Calas Typhon Unboxing

I’m back from my adventure to Adepticon, and I brought home lots of goodies! One of my favorite pieces came from Forge World, the fearsome Calas Typhon [So much want - Ed]. I’ve unboxed him so you can get a decent look at him.

I haven’t been too keen on a few of the Horus Heresy character models that Forge World has released, but Calas really strikes me. He may move to the top of my painting queue. He’ll certainly be assembled this weekend.

Also in that queue are several other Horus Heresy characters including Angron, Fulgrim, and Abaddon and Loken. I eventually plan to have the whole set of HH characters, which is getting harder to do as they release them at a faster pace. Originally, I had just planned on getting the Primarchs, but the other characters have been such interesting models that I decided to go for them all.

My wallet weeps.

I hope you enjoyed getting to see Calas Typhon!

Flames of War: Open Fire – A Review

FOW-logo-landscapeA couple of years ago I said I’d never play a World War II game. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with it seeing as it actually happened. Since then I’ve come to understand two things. 1. The logic of refusing to play a World War II game whilst being happy to watch a World War II movie or TV series is bogus. 2. Replaying a historical war doesn’t mean you condone it in the same way that playing a science fiction game doesn’t mean you want the future of humanity to be plagued by galactic war. With this in mind and our renewed commitment to writing about any and all games that cross our path, I decided it was about time I took a look at a couple of World War II titles. The first being Flames of War. Specifically the Open Fire starter set. FWBX03 Flames of War is a 15mm battalion level game which means lots of the toys you love. Infantry, tanks, artillery. And tanks. And artillery. And tanks. Which you get a fair bit of in the starter box. In truth  get a lot for your money. 6 Shermans, 2 Firefly tank hunters, 32 Paratroopers, 73 Grenadiers, 2 PAK40 artillery guns & 3 STUG Assault Guns and a V1 flying bomb. As well as the full rules and a quick start rules both of which are really quite pretty. You also get the associated bases, green and grey dice (no really) some counters and some truly horrid card scenery templates. You don’t get any templates. At all. That you need to play the game.

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This is a bit cheeky considering Battlefront went to the trouble of including the A5 complete Flames of War rulebook in the box. And on the subject of the rulebook: whilst it is very pretty and full of photos, nice artwork and certain parts are picked out like a 1940′s comic, it’s too heavy a book for the binding and within an hour of me reading the rules, the spine had cracked and pages started to fall out. This is a bit shit even if it is only worth a tenner on its own. It also doesn’t include any army lists at all. The big book does that’s three times the price. But if you want to do anything beyond muck about with the core box you’ve got to start spending money. Whilst I’m by no means opposed to army books, a basic list at the back would have been nice so at least players can buy a couple of boxes of blokes. That aside though, the production quality of the rule book was disappointing and will inevitably lead you to buying the hardback copy.

The models are ace however. The contrast between the German and Allied tanks is spot on. For those that didn’t know, I’m a bit of a World War II history nerd and so I appreciate the differences. The Sherman hull almost looks like a miscast. Everything’s a bit shonky. Which is exactly as it should be. They weren’t precision built machines so shouldn’t look like it. The STUG Assault Guns, on the other hand, were and so those models are crisp and clean. It’s that kind of attention to detail that only a handful of people are going to appreciate, and I’m one of them.

The infantry too are pretty good sculpts. They’ve got an impressive amount of detail for the size. Although this is a two-edged sword as it means a quick paint job will look poor. That said, the models don’t look immediately different from one another, and with the US Paratroopers and German Grenadiers all jumbled up on the same sprue it takes some time to find the models you’re looking for. Which is a bit of a pain and a bit unnecessary. Basically you’re only hope will be to refer to the assembly guide to make sure you’ve got the right blokes before you glue them to bases. The casting quality is a bit inconsistent. The Sherman tanks all had pretty bad mould lines which will mean lots of very careful filing around .50 cal machine guns and track sections. The infantry had a few bits around straps and the like but a careful and considered approach should avoid any breakages and such.

The game itself, considering Battlefront’s commitment to authenticity, is all about combined arms, manoeuvring, cover, more manoeuvring and a bit of shooting and more cover. Oh and some planes. It also means stands of infantry, precise facing and a bit of a fiddly mechanic. That’s not to say it’s not good it’s just borders on the hurry up and wait element of wargaming. A quick evening romp through the flood plains of Normandy this ain’t.

Like the models, the attention to detail is impressive to the point of obsessive. The types of movement are broken down into 12 groups for the 12 different unit types. There’s rules for towing guns, moving in buildings, driving through buildings, moving through alleyways between buildings, being bogged down. The list is long. And kinda boring. That’s not to say the game is boring just as I was reading the rules I spent a lot of time wishing they’d just cut to the chase. I’m not convinced there needs to be 12 types of movement or so many distinctions in how to move and least not without slowing the game down.

The most important part of the game is the movement so it’s almost counter productive to make it the most complicated part of the game. It kinda feels like someone got complex and complicated confused somewhere along the way because whilst I appreciate the orchestration of a battalion level engagement is a complex affair it isn’t, necessarily, complicated.

The shooting is, thankfully, a much more straight forward process. That’s not to say it isn’t detailed but it requires a lot less fussing and more rolling dice. Which is nice. And all the fussing and fiddling you did in the movement phase, providing you’ve done it right, will mean that your shooting will not only be potent but effective. I do like how you can opt for Conscripted, Trained or Veteran soldiers which will dictate their performance on the battlefield, to a certain degree. It does mean that two armies from the same side can look and play wildly different depending on the ability of the troops, not just the variety. Weapon systems also have a rate of fire so you can easily figure out how many dice you’re rolling and what you need to do to cause damage. It does get slightly more complicated with tanks and such because locations have to be determined which feels a little too 28mm than 15mm but I appreciate why it’s in there. That said the problem is more the specificity than the mechanic. Once you’ve played a few games all the various caveats for moving and shooting will become second nature much like it was for us old dogs and second edition 40k.

It all works on modifiers so it should feel familiar to most, the challenge will be remembering all the various qualifying modifications and at which points they apply.

Then there are rules for assaults, aircraft and artillery – which includes cool stuff like rockets and smoke bombardments. It really is, as mentioned, a very thorough rule set. And, of course, it means if there are rules for them then there are toys for them. At least there should be. There’s a lot to remember in Flames of War. In many ways it reminds me of Warhammer 40,000 in so much as there are lots of rules that you’ll struggle to remember. But whereas 40k is a simple mechanic made more complicated by rules designed to jazz it up, Flames of War has lots of rules because it needs them to create an authentic gaming experience.

The up shot of this is that some gamers – myself among them – wouldn’t stray very far from the Quick Start rules for quite some time. This isn’t a bad thing as such as there won’t be that sudden rush to buy loads of stuff only to find you don’t want this or that, or you want to sell the Americans and collect Russians instead. It is also a tad too restrictive for the same reason. It’s worth noting, however, that the quick play rules are well worth reading. They’re far more digestible and take you through a

Flames of War is a good, complex, historically loyal and detailed game. It’s let down by a rulebook that’s overly woolly that takes too long to get to the point and too many hairs are split when it does. It is coming from the right place though as Battlefront were determined to write the most historical game they could and at times it really shows. The quick play rules are slick and nicely presented and a far safer bet to work from than the core rules if you’re new to a game as…well, fiddly, as this one. The models look great and you get plenty of them in the box. When the step up is made to bigger games at least you’ll have a decent foundation.

Flames of War will not appeal to everyone. Its OCD attention to detail will mean that the first few games will not be quick. It will also mean lots of different units, with different rules, to get to grips with. However, with some time and effort (and lots of green or grey paint) you will end up with an awesome looking army, playing a game that is every bit as tactical as the period in history that inspired it.

Flames of War: Open Fire is available from Firestorm Games priced £45.00.

Battlefield in a Box Asteroids – A Review

There’s been a distinct inter-planetary flavour to our gaming activities at Shell Case Towers. X-Wing miniatures and warships of the 41st Millennium have been taking to gaming boards and, as is often the case, my mind turned to scenery. I’d already taken a look at the Gale Force 9 Space Game Mat and used it for our third X-Wing Battle Report. So it only seemed right, considering Mat & I have Slave 1 & the Millennium Falcon to give a shakedown, that I take a look at the Battlefield in a Box Asteroids, also from Gale Force 9.

If you’d said to me a year ago that I’d be playing a pre-painted wargame, on a pre-painted game mat, with pre-painted scenery I’d have called you mental. And possibly a heretic or some such. There may have been some objects thrown. And mother’s insulted…

The point is that I was a bit of a puritan. But if this site, the wargaming world that I’ve been exploring, and being a father has taught me anything, it’s don’t be a snob and have fun. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

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However, I admit to a degree of scepticism before the asteroids arrived. I’ve seen some pretty iffy pre-painted terrain in my time and all of it was expensive into the bargain. So I opened the box expecting something akin to the castles you get for gold fish.

However the followings things surprised me: the asteroids were heavy. I just assumed they’d be plastic, and shit. But they weren’t. At all. The sculpt of the asteroids was so nicely done that I actually thought they were pumice. Which I know kinda makes me a bit thick but hey. The pre-paint was also incredibly good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to win prizes but for a gaming board? Hells yeah. And I love the mix of floating and flat asteroids. It gives that badly needed element of three dimensions that often gets lost in a tabletop. Just be careful when you cut the flying stands from the sprue. The plastic is oh so brittle. One stand (fortunately each base set comes with two) shattered when I clipped it free. Not broke. Shattered.

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Scale wise they’re a little on the large size for games like Gothic. At least not without making the game a real dance of death. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing but for any manly sized game I wouldn’t use the whole box. Because things would crash. A lot. However two or three on a board would look superb and make a dice change from the usual planets that I usually end up using.

For X-Wing, however, they’re pretty much spot on. Throw in a few fighters and a game mat and you’ve got something that looks a bit special…not that I did that. The picture below is a coincidence.

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As a single area of terrain they work brilliantly and the fact that the size compliments the X-Wing miniatures so nicely is a real bonus. However the rub is this – you get 8 in a box which is good but really give the impression of density you’ll need two boxes. Mat and I will be getting at least two more so we can set up an asteroid field board for Battle Report IV. And at the best part of the £30 that’s a bit of a rough deal.

That’s not to say it isn’t good value. The asteroids are all a good size and the design is wonderfully natural. I suspect pumice was involved at some point, along with a shit load of modelling clay. But I don’t care because it works. They feel like asteroids and thanks to the table standard paint job they look like it too. Granted they’re not perfect, and there’s a few bits that bugged my but there’d be a few bits that would have bugged if I’d painted them so I have to be forgiving. But the point is I didn’t have to paint them. And really that’s the big selling point for the price tag. You’re paying for the convenience. You’re paying your money not just for some pretty awesome looking asteroids but some pretty awesome asteroids that are painted and ready to go, straight out of the box.

And for that, I’m willing to pay.

The Gale Force 9 Battelfield in a Box Asteroids are available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

Dataslate: Chaos Helbrute – A Review

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Hot off the presses and hot on heels of the new Helbrute kit we have the Helbrute Dataslate.

Being a long-term Chaos Space Marine player, with a penchant for the slightly crazed, and considering that the Helbrute kit is really rather good (see my previous review for more on that front), I am pleased to report that the dataslate adds another, rather funky, aspect to including these lumbering, homicidal, dameon engines in a Chaos Space Marine army.

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First up, the dataslate reiterates and expands the background surrounding the Helbrute. The additional fluff builds upon the elements of the character of the Helbrute that I like the most. Just as the unpredictability in their rules demonstrates, the various denizen commanders of the traitor legions struggle, as much as they revel, in the tactical complexities inherent in deploying Helbrutes as part of a fighting force. Reading the descriptive text and accompanying prose really gives you a sense of how the presence of one or more Helbrutes in an army generates a tension within your forces. Some legions might venerate and worship the incarnate abominations crashing across the battlefield, others might treat them as purely expendable and use their abhorrent appearance to force their enemies to focus all fire to bring them down, before they can rampage through their battlelines. Games Workshop have followed on their recent theme of generating rules to support the narrative in the fluff for in-game use and provided three different formations that nicely encapsulate the bizarre character of the Helbrute and the role it can play in destroying your opponent’s forces.

There are three flavours to the formations offered by the dataslate:

Mayhem Pack

What’s better than one Helbrute rampaging from your back lines across the wastes of war? Why three of course! And why not deep strike them in to maximise their threat? The Mayhem Pack allows you to take a formation of three Helbrutes and deep strike them onto the battlefield from reserve. There’s no additional cost for fielding this formation, but all Helbrutes that are fielded as part of a Mayhem Pack have to make a crazed roll (one roll affecting all pack members) at the beginning of each movement phase. It would appear that being held back from battle for ‘tactical’ reasons is not something that sits well with a psychotic, daemonic engine of destruction. Who knew?

Helcult

What would you think, y’know budding cultist that you are, if the entombed remains of a deranged god-warrior now bound inside a monstrosity of metal and madness appeared next to you on the battlefield.? Well, apparently you’d want to stick to it like PVC to a Daemonette’s ass, and rush headlong into battle alongside it. The Helcult formation lets you field a Helbrute with 2 units of cultists and gives both the Helbrute and the cultists some suitable “let’s get crazy” advantages, including a 3+ cover save for the Helbrute (for the willing sacrifice of a cultist). The main drawback is that when in melee, the Helbrute’s rolls of 1 to hit means he’s mashed up a cultist instead, but if you lose the Helbrute, the cultists get kind of ticked off…

Helfist Murderpack

I bet when you woke up this morning your first thought was “I seriously need to field 5 Helbrutes in a unit. But only if one of them is a super nut-job that all the other Helbrutes in the unit look up to like some kind of Alphabrute of murderocity!” It’s a word. Well, you’re in luck.

I have to say, I am seriously tempted by this option. I mean just the idea of having 5 of these things as a rampaging mobile moshpit of death, smashing its way across the battlefield is enough to make me go out and buy three more kits. And I’m guessing that Games Workshop are hoping many people feel the same way. To be honest the rules aren’t that stellar. They count as a vehicle squadron, which is never a good thing and the alpha-brute/champion itself is a character who has to participate in challenges. The champion does gets an invulnerable save and means you can pick the crazed result for the whole pack. As with the Helcult, the rest of the Helbrutes get pretty aggro if you beat up their bossman, but really you aren’t going to find anyone complaining that the game is suddenly broken because of this (or any of the other) formations. It will just look frickin cool!

Fluffy awesomeness

This isn’t a dataslate containing formations that suddenly make Chaos Space Marines the new meta or the centre of the next round of net lists, not even close. Although I do think that the Mayhem Pack has some serious potential and in the right situation the Helcult could be very handy. If, however, you’re interested in adding a chunk of Helbrute goodness with more than an average dollop of fluffy goodness to your list, then this dataslate might be right up your alley. It’ll certainly make a change from the usual multiples of Heldrakes.

Right then… Imperial Knight converted to Helbrute champion anyone? Or was that just me?

Chaos Space Marine Helbrute – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoSo, the new Helbrute kit is out and what a magnificent little menagerie of plastic it is!

First up the standard box art shots is very much what we’ve come to expect of Games Workshop boxes these days: a nicely painted model on the front (in the new Crimson Slaughter paint scheme, that Games Workshop are pushing like crazy for Chaos Space Marines at the moment, due to the rather tasty codex supplement that was also released, alongside the Helbrute kit) and pics of more assembly options and some paint scheme details on the back.

Helbrute box front   Helbrute box rear

The kit itself is really rather nice. Bountiful weapons and other options fill the sprues and, as you’d expect from Games Workshop plastic kits, the level of detail is fantastic. Just check out the number of different head options on there!

Helbrute sprue 1

Helbrute sprue 2

Helbrute sprue 3

I hadn’t had cause to assemble any of the more recent kits until the Helbrute came out and I was pleased to see that the ‘layering’ of detail that you get from a proper multi-part plastic kit comes through very well indeed.  After having seen the Imperial Knight kit up close and personal, and the level of detail it contained my expectations were high and the Helbrute kit does not disappoint. It certainly makes the Eldar Jetbike and Vyper kits that were the last Games Workshop plastics I’d put together to shame; they really do show their age when put up against something like the Helbrute. One example of the ‘layering’ I mentioned can be seen in the leg assembly, in the first picture you see the leg prior to one of its armour plates being affixed – you can see the muscle/sinew wrapped around the pistons and skeleton that form the Helbrute’s frame and the horn jutting out. Once the armour-plate is affixed you can see that Games Workshop prepared not just a missing chunk of armour for the horn to pierce through, but a proper hole and that even when the armour is in place that the muscular detailing is still visible behind it. 

Helbrute legs assembled   Helbrute legs pre-assembly

This may present issues when considering at what point to carry out priming and painting – there’s a point at which sub-assembly painting becomes ‘component’ painting and even I am not quite that obsessive about covering every detail!

Maybe I’m just playing catch-up with recent Games Workshop plastics here, but the assembly itself is a breeze in comparison to some of the models. Pieces fit together in an almost ‘snap-fit’ fashion, joining surfaces are well delineated and it’s always obvious whether you’ve married up the right pieces or not. The slight drawback to this is that the level of pose-ability the model has takes a little bit of a hit, but Games Workshop make up for this by providing ‘high’ and ‘low’ arm positions for weapon options and, to be honest, the confidence boost that a less than expert modeller will get from the accuracy of part placement in a kit like this is worth that small drop in customisation. If I was to change the ‘default’ posing of this model I’d be whipping out the green stuff (not a euphemism, I promise) [I'd be worried if it was and tell you to go see a Doctor if its green - Ed.] and making the most of the bio-mechanical style the model has. I love the detail down the back of the model as well – the fact that the exo-spine that runs down its back is a separate piece gives the model real depth and gives the painter so many options for describing the relationship between the hard ceramite and metallic components and the flesh that has inhabited it and over-grown it through millennia in the warp wastes.

The kit definitely permits magnetisation of weapon options on both arms. You can build left or right arm power fist variants and the right arm ranged weapon attachment allows (with a little magnet activity) for easy to swap options. The left arm power scourge vs power fist would be trickier to achieve as a magnet swap, but a bit of persuasion should see it being possible. There are a tonne of weapon options available to the Helbrute owner: missile launcher, reaper autocannon, twin-linked lascannon, plasma cannon (nicely styled along the lines of other daemon-engines), multi-melta, and heavy bolter. The power fist arms (you can do left and/or right) can be kitted out with heavy flamer or twin-linked bolter and the left arm can have the power scourge. Finally, and as you can see on the sprue pictures above, there are 6 head options with three different ‘surrounds’. All in all no reason why you should have to play cookie-cutter Helbrutes in your army even if using similar weapon options.

If it’s not already clear, I really like this kit. I’ll certainly be adding at least one more, and when the data slate for Helbrutes comes out on the 22nd (if any of the rumours regarding the formations they give a Chaos Space Marine player are accurate) I may be adding in significantly more than that!

The Chaos Space Marine Helbrute is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.70.

Halo Mega Bloks: Infinity Armour Bay – A Review

121110megabloksHalo isn’t for everyone. There I said it. It isn’t for everyone because some people don’t like sci-fi. And some are more interested in bullet porn than plot. I am not one of those people. I love sci-fi. I love a game driven by a story – a story, I might add, I’ve invested more than a decade following – and I love Halo.

I mention this because I’ve played the Halo 4 campaign start to finish a lot. And every time the story drives me to do better. To make more efficient kills, to move faster, be better. To be more…Chief. I’ve raced to the top of the tower to warn the UNSC Infinity about approaching the Forerunner planet, secretly hoping that if I’m just that little bit faster I’ll catch it in time. And every time I get to the end a part of me always hopes that I can somehow change the outcome. So by the time we see the Chief on the armour deck it’s a solemn and lonely moment for the Chief. Amongst a deck of supermen the Chief is a giant. Alone in a room full of equals. It’s a very powerful scene.

It also aptly demonstrates how far the UNSC had come in the years between Halo 3 & 4. The deck and the armour bays are a testament to the size of the Infinity, the number of Spartan IV’s at its disposal, the disparity between them and the Chief, and the sophistication of the UNSC war machine.

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The Amrour Bay kit is for the fan and for the collector. It’s not for the kiddies or the idle kit builder. It’s for those that look upon that moment in the game and marvel.

It’s a very cleverly designed kit. It does a good job of conveying functional aspects of a warship and the next-gen armour removal system. The kit is also a pain in the bum. The hateful flat black used in the manuals making some of the parts indistinguishable and one part I had to rebuild three times before I was using the right parts. Now, I’m a pretty bright guy so I know it’s not a general lack of mental acuity. A fractionally lighter shade would make all the difference.

The kit is also beyond fiddly for the first few steps and doesn’t gain any stability until the deck plates are down. If you build it on anything other than a table it’ll fall apart more times than an Oscar Winner giving a speech. However, once the deck plates are down the kit comes together very rapidly. The whole thing was done, with the Spartan in place, within 40 minutes or so. Which is odd considering how much back and forth there was.

The armour bay is way cool though. It’s a sizeable and substantial kit and the concessions made for the limitations of the figures are nicely done and don’t draw attention to themselves. The articulated arms are really well done: they look the part and with a little adjustment all fit around the Spartan in the harness. The little touches make for an authentic feeling kit. The readouts are reflective of the game and the use of the weapons locker allows for two stories to be told. Liberal use of the round transparent ‘lights’ helps give the impression of energy and action. Considering what the set depicts, there’s a lot of movement to it. It feels urgent and solid. It, basically, feels like an armour bay. And how cool would two or three look next to each other?

I would have liked the Chief to be in the kit and I’d also have liked the accompanying technician be to scale, but I suspect it’s more of a case of the Spartan’s being too small than the technician being too big. But it’s a minor gripe and a child certainly wouldn’t care even if they noticed.

Compared to the Warthog kit it’s more time-consuming for its size and, arguably, it’s less fun for the kiddies but for fans of the Universe and Halo 4 it’s just as satisfying. Again, it feels like it belongs. Mega Bloks didn’t take too many liberties with the composition or the look. And considering the target age there aren’t too many bright and cheerful colours.

Most importantly of all, it feels like a part of the Infinity and Halo. And for what it is, that’s pretty special.
The UNSC Infinity Armour Bay is available from Amazon priced £19.99.

Halo Mega Bloks: Night Ops Gausshog – A Review

121110megabloksThe other day, after I’d finished a review for a certain Y-shaped starfighter for a certain game set in a galaxy far far away, I got to thinking about licensed products and just what a company will allow their name and their IP associated with. It didn’t take me long for my mind to wander to Halo. Halo being the Tony Stark-esque holiday home my brain frequents when it’s not kicking it analogue style in the wonderful world of wargaming.

There’s no shortage of licensed products to look at for Halo but to keep things hobby focussed I thought it best to take a gander at a the sets from Mega Bloks. Fortunately for those lovely people at Mega Bloks obliged me and so I’ve got a couple of kits to take a look at over this review and a second to follow. My interest being this – can a licensed product, especially something like a brick kit capture more than just the flavour, but the feel of that universe?

First up is the Night Ops Gausshog set.

MEGA BRANDS INC. - Mega Bloks Halo Construction

It’s been a long while since I built a kit of this ilk so I’ll say this – things have moved on since I was a kid. The components stretched into the hundreds and the sophistication of the kit impressed me. The designers cleverly built up layers of bricks so the Warthog looks every bit the rugged ATV we all know and love from the game. They even managed to get the independent suspension just so. Plus the overlapping bricks makes for a very sold model should you want to drive it around your living room floor. Which I totally didn’t do.

Moreover, the two tone casting of the bricks is a simple but effective way of making the Warthog seem camouflaged without having to design and produce a precise and ultimately crap looking camo-patterned kit.

The gaussgun is an ugly bit of kit. That’s no reflection on Mega Bloks. It’s an ugly bit of kit. And it’s all very cleverly put together so you get the crude bulkiness of the middle weight tank killer with a little bit of flash with the heating magnetic coils represented by the blue connector pins. My one grumble here is the weapon mount is a bit too flimsy. The gun slides onto a pig that’s too small to take the weight so it drops. And in an effort to make the turret as adjustable as it is in the game the central column isn’t fixed which makes it a pain to position the Spartan on it. Partly because the weapon handles are also a tad too close together for the hands to easily grasp.

Build time was about 90 minutes but do remember I’m pretty rusty on building these kinds of kits…Not enough clippers and plastic glue for my liking. Also the instructions were a bit frustrating. Whilst it was very good that the manual highlighted in colour where the bricks should sit, if any of the components were black the details of the brick were all but impossible to see. And some of the diagrams weren’t as clear as they could be. There was also a fair few spare parts, not to mention some fairly pointless yellow brings that were supposed to life the Warthog ‘up on blocks’ which is a totally unnecessary, if a nice, touch.

The Spartans are pretty cool though. Made up from Spartans from the UNSC Infinity, they boast some of the armour variants you unlock as you play the multiplayer which collectors and gamers will appreciate. The simple paint job works and it’s nice to see figures from a brick system with a bit of depth of colour. Plus the multi-joint approach allows a far more loyal reflection of the Spartans whilst allowing for more faithful kits to fit them into. Oh and the firearms they come with a nicely detailed for what they are.

The Promethean is massive and it’s a nice touch that the back plates move as in the game but overall the level of detail is a bit disappointing. It just feels like a bit of an after thought. But I suppose the Warthog is the main event and when it comes to tearing across the living room floor, gaussgun blazing, one Promethean isn’t going to last long.

And I suppose that’s the point. It’s a Warthog. It looks like a Warthog and feels like a Warthog. It lacks some of the wonder because it’s lifted from the Spartan Ops part of the story so, whilst still cool, it isn’t as cool as the Chief. Harsh but it’s cold hard fact. But you’re still going to drive it around making all the sounds effects that the engine doesn’t do for you. You’re still going to find room on a shelf for it so you don’t have to put it ‘somewhere safe’ and risk breaking it. And you’re still going to make the whit-doooo noise every time the gaussgun fires. So yeah, I’d say it successfully captures the spirit of the Halo games. rather nicely.

The Night Ops Gausshog is available from Argos priced £29.99)

The Army Painter Mega Paint Set – A Review

As many of you may know I have returned to the hobby after a chance meeting with Phil at an antenatal class. It didn’t take long for his enthusiasm and promise of new and shinier toys than the ones I remembered from a decade ago to renew my plastic crack addiction.

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So as I dug out all my old bits and pieces, finding some real gems in the process, I found my old paints which was a pretty extensive collection of hard lumps of coloured crap. But it had been 10 years. But now the conundrum: do I reinvest in the same paint system or look to something else bearing in mind I needed the whole shabang – brushes and all. So after seeking Phil’s advice I started looking at The Army Painter products. Phil had always raved about their basecoat sprays, and the price point was much more tempting than Games Workshop’s paints so I thought I’d give them a go.

Yes I know there are other manufacturers out there but there was something about The Army Painter stuff that got me and I honestly think it was the price of the Mega Paint Set. To start with anyway. So I took the plunge and bought myself one.

So what do you get for your £76.50 (if you purchase it from the fine chaps at Firestorm Games).

27 Colours
5 Metallics
3 Quickshade Inks
1 anti shine varnish bottle
Insane Detail Brush
Detail Brush
Character Brush
Regiment Brush
Small Drybrush
Vehicle/Terrain Brush

I would like to add at this point it was the Mega Paint set 1 I purchased as the new Mega Paint Set 2013 wasn’t available at the time I bought mine [Yes, it's taken you a year to write this you lazy bastard - Ed.]. There are a few differences, some I’m a little jealous, I have to admit, so what are these subtle differences, well they’re as follows.

http://www.thearmypainter.com/

29 Colours
5 Metalics
7 Quickshade Inks
1 anti shine varnish bottle
Insane Detail Brush
Regiment Brush
Small Drybrush

So you get less brushes, more paints and 4 of the colour Quickshade inks which are on my “to buy list”.

My Mega Paint Set arrived and I was excited as a little girl with a new pet pony and a bag full of sugar to feed it [Or something far manlier. -Ed]. And I wasn’t disappointed the box was reassuringly heavy making me feel like I got my money’s worth.

My first though was: so very many colours! There are shades to cover most if not all painting requirements, and many of them share names or hints to names of a certain other companies paint range, and from what I can tell so far are a pretty damn good match.

I found myself really liking The Army Painter paints, the dropper pots they come in are great with the pipette style nozzle making it really easy to mix paints as you can ensure you get your mixes right with your 1 part white 1 part Wolf Grey highlight rather than the more haphazard ‘that looks about right’ approach that I used to adopt with Games Workshop’s paints. One thing I will say, and this is by no means a negative, but you really have to shake these pants well before you attempt to use them or you end up with a very watery mess. Yes, I know you have to shake all paints before you use them but you really really have to shake these. But once that’s done they give a nice coverage, they spread easy and have a nice finish. I have been really impressed and very happy with The Army Painter paints especially when you consider the price point. They make for fantastic value for money and really should be considered if you’re looking at getting some new paints.

I am just as impressed with the brushes. They hold their points well and the odd triangle handles does give a nice firm grip which is also surprisingly comfy. They pick up paint well and give good coverage. Whilst I admit it’s been a long time since I used any other brushes, I can honestly say these are just as good as anything else I have used previously and, as I say, the odd handle shape does give you a really good grip.

Needless to say I am now an advocate of The Army Painter range and I have found myself slowly filling my hobby box with other items in their range and I am yet to find something I don’t like. My next purchase is definitely going to be the coloured Quickshade inks.

So to sum up the Mega Paint Set from The Army Painter is fantastic value for money and you get a great range of paints that as long as you remember to shake well before use, won’t disappoint you, and with such a great price point you could look at it as you’re getting the brushes for free. And we can always use more brushes, especially when they are of this quality. I will repeat myself and say if you are on the lookout for some new paints or want t change systems you can’t go wrong with The Army Painter.

And just to help you out you can actually win one of the Mega Paint Sets by entering The Shell Case Painting competition, thanks to the great guys at The Army Painter.

The Army Painter range is available from Firestorm Games from £1.80.

X-Wing Expansion: Y-Wing – A Review

FFGSWXwinglogoThe much maligned Y-Wing has been the butt of jokes by fans and Star Wars novelists for years. It had everything to do with the fact that they were generally portrayed as a bit shit in the movies: fairly incapable of doing anything other than explode. And the design, with the extended – and seemingly decorative – support pylons did nothing to convey the robustness it’s supposed to possess.

There was an ill-advised attempt to make the Y-Wing cool by giving Anakin Skywalker one in the Clone Wars series, but as most people knew how the story ended it did little to gain either credibility. The fact is the Y-Wing is as tough as old boots and twice as ugly. A lethal combination of high-powered lasers, ion cannons and a hefty payload of torpedoes made them the workhorse of the Rebellion to the X-Wing’s warhorse.

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So when it comes to the X-Wing Miniatures game the Y-Wing provides all those qualities. With 3 shields and 5 points of armour it’s incredibly tough. Which is just as well because they’re less manoeuvrable than the Millennium Falcon. But for the points you can almost forgive it. Even when you take Horton Salm at 25 points, and the Ion Cannon upgrade it still only weighs in 1 point more than Wedge Antilles. And that comes with Salm’s ability of re-rolling blank misses at range bands 2 & 3. Which is fantastic when combined with focus. Not that Dutch Vander’s special ability is sloppy. Being able to acquire a target lock then immediately assign a second target lock to a wingman is extremely good. Especially considering Y-Wings will rarely be operating alone.

If you’re feeling particularly cheeky you can equip the Y-Wing with two lots of torpedoes which does jack the same pilot up to 38 which is barely worth it but its lethality, coupled with resilience and the fact you’d never leave it on its own, means that it’s got a fair chance of surviving. However being forced to babysit a Y-Wing is rather a waste of potential for an X-Wing.

And because the Y-Wing is as agile as I am, with lots of red manoeuvres on its dial and a single point of agility you’ll be hard pressed to decide which astromech to choose – and you will want to take one – whether it’s treat all 1 & 2 movements as green or the ability to remove damage cards. So the Y-Wing can weigh in a t between 39 & 41 points. For 6 points more you can take the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han Solo (including the 1 point upgrade to make it specifically the Falcon). But credit where credit’s due, she’ll pack plenty of punch per model.

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Ion Cannons, whilst expensive, are worth the points. Although they can do a single point of damage per hit, they prevent the targeted model from performing any manoeuvres next turn which makes them very easy to finish off with anything else at your disposal. The downside of Ion Cannons is, because they are a secondary weapon, you’ll be forced to choose between them and firing torpedoes. So Y-Wings working in tandem is where their strengths really come in. Between them they’ll be chewing through targets. Throw in the aforementioned characters and a heady astromech combination and all of a sudden two Y-Wings become a formidable, if expensive fighting force. And in bigger games I don’t actually think you could be without them. Especially if you’re going up against Slave 1, transports or the humongous Tantive IV/Corellian Corvette.

The model itself is actually pretty cool. The shit-kicker look that the pre-painted models have suits the Y-Wing far better than the X-Wing. The aforementioned workhorse label lends itself to a craft that just gets thrown into fight after fight with very little love going its way. Y-Wing aren’t as pretty as X-Wings. Y-Wing pilots don’t get the praise. They just suit up and ship out and hope to God they don’t get vaped in the process.

Fantasy Flight Games did a pretty good job adjusting the design so it was still faithful but not break every time you put it in a figure case. The ion turret is integrated into the canopy and the chin mounted lasers are much shorter than the original design but it works. Equally the pylons are thicker but I’ll take that. My brother had the Kenner toy growing up and not a one of those pylons survived not because we were careless but because it was too faithful a recreation.

I’m really pleasantly surprised by the Y-Wing. I wanted it out of a sense of completeness and thought it’d be a soft target to act as a lure but I’m a convert. The Y-Wing and it’s two named character cards are a valuable addition to a fleet. They’re tough, they pack a punch and whilst they’ll still get picked on, the right tactics can mean you can turn that to your advantage.

The Y-Wing Expansion Pack is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

X-Wing Expansion: TIE Advanced – A Review

FFGSWXwinglogo

Back when Phil first dangled X-Wing in front of me, like a dealer with a fresh bag of something lethal before an addict, one of the things that sold me on the game was the option of being able to deploy two of the most iconic characters in science fiction. The first being Boba Fett and the other being Darth Vadar. And the other day I finally got my hands on old the Dark Lord of the Sith. Old Captain Asthma himself, piloting the equally iconic mark I TIE Advanced.

tie-advanced-layout

Having played a couple of games I was struck by just how vast a gulf there was between the performance of an X-Wing and a TIE Fighter. And I don’t mean the pilot: the craft itself. Shields make a massive difference. This seems obvious but they really do. Numbers don’t count for as much as I thought they would so the addition of a TIE Advanced that increased level of protection, as well as some sorely needed ordinance was going to make a big difference. And I got Darth Vadar thrown in to boot.

Now I know Phil isn’t keen on the packaging but I like it. If I’m going to pay as much as £10.79 for a single snubfighter miniature I at least want it to look premium when it turns up, and the packaging definitely does that. It feels solid and looks nice. The model is well presented, a bit like an Apple product in so much as it’s all a bit unnecessary but you don’t really care. Plus as anything with the words Star Wars on the packaging usually gets inflated by 30%, it needs to look top end.

Once you get into the packing, along with the faithful recreation of Vadar’s ride, we have the following:
1 x Base and stand
3 x Ship Tokens
1 x Manoeuvre Dial
1 x Evade Token
1 x Focus Token
1 x Stress Token
1 x Critical Hit Token
2 x Shield Tokens
2 x Sets of Lock on Counters
4 x Pilot Cards including: Darth Vader, Maarek Stele, Storm Squadron Pilot & Tempest Squadron Pilot
5 x Upgrade Cards including: Concussion Missiles, Cluster Missiles, Squad Leader, Swarm Tactics & Expert Handling

In short, a lot of card. And as before you don’t just buy these expansions for the model it’s as much about the cards and upgrades they offer you that can be used on your other ships. It’s kind of tabletop game, collectible card game and RPG all rolled into one when you think about it. Which is kinda cool.

But obviously this is all about Lord Vadar, and his inherent Pilot Trait is frankly awesome. You get to perform 2 actions a turn which means you can put both evade and focus tokens on your base. This means you can dodge a hell of a lot of fire even if your evasion rolls are only average. It dramatically increases Darth Vadar’s survivability. Although Maarek Stele ain’t too shabby either on the trait front because as he scores critical hits you get to draw three cards and choose the worst result to inflict on your opponent. It’s not hard to see how that can be an utter disaster for your opponent.

And the upgrade cards that come with the TIE Advanced are pretty damn handy too. Obviously we have had Swarm Tactics with the TIE Fighter pack but now we have Squad Leader which is a unique card so can only be taken once, but gives you the ability to select any friendly ship within range 1 – 2 with a lower pilot skill and this ship can then perform an additional action for free. Which is crazy good. And the Expert handling card allows you to perform a free barrel roll removing 1 target lock, damn useful for when you’re being hounded by those bloody pesky X-Wings.

And now we come to my favourite. Namely cluster missiles. In exchange for 4 points and your target lock, you get to launch this bad boy twice at with 3 attack dice providing you’re range band 1 – 2. Tasty. And then you have the Concussion Missiles which, again for a target lock, get four dice at range band 2 – 3. It also allows you to change one blank roll to a hit. Boom!

So to sum up the TIE advanced is essential to any imperial fleet as it gives you your first taste of shields and missiles but also some rather nice upgrades that, in the right combination, are extremely nasty. But honestly, what imperial fleet is complete without Darth Vader?

The TIE Advanced Expansion Pack is available from Firestorm Games priced at £10.79.