Making an Imperial Raider that works for me

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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.

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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.

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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.

raider13

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.

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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.

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