ended up with:

I’m happy with this. It’s very much a mini-Star Destroyer, but I’m happy with that. It makes sense in the same way a naval corvette is pretty much a mini destroyer. It’s got a much more defined superstructure that draws a bit on prequel ships like the Venator and even Aethersprite starfighter. These were unconscious influences at first, but as I recognised them, I decided to go with it. They make sense in terms of the development of an early Civil-War ship.


I think the more pronounced bridge provides more of a visual focus and, together with the larger turrets, helps establish the scale better. I’ve got the antennas, turrets and communications dish, but actually fewer of these than I’d planned. With the raised bridge, I didn’t feel like I needed too many of them, and although I toyed with other Star Destroyer elements like the shield generator bulbs and the X-shaped tractor beam emitter ‘tiara’ that sits on top of the bridge tower, I didn’t feel like they quite worked visually, or made sense on a ship of this size.

I’m very happy with the removed wings. There’s some lovely detail on the bottom of the model which they almost totally conceal (I briefly considered turning the whole thing upside down but it was tricky to work with the mounting pegs) and with the hull extensions, it still feels balanced and not overly narrow.

Finally, I repainted it in a much paler, off-white colour scheme closer to the Star Destroyers of A New Hope and Rogue One. This ties in with a back-story I’d cooked up that this is the Raider I class, which was in use before the destruction of the first Death Star, particularly on the Empire’s furthest frontiers. As the Empire recognised the threat posed by Rebel starfighters, the Raider was redesigned with the latest, more streamlined, technology as more of an anti-starfighter vessel. Nicely, it turns out that Battlefront II refers to the Raider there as a Raider II, so this all fits quite nicely.

Raider 2

I hope other people will like this, but I’m sure many will consider it sacrilege. Ultimately, I’m happy with it and that’s all I care about. Next time I field this alongside a fleet of TIEs, it’s going to feel a bit more like my kind of Star Wars. I’m looking forward to it.

New Book: Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets

72479128_10157815997633535_8401119613395402752_nThe first book I’ve worked on is now available. Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets, edited by me and Philippa Steele, is the first book to emerge from the CREWS research project into ancient writing. It’s based on a conference held in 2017 and includes chapters from a number of experts on early writing.

Thanks to EU European Research Council funding, which also funded the conference this is based on and pays my wages, the whole thing is available open access. You can download it on the Publications page of this site.

If you’d prefer a physical copy, you can get those from the Oxbow website. They’re currently discounted!

Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems (CREWS) is a project funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 677758), and based in the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge. Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets is the first volume in this series, bringing together ten experts on ancient writing, languages and archaeology to present a set of diverse studies on the early development of alphabetic writing systems and their spread across the Levant and Mediterranean during the second and first millennia BC. By taking an interdisciplinary perspective, it sheds new light on alphabetic writing not just as a tool for recording language but also as an element of culture.


1. Introduction: Issues in studying early alphabets
Philip J. Boyes and Philippa M. Steele
2. A ʽtop-downʼ re-invention of an old form: Cuneiform alphabets in context
Silvia Ferrara
3. Variation in alphabetic cuneiform: Rethinking the ‘Phoenician’ inscription
from Sarepta
Philip J. Boyes
4. Ancient Egypt and the earliest known stages of alphabetic writing
Ben Haring
5. Much ado about an implement! – the Phoenicianising of Early Alphabetic
Reinhard G. Lehmann
6. Vowel representation in the Archaic Greek and Old Aramaic scripts:
A comparative orthographic and phonological examination
Roger D. Woodard
7. Mother or sister? Rethinking the origins of the Greek alphabet and
its relation to the other ‘western’ alphabets
Willemijn Waal
8. The development of Greek alphabets: Fluctuations and standardisations
Philippa M. Steele
9. Between scripts and languages: Inscribed intricacies from geometric and
archaic Greek contexts
Giorgos Bourogiannis
10. The matter of voice – the Umbrian perspective
Karin W. Tikkanen
11. Writings in network? The case of Palaeohispanic scripts
Coline Ruiz Darasse

Anthropological Horror in Doctor Who

A couple of weeks ago I watched the 1977 Doctor Who story Image of the Fendahl. It’s not the best example of the series, not by a long shot, but it’s lingered in my mind. Because despite the things that don’t work – the wonky pacing, the stilted performances, the fact that the monster doesn’t really do anything – there’s so much there that does. It’s bubbling with great ideas. The atmosphere is wonderfully spooky, the monsters look great when they’re not moving, even if they have nothing to do, there are some sparkling lines of dialogue. There’s an anthropologists’ dog called Leakey. I keep thinking about how you might rejig the story to really work.

155What really appeals about Image of the Fendahl is its use of palaeoanthropology. Many of the non-regulars are anthropologists, bringing novel scientific techniques to bear on extremely early human remains (or are they…) The idea of a human skull from too old a stratum that reveals a pentagram in the bone sutures when X-rayed is genuinely creepy, as is its concern with the deep time of human existence – all those long aeons before we organised ourselves into settled urban communities and started writing history. Anything could lurk in that vast span of years. What if there was something fundamentally off with humanity’s whole evolutionary process?

Thinking about these ideas led me to wondering about ‘anthropological horror’ as a subgenre, and whether it’s really a thing. Whether it could be. Google doesn’t turn up much. I should say now, I’m not the world’s biggest expert on horror fiction, and nor am I an anthropologist, except in the sense that any archaeologist has to dabble in the discipline to some extent. I do know Doctor Who, though, so that seems like a good place to begin looking for other examples of anthropological horror and to start to define what it is. Continue reading

Building a Star Wars Medical Frigate

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, I know. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy. Partly work, partly not. One of the things I’ve been busy with since I last posted is getting somewhat obsessed with the X-Wing miniatures game. It’s a fun and in-depth tactics game involving little Star Wars spaceships, so regular followers of this blog will see why I like it. But I don’t want to talk about the game itself today.

Because I’ve also been getting caught up in the arts and crafts aspect of the hobby. Mostly that’s meant repainting ships, which I’ve done a whole lot of. But from time to time I’ve also made my own ships. That started with an extremely rough and ready extra TIE Fighter I made not long after getting the starter set, purely to beef up my rather thin Imperial roster. Two years or so on, I now have all the TIE Fighters I could ever want and my ship-building has switched to the vessels that don’t yet exist in the game.

The first proper project I undertook was Director Krennic’s shuttle from Rogue One. When that was a success I moved on to something a bit more challenging, with more colour and a lot more surface detail – the Consular-Class Republic cruiser that appears at the beginning of the Phantom Menace and throughout the Clone Wars. That went very well, and I still love looking at it up on my bookcase. Now that a growing slate of Republic ships are appearing in the game, I’m looking forward to flying it properly.


Rebel_fleet_ESBBut what I’ve always really wanted to tackle was the Rebel medical frigate that first appeared in the Empire Strikes Back. The Nebulon-B Escort Frigate, to give it its proper name, is one of the most iconic and gorgeous big ships in Star Wars, its unorthodox shape making for an extremely visually interesting ship that combines power and fragility, as well as a wealth of details that make it a model-maker’s dream. Or nightmare, depending how you look at it. I’ve tried making one before, early in my X-Wing career. I built a 1:350 scale one out of foamcore, card and paper-clay.


The card Nebulon-B. It’s lost its stand and static discharge vanes in the intervening years.

This went OK and I had a lot of fun doing it, but you can’t get a lot of detail out of card and it turned out I’d made it too big to really be practical to use in-game. As my shipmaking skills grew, I knew I wanted to revisit it and make a slightly smaller Nebulon-B out of plastic.

This summer, I did.


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Haunted Futures and Alien Archaeologies

maxresdefaultJust before Christmas I attended the annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference in Chester. To be honest, I mostly steered clear of the hardcore theory – while I do quite like it, I liked it on my own terms and when my brain is feeling fresh and focused: the week before Christmas, at the end of a long and tiring year, not so much. But there was a lot else going on at the conference and I attended several inspiring panels about outreach, engagement and how archaeology relates to other fields. I’ve written about the conference in general over on the CREWS blog, but here I wanted to go into a little detail about my own paper, which was firmly in this blog’s thematic ambit since it was about the archaeology of alien megastructures in fiction. Continue reading

Writing in Time and Space: the writing ‘systems’ of Doctor Who

I’ve written about invented writing in Doctor Who over on the CREWS Project blog.

doctor_who_season_11_logo_thumb800Anyone who’s followed the CREWS blog will know that we’re fond of a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. We’ve talked about the writing systems of Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Indiana Jones. But ever since I was a kid, my absolute favourite piece of science fiction has been Doctor Who. Since it’s finally back this weekend, what better time to look at how it handles writing?

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Further Experiments in Ancient Baking: Pop-tarblets

I’ve been trying my hand at ancient baking again, over on the CREWS Project blog.

A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote about my visit to the British Museum, one person commented that the cuneiform tablets looked like pop-tarts. Anyone familiar with the CREWS Project and our love of ancient baking will know that this is the sort of challenge we can’t let go. I haven’t had pop-tarts since I was a kid, and not too often then, but it turns out they’re not too difficult to make. Naturally we had to give it a try.


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Jabba’s Guide to Bronze Age Diplomacy

I just mentioned Jabba the Hutt in the academic book I’m writing. At first it was a bit of a joke, something that would never make it through the first edit, but actually, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s helpful. I’m going to drop one of those terrible academic clichés now, so forgive me, but when it comes to the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean, Jabba might actually be Good To Think With. Let me explain.

jabbahall Continue reading

Rebel Scum! Conceptualising rebellion in Star Wars and the ancient Near East

Symbol-_-rebel-250x250The ancient world is full of rebellion. In my patch, the Bronze Age Near East, the world was one of dominant ‘great kings’ with imperial aspirations. In the southern Mediterranean was Egypt, ancient and arrogant; in the east, Babylon and later Assyria; in the north, the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, which was later supplanted by the Hittite Empire. Most histories of the Bronze Age tell political and military tales of the waxing and waning of these great empires and the great campaigns of their rulers – people like Ramesses II or Šuppiluliuma I.

But these empires weren’t all there was, of course. There are other histories to be told. In my research I work on Ugarit, a small but important kingdom on what’s now the Syrian coast. It was militarily weak, but a great trading power. Like many of the small Levantine kingdoms, it found itself charting a dangerous course between the rival influences of its powerful neighbours. In the Middle Bronze Age it seems to have aligned itself with Egypt, but around the middle of the second millennium BC it made the shrewd political decision to ‘invite in’ the Hittites and become a vassal, sparing itself the punishing repercussions of being taken by force.

For the great kings of the Bronze Age, these smaller kingdoms were one of two things – vassals (either their own or someone else’s, assuming they accepted the legitimacy of the claim) or rebels. The latter was not, it is clear, a Good Thing.

These days we love rebels. At least since the twentieth century, western culture has celebrated the underdog who stands up against overwhelming power, especially when that power is grounded in tradition. People are proud to brand themselves ‘rebels’ or part of a ‘resistance’.

rebel-without-a-cause-poster3Often rebellion is associated with youth: we take it for granted that young people are by nature rebellious and questioning of the values and authority of their elders. Even those who seek to shut down such dissent often implicitly accept that this is part of the normal behaviour of the young. But youth – especially being teenage – is a highly culturally-constructed category. Arguably, these assumptions tell us more about our own culture than they do about human nature.
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