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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Nolzur's Marvellous Miniatures - Part 1

When I saw that there were some "official" D&D minis coming out, I was fairly uninterested. Then I took a look at some renders and they looked quite nice, pre-primed minis and they were doing monsters as well as PCs. They were also touted as pre-primed with Vallejo, enabling you to just get right into painting them...Then the product started hitting the market in the US for a very reasonable price, and this started to look like something worth taking a look at further...when they hit UK shores, they did so at £3.99 RRP for an average of two minis -which is pretty insane I decided to pick some up. Online I found them for £3.59 from Magic Madhouse, and being a DM I ordered a bunch of they are;

So let's take a look in greater detail. I broke open the giant spider blister, which contains 3 minis, 2 scenic base add-ons or tokens, and 3 bases. The bases are a little thin, so I'll probably not use them and use my standard size 3D printed ones instead for consistency. Anyway, here they are...

These are very realistic - painted up and they could easily be mistaken for real spiders if put in the bath etc.

There's a little light flashing on the body and some of the legs where the moulds must meet, but overall the detail is excellent and cleanup will be minimal -they're certainly a quantum leap up form a lot of giant spider minis available, and their price-point means you could field a real hoard of these against a party. Detail continues to the underside of the mini too, which is really nice to see...dead spider, anyone?

The included base tokens are also a very nice addition to this set, I especially like the cocooned humanoids - this is a greta little piece!

Three giant spiders and two little scenery add-ons for this price is insanely good value - I expect to see a lot more campaigns featuring spiders now!

Next up are gargoyles - something that's hard to 3D print well and although I have a Reaper figure, it is rather big. Now the gargoyles did surprise me with how small they are, but they're beautiful little minis and will be a doddle to paint (mainly being grey, wash, drybrush) like stone. I bought 2 sets because I like gargoyles - my party has fought quite a few in Tyranny of Dragons, to the point they now trust no statues!

Next up are much larger figures - Bugbears!

These guys are really nice, and pretty big - and again the same price. Here they are individually to show off their detail;

Once again, they are very close to the artwork in the MM, and very evocative of everything a bugbear should be. The next monsters are very similar in both size and accuracy of their depication - another classic D&D monster - Gnolls!

The hyaena-faced Gnolls are really good - I hope they do some more sculpts for variety as I'd like to get a big bunch of these.

The last mini is another spider, but this time it's just a single mini, but it's big - a phase spider;

Coming on a scenic base this time, the phase spider is fabulous - just like the MM rendition and different enough from a standard giant spider, both in size and looks to be distinctive. That said, there would be nothing to stop you fielding this as another type of spider - different paint jobs would probably do it no problem.

Overall I'm very impressed with this new range of minis, they're detailed and evocative, well posed and nicely produced and packaged. The price point for this type of quality and the official stamp makes them a steal, and I've already pre-ordered a bunch more, including displacer beasts! Bring them on!

So what are you waiting for? Get buying and painting!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Runewars Painting 2 - Infantry Priming

Now I posted a little while ago about painting the two main creatures out of the Runewars 2-player boxed set - the Rune Golem and the Carrion Lancer. Now painting centerpiece models is one thing -what about the rank and file infantry?

The term "zenithal shading", or highlighting, or pre-shading (with zenithal in front of any of those) is a term that's used a lot at the moment, but it's not a new technique. Essentially this is a way of adding depth and definition to a mini before you start painting, and it can be a great way of either speeding up your painting or helping you along the way. I won't go into exhaustive detail here (there are plenty of tutorials and explanations on the 'net), but essentially all this does is prime your models so that undersurfaces are dark, and highlights light, as here:

This group of reanimates looks nice and bright, but that's because we're looking at them from slightly above - if we look at one from slightly underneath...

Here you can see the shade on the undersides, which presumes a light source coming from somewhere above the model. Here are the spearmen treated in the same way:

That's fine, but spray doesn't act completely like light, and I also like to wash the minis to provide a really strong contrast before painting, like so;

I think you can see both the gradation in shading, plus the high contrast provided by the wash - this makes it much easier (in my opinion) to paint the mini as we go along, and get a feel for how the highlights and shading will work later.

Let's show this on a larger model - the horsemen. Firstly, let's have a look at the zenithal pre-shading using just the primer:

Then let's see one washed as well:

Now some people don't see the point in this, as you're going to be painting over this anyway. For me, the trick going forward is using thin coats, which allows this effect to show through, and then this guides the application of highlights, which makes the process more simple and gives you more time to think about the wet-blending on the model rather than where to put your paint. Next I'll be putting paint down on these minis to get them ready for the tabletop....until then...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Dark Souls The Board Game - Unboxing

Yesterday I heard that people were receiving their Dark Souls TBG Kickstarter pledges, and wondered what had happened to mine. Checking out the Backerkit link and getting the tracking number, I went to Parcel Force's website to see they had apparently tried to deliver it on the 5th May, and had "informed the resident" that the parcel was held in the default PO Hub. Slightly frustrated by the fact I had received no such notification, and even more so because I am generally in my home office all day on a Friday on team calls...and my office is right next to the front door.

Anyway, I set off trying to find my parcel, to eventually track it down to my local Post Office, which is in the local shop about 100 feet away! So for 10 days the game had sat patiently a short distance away, with me unaware of its existence...a sorry state of affairs indeed! Nevertheless, I now had it in my possession, and went on to examine its contents....

The game itself is in a substantial, shrink-wrapped package which is pretty deep, and feels like a good quality, solid box. On opening this, you are greeted with...

This is pretty funny, and a really nice tie-in with the video game. Going beyond that, you start to see the contents underneath....

I'm pretty certain mine is a UK edition? Time to get this to the dining room table and have a closer look....

The main components of the game here are the cards (all contained in a plastic tray in a plastic bag, which stops them finding their way to all corners of the box - a nice logistic touch), two boxes of minis and dice, the thick card boards and components, and the rulebook.

First in the thick card pieces are the boards for the characters, complete with their specific token sets.

Next are the enemy health dials and more general token components.

The final items in this set are the thick cardboard game tiles, which are all double-sided (as are the tokens). All of these items are sturdy, with high-quality printed graphics - it doesn't feel like Steamforged have scrimped on production here at all.

The first set of minis is a stacked vacuum-formed plastic insert, also containing two bags of custom-made dice. Removing these and separating the mini trays, we can see the majority of the figures in the set:

These comprise the heroes (in brown - a nice touch to differentiate them from enemies for those who don't want to paint the minis), the "hollows" (the basic baddies), some larger figures and one of the bosses. Speaking of bosses....

The other box contains the six large boss figures, plus the dial assembly hubs and the markers for tracking health, character progression etc. The figures are protected by a clamshell vacuum-formed plastic outer inside the box, so you really feel Steamforged are serious about these figures. Taking the top plastic cover off, we can have a better look.

OK, so let's take a closer examination of the figures then, before we get too excited by these large plastic lumps! Going back to the heroes, here is the Herald:

You can see this is a nicely made mini, especially for a game component, though it's not quite as crisp as a miniature gaming figure - limitations of the material and casting process most likely (as the shield is very thick - yet the spear is appropriately thin). Anyway, here is the Assassin:

This is a pretty impressive mini, especially considering the medium - the sword is pretty good for this sort of PVC! I also really like the sense of movement in the hero figures, they're very cinematically posed. Next up is the Warrior:

The Warrior is probably my least favourite figure from the heroes, but that doesn't mean he's bad by any stretch of the imagination. His chain shirt I really like, it seems to have a sense of weight about it.

The final hero is the Knight, which I love - it's such a great pose!

Now, onto baddies! Here are the standard Hollows:

Plus the large Hollow;

Silver Knights (with swords and Greatbows firing javelin-sized bolts!);

And then these dudes...which are HUGE! They remind me of Alice through the Looking Glass and the playing-card soldiers:

Now most of my figures were well cast with little, if any, "droop" - the polearms above being excellent examples. Sadly, not all my figures were immune...

We'll have to see if this scimitar-like sword can be coaxed back into straightness or not with a hot water/cold water cycle, but it's not a huge deal.

Next up we have the bosses, starting with the chap who stays with the minions in this first box - Dragonslayer Ornstein:

Then we go through the big guys...this is the Winged Knight

The Gargoyle:

The Boreal Outrider Knight

Executioner Smough - also know as "The big hammer dude"!

The Dancer of the Boreal Valley

and my personal favourite, the Titanite Demon

So first impressions are good - very good. The components are nicely finished and have an air of quality about them, everything is carefully put together and the miniatures are extremely high quality for a board game, and good for a minis game. Looking forward to playing properly after our demo game at Salute, and also to getting some paint on those big beauties!