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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Deadzone 2-Player Starter Set Unboxing

As you will no doubt have seen from my prior post, I picked up the 2-player starter set for Deadzone from Mantic Games at Salute on Saturday. Sunday gave a good opportunity to open the large cellophane wrapped box and take a peek inside....

So the first thing that you notice about the box is that it is BIG. I mean "won't-fit-in-a-normal-carrier-bag-and-let-you-carry-it-with-one-hand" type big. It actually measures 46cm x 31cm x 11cm - I've carry-on luggage for flying that's smaller!

Ok, big boxes aside, the artwork and finish of the box is very nice - it feels like its a quality product.

Still, maybe inside that big box is a whole lot of cardboard packaging....

...or maybe not! Oh my god that's a LOT of stuff. A whole mess of terrain sprues, the rulebook, the gaming mat, the models, the cards, double sided token sheet and the dice. In fact, the only thing MISSING was a distinct lack of any protective packaging materials, which I felt would have been worthwhile (more on this later).

Now of course as gamers we sit down and study the rules before methodically moving onto the other game elements...we do not tear open plastic bags like deranged toddlers on Christmas morning trying to see what goodies lie in our figure bags, do we??? Ok, so maybe I took a small peek....but I'll come back to that later too.

First off, let's talk about the gaming mat. This is only small (2x2), but is of impressive quality, being nicely printed modern battlescape complete with blood spatters etc. I expected card or paper, but was mightily impressed to find this is actually a proper rubberised gaming mat - top marks here!

Next I'll move onto the tokens. These are printed double-sided on thick (about 1.5mm or so) cardstock, and feel like they're going to last. Once again, high marks here - they could have made them shiny too, like the tokens in GW's Space Hulk set of 2009, but I actually rather like the flat finish.

The rulebook itself is an 80-page, glossy-covered paperback A4 design, and is very nicely put together. It has nice photographs, full colour diagrams and pictures, and features rules and a bit of background. Overall it's what you'd expect from a professional product.

Each side (the Enforcers and Plague in this set) has a set of cards, split into various subsets (stats, missions etc), which are nicely made if a little on the flimsy side. You also get a set of d8 dice for playing the game in case you don't own any, which is likely unless you've experience in another games system that uses them (I still have a few from my old AD&D days at school).

You also get a Mantic games loyalty card pre-loaded with 4 points;

We'll have to see if I like it enough to use this! Ok, now onto the scenery. You get a lot of sprues containing various wall sections, railings, lights, ladders and connecting pieces. It's an impressive haul.

Finally, we have the actual models. Here are the parts for the Plague;

The sculpts are nice, and the way the joins ar moulded they will only connect one way - this has advantages and disadvantages, of course. The good thing is you can't get things wrong (unless you really try), the bad thing is there's no diversity, so you can't personalise them (they will be exactly the same as someone else's set) and little point in getting a second starter set to bulk your force. Still, this is a minor point and it's nice to have a set of figures that go together well and without drama.

Now this is where I hit my first major negative about this set....let me give you some background first....

I'm a pretty experienced modeller - I've been making models off and on for about 37 years - the great majority of my life - and I'm used to modelling in pretty much any material, from balsa wood to etched brass, plastic to resin. I'm also an experienced gamer, having started wargames when I was about 10 or 11.

As such, I plunged into assembling the plastic figures with my standard needle-applicator poly liquid glue. The smaller plague models went together without fuss. The plastic is a little strange, reminding me of some of the higher-end eastern-european manufacturers at the beginning of the 21st century. It's harder than GW plastic, but not completely brittle. Now one of my plague models had broken off at the ankle (something I don't feel would have happened if there had been some bubble-wrap around the figure bags), so I glued both sides and joined, supported with play-doh and find it not fixed. I tried again, left it for a few hours, and it was joined but broke very shortly thereafter.

Coming to the larger plague models, the plastic seemed similarly resistant to the machinations of my plastic cement. It was working to a degree, but only a very small amount - enough to fix the deep-jointed small models, but not enough to support the heavier, less positively jointed stage 2 or 1 models. So a quick web search on Mantic's figures revealed to me that the figures are actually not plastic, but restic, a plastic resin sort of hybrid. Now things become clear...this is not an injected moulded product at all. Superglue is recommended for use on restic

Apparently this sort of hybrid plastic material is quite common in kickstarter products, but I was quite unaware of this. As there are absolutely no instructions on assembling the models or what products to use, I proceeded using my experience of "plastic" - as the models were referred to on the box.

Still, armed with this information I managed to assemble the Plague models without too much further difficulty, the restic working well with the superglue. Here they are...

Next, onto the Enforcers. Bizarrely, there are a mix of exclusive joints and free-joining pieces in the Enforcers, and the legs in most cases are separate from the bodies. This might seem like a good thing, but I found it a royal pain in the ass! Again, without any reference instructions to guide you, you're left to guesswork and looking at the photos on the box. This made it difficult to assemble the models, and in one case I ended up having to perform some alterative surgery as there was no way it was going to fit the way it was cast (the heavy burst laser guy to the left of the commander in the picture - note he doesn't yet have his left arm!).

There are also some unsightly seam lines that aren't that easy to clean up - like on the cloak of the Enforcer leader, and the nature of the plastic does make cleaning up in most cases more difficult than on other models I've assembled in the past.

So funnily enough the thing that lets the set down slightly are the things that most people will look to first. However, when taken as a whole, the 2-player boxed set is tremendous value. I picked this up for £45, and if you guestimate paying £10 for the mat, £10 for the rules, £10 for the cards and tokens, £10 for the scenery that would leave £5 for the models. I think you'd struggle to pay as low as that for any of the elements of the game as I've just quoted, so it's a lot of game for the money - I'd struggle not to recommend picking up a set for this price to anyone just for what you get. Once we see how it plays, I'll get back to you then on whether the recommendation holds!