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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Return of the Overseers Unboxing

Hot off the press - here it is!

Oh Yes, the Return of the Overseers is here! Huzzah! As you can see, the box is exactly as would be expected from Spartan, a lovely full-colour card sleeve wrap around a sturdy corrugated card box to protect all the resin you've probably all already seen, this one has some great artwork of the battle above Proteus Prime on the front, and a shot of those gorgeous studio models and contents on the back. So, without further ado, let's open up the box;

Yes, it is suitable stuffed with resin, as we also expect from Spartan these days - you can certainly see where your money is going with these sets.

On the left we've a lock-bag with rulebook, scenario book, token sheets, TACs and the acrylic for the "Dimensional Gate". Then we have the models, and on the lower right another smaller lock-bag with the SRS tokens, small pieces and micro dice (I haven't bothered with the bag with the bases in - no one get's excited about acrylic bases!). Now let's get that resin (all protected in the usual bubble-wrapped bags that have become standard) out and on the table.

OK, that's a lot of resin! Those of you familiar with the Aquans and Directorate will be able to judge sizes from the frigates in the centre here. Let's just say the Oannes and Anarchist are HUGE! What's also surprisingly large are the parts for the Dimensional Gate.

The two other new things for us are the scenario book and the soft-backed "man bag" sized rulebook. I must say this is a very welcome addition, and complements the full-size hardback extremely well. Lugging the hardback around to games is a bit of a chore, so this is great (but I wouldn't want to part with my hardback either).

Now, back to the models, and as I'm a Fenian man, I'm going to start with the loveliness that is the Anarchist class battleship:

Now that's a sexy piece of resin. instantly recognisable as a Directorate ship, but also noticeably different - it looks more advanced, and the large circular depression on top is covered in detail for the cyberwarfare focussing array to cover. What really surprised me is...

It's RESIN! In fact, EVERYTHING in this set is resin, there's not a spot of pewter to be found. I was quite dumbfounded, I'd expected this piece to be metal.

Looks good when its in place too. Cyberwarfare turret...oh yes, come to me my little fishes....

Underneath the Anarchist has the distinctive Directorate turrets, laid out in distinct broadsides. The front underside armour makes her look sleek and deadly, and the fore fixed weapons of the Eliminator are replaced by vertical wing bays...she's a truly multi-purpose ship.

Moving onto the mediums, these are very clever models, utilising common side pieces around a dedicated central section for the Annihilation gunship and Turmoil R&D Cruiser. Each of these has positive and negative locking areas for a positive fit (although there is a little play here, so be careful when you're making them or you might get a model that looks a little "off").

Anyway, the pieces are very well cast and carry some eye-waveringly precise and subtle detailing as can be seen (especially if you've good eyes!).

Next up is the Turmoil R&D cruiser, one of my personal favourites of this set. Here is the central core of the Compressor Beam weapon that the Directorate black project works have been working so hard on:

Again you can see the negative depressions for the positive key sections on the side parts to go into. As the core here is triangular, they give the Turmoil a very distinctive v-shaped profile despite using the same side parts - as I said, very clever.

Here's the underside of the section, showing the area for the underslung gunrack:

And here is the detail on the emitter end of the Compressor Beam - stunning detail level, which is really going to benefit from good painting:

The set uses the existing frigates, which are probably my favourite frigate design, but as they're not new I'm not going to spend any time on them here (lovely though they are). Same goes for the Aquans, so I'll move straight to the new Heavy Carrier, the Oannes:

The Oannes is HUGE - or at least that's the impression she gives. Actually, she weighs 67g to the Anarchists 86g, so she is substantially smaller in displacement, but she doesn't seem that way! In fact, she's scalloped underneath, so she doesn't have that clamshell bulk of the Directorate.

Hopefully this picture shows that - in fact the ship gives a lovely effect of being swift and elegant despite her seemingly huge size. Here's a straight down shot of her underside:

So she's more like a Turbot than a Tuna! Once again though, Spartan have excelled themselves in making this ship, with amazing detail and undercuts I just wouldn't have thought possible in a two-part mould. Here's the front of the ship and that iris-hanger opening (plus a rather fearsome array of forward-facing laser blisters):

The Aquans don't just get this new monster carrier, however, but a gunship and heavy cruiser too. Both of these utilise the existing hull of the standard Isonade and Namazu cruisers, but with different add-ons. First is the Shiva gunship:

This starts with a funny little resin "beak", onto which you add two panel sections:

These look complex but actually I think they're going to be quite easy to put together. We shall see! Next up is the Sulis, the Heavy Cruiser which gives a very similar ability to Armada Aquans as their crystal formations do in Planetfall:

The Sulis add-on is really a huge cruiser body onto which the normal hull is an add-on, rather than vice-versa! Again, it's an incredible piece of casting - how Spartan consistently turn out models like this from their moulds is beyond me! Here's another shot showing the part that the hull attaches to (and a whole load of undercuts etc that confound my mind in terms of mould-casting!):

Now with the two factions dealt with, we can move onto the Overseer models. The first is the anathema Probe, a simple three-part model with features a central core and two "wing" add-ons. The detail on the little central component, however, is unreal:

It's lovely! The two "wing" add-ons then attach to the central rim bit.

Next up is the Dimensional Gate, which turns out to be enormous! It consists of five pieces -a central core:

Two side stabilisers:

...and two long pieces:

As you can see here, these again have fabulous detail on them, allowing those of us with even basic dry brushing skills to make them look great. There's another great thing about these though - all have been made so they sit on the table unaided;

See that little ring of dots? They act as a base for the central section without taking away from the form of the piece. Likewise the other sections both have "feet";

These are incorporated seamlessly into the designs, and make them sit solidly on the table:

This means the whole gate can be constructed and assembled on the table without the need to glue it together - making it easy to store and transport - that's in stark contrast to the Battle for Valhalla set with the fragile legs of the Valhalla Station. The station looked great, but it was a nightmare to move without the possibility of breaking one or more legs. The Dimensional Gate is entirely different:

It's a really nice thing to see that Spartan have created a (very large!) scenario piece that looks great and is also very practical - well done chaps!

Ok, excitement over the resin done, next I had a look at the new size rulebook, which is exactly the same as the hardback, but smaller and more convenient for club gaming, and also has some really nice maps of the Firestorm Galaxy and Storm Zone in the back, something we've not seen for quite some time. 

Next it's the Scenario book, which features that lovely artwork:

Inside you get contents, a nice piece of fluff to tie into and build on that in the Planetfall Battle for Proteus Prime book, and then 7 missions which demonstrate the rules of Firestorm incrementally for new players. This starts with a simple frigate duel in Scenario 1;

To a full-on boxed set slugfest in Scenarios 6 & 7 (where the overseers also make an appearance);

This is very much in the same vein as the Battle for Valhalla booklet, and I still think its an ideal way to bring players into any new game. Of course existing players don't have to do this, but I'll think they'll find them fun anyway, especially the later missions. After the missions, there's an Epilogue, and then you're into the stats for the different models, starting with the extremely powerful Overseers ("Masters of the Dimensions", as they're quoted as being!).

After this you have stats for the new Directorate and Aquan ships, including descriptions of the new MARs (with an example for the new "Energy Locus" of the Aquans), and then standard descriptions of the other Mars used by ships in the book so you don't have to reference the rulebook if you're in a hurry.

So, there you have it - The Return of the Overseers in all its glory - it's a hell of a starter set, and I think anyone thinking of or who has already taken the plunge and ordered it will not be disappointed. It feels like an extremely well-polished and professionally produced product, the models are stupendous (and well worth the retail price alone), the man-bag size rulebook is really handy, and the scenario book adds depth to the storyline as well as introducing new players into the Firestorm game in an easy and logical fashion.

I know I'm horribly biased in this, but it's a really excellent product, and I can't recommend it highly enough..

Return of the Overseers - 10/10!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Directorate 2.0

Sitting in my "to do" pile for quite some time has been a new Directorate patrol fleet, a pair of battlecruisers, carrier and my battle station. Add to that a couple of Executioner cruisers and that's a fair haul of ships. The reasons they've sat for so long are several, but included the need for my airbrush to have a deep clean and the fact that I was trying out a new came scheme for them using commercially available masks. This meant at least a three-stage spraying session, and two of them I'd already completed, I just needed that final one....

That background dealt with, I finally managed to get my airbrush cleaned a couple of weeks ago, and then get some time to spray them (as well as my recently purloined Dindrenzi planetfall Core Helix - more on that in another post in the future).

Now the Executioner cruisers I wanted to have in my old v1 splinter "dazzle" style, but I used the masks and the new colour scheme, so these are really v1.5 (I sense a Firestorm analogy here!). Now bear in mind these are the just after mask removal - no wash, shading, detail etc - just the basic starting point.

The masks aren't bad - where they work well they work very well, over large dips etc not so much, but I'm not concerned as these will be painted black in detailing anyway, so "blurring" over these areas doesn't matter. Overall they've come out pretty well, and should be a good "transition" stage into the new ships.

So, onto the new Patrol fleet...let's start with the battleship, a great sculpt:

Again, the masks work really well where the surface is smooth - so well in fact that it's difficult to spot them for removal in many cases - I found 5 that I'd failed to spot after taking this photo! The only issue there is that you can damage the finish trying to get them off. Anyway, next up are the cruisers:

The heavy in the middle is magnetised, and it was sprayed as individual sections. Finally in the patrol fleet are the Frigates:

I think these possibly came out best of all (or it may just be I really like the models!). Patrol fleet done, next up are the battlecruisers.

I've yet to take these bruisers out for a proper spin, but they look evil (in a good way!). We then have the carrier:

Still two separate halves, this caused the most trouble with its unusual shape and segmentation, plus generally uneven surfaces. Some of the masks came off mid-spraying, so the effect is not all I wanted on this ship. Still, I think it'll probably improve more than the other ships in detail painting for exactly those same reasons.

Last but by no means least is the Directorate battle station - possibly my favourite of all the stations (in fact, definitely so). Looking like an evil Federation Starbase, this thing is going to be great when it's finished!

That's just a quick update for now, I better get on and finish them!

UPDATE: After being asked what masks I used and how I did this, thought I should probably include these details!

So, the product I used was Anarchy Models' HD Stencils 20 "Mini Hexocam" as well as one of the other products for the splinter. They are very easy to use, basically you just prime your model (after appropriate cleanup), then spray in your first colour (as I use the grey primer as my base, I skipped the first spray step). The you apply the masks as you see fit - this takes more time with the hexocam as you really need to think ahead in terms of spacing, otherwise you'll end up with mis-matches or half hexes. You then spray your next colour, and mask again - the thing to remember is the colour you just sprayed is ONLY going to show up on areas you mask after spraying it.

The other point to not is really make sure your models are well washed of release agent, primed well and you leave each coat to harden after spraying, otherwise you'll pull areas of the paint up when you remove the masks (a couple of mine have small areas where this has happened, but that may be because I left mine on so long - another thing you should avoid if at all possible!).

A nice extra with the masks is that you're also supplied with some negative masks to touch up or add more detail - so for instance on the carrier where I had some masks come off and I'm left with areas of dark grey I might not want, I can use these to add some lighter hexes over the top. Just remember to mask the areas you DON'T want spraying too!

Hope that covers it - anything else, just ask!