[Actual Build Review] Troll Trader (TTCombat) Desert of the Dead Kickstarter

What with one thing and another, these models took their sweet time arriving. As a late backer I expected to be at the end of the queue anyway, but there’s an unhappy middle ground between “GIEF THINGS NOW” and “dang, forgot I backed that” in which the ole buyer’s remorse sets in and I start looking up how to chargeback. Big love to Troll Trader as a company though, they’ve been swift and honest in their communications and while my expectations were not perfectly managed, I am perhaps more neurotic than the average customer and this must be borne in mind.

After two half days on the assembly line the bulk of my stuff is ready to show off and talk about. The Chariots aren’t done yet as I shall need to paint them before full assembly, lots of reaching past painted bits will ensue if I don’t.

Usual rigmarole: product starts off with a 5/5 and I knock off a point for everything that disgruntles me. I’ll say up front that I don’t like resin kits as a rule, and some of these make me see what all the fuss was about over Finecast. Nothing is getting points docked just for being made of this stuff but when the material has let down the sculpt you will be hearing about it.

Character models: two Kings, two Liches (one off the limited edition Chariot, which I promptly split up into more game-ready dispositions). These are more than adequate; the staves are a little bendy and the pieces dance in my clumsy fingers, and a few feet and fingers snapped during the shipping and prep. I’m not sure if that’s the brittleness of the material or flaws in the casts; nothing insurmountable, in any case. 4/5.

Carrion: these were clearly designed for form over function. The poses are nice, the detail pretty crisp, but they are attached to their bases by tiny and often singular ankle joints. Two of them have wings that will come off the moment they’re put in a case. 3/5 for being a ballache. They look good though.

Scorpions: I rate these, they’re cute as buttons and easy to assemble. I could whinge about the overhang on the bases (how is this supposed to stand in base to base contact, mm?) but GW did worse so it really would be petty of me. 5/5, they’re neat.

Catapult: Head on it looks fine, but turn it sideways and… oof. The framework and arm are cast in some sort of rubber that can’t support its own weight and sags distressingly even when it’s sat in my display case. Unfit for purpose. Such a shame as it’s otherwise a really nice sculpt; the base block and crew are lovely. I’ve emailed TrollTrader about this as I’m not convinced it isn’t a dud cast that got rushed out in the hurry to finish shipping. Nothing else in the pack was floppy! 0/5, pending a response.

UPDATE: well, TrollTrader got their asses in gear and sent out replacement parts, so that’s brownie points for them! 5/5 for the Catapult, you don’t have to base it so I’m not taking points off for it being too big for the chariot base.

Casket: a nice conceit but honestly a bit silly, with the Keeper perched in top like that, and did not warrant the huge base it came with. I’ve rebased mine and will be parking a Priest in front of it on the table. Goes together very well though and I like what they’re trying to do with a difficult concept, it just looks a bit weedy for a 0-1 army-wrecking Rare choice. 3/5.

Giant: 5/5. Good sculpt, sensibly cut, fits together very tidily and has some great presence on the table. I’m looking forward to painting this, and I don’t say that very often.

All of this, plus other deliveries and a crisis at work, has meant the next instalment of The Maven & The Witch is postponed for another week – but it is coming! In the last month I have done 600 points of Wood Elves, plenty for a Woodland Attack; the Maven will thus be bringing some archers along to see how they perform on a deeper table. Her adversaries will be drawn from the Vampire Counts list, as I don’t think these Tomb Kings will be traded out. I like them too much.

[WFB] From Little Acorns

I missed out on Warhammer Warbands at the time. Third year of uni was a time and a half, lots of not sleeping for a week and then working on two dissertations side by side like a nutter, and what gaming time I had was increasingly devoted to Warmachine and Hordes and the original d20-based Iron Kingdoms RPG. By the time I was playing again, in Manchester, the blip had either been and gone or never happened in amongst the standard-issue 2000 point tourney practice pitched battle Borehammer of early seventh edition.

Which is a shame, because I love a good slow-grow way into a new army. I don’t think I’d have ridden the wave with my Vampires if I hadn’t come in with a Mordheim warband, and then Border Patrol, and instead been confronted with the hump of 1000 points just to get off the ground.

Hence this: my attempt at putting together one sprue each of my new models and getting a playable force for my trouble. The Small Warband is pretty restrictive but even within those restrictions, the sprues go so far and no further and I’ve had to take Champions to make up the numbers for now. (I’d have been very happy to take an Annoyance of Netlings instead, but I’m choosing to believe that counts as a magic item and is bad form for Warbands.)

The Maven of Deadwood
Branchwraith - 65

Black-Briar Kindred
5 Glade Guard - 60
Champion - 10

Helyg Coven
4 Dryads - 48
Champion - 12

Enough LISTS, I hear you cry. Enough THEORYHAMMER. Show us the PRAXISHAMMER. Show us the MODELS!

I know there are still mould lines on the archers; I just wanted to do a blog post before work, m’kay?

Now they’re stood next to the Citadel Dryads, those Oathmark plastic elves look even smaller and softer than they did on the sprue. I also need to have a little whinge about that bloke in the middle who’s just standing there demurely with his feet together like a schoolboy waiting for a first class bollocking. Every third party figure kit I buy seems to have a pose like this. I don’t know why manufacturers produce these nonentities: I suppose they’re meant to be leaders and standard bearers, but they’re just a weird looking waste of sprue if you’re not taking those options.

I really don’t like Champions in archer units – that extra point of Ballistic Skill makes the rolling untidy and I’d rather have an extra body in a unit somewhere – and they have more chance of teaching a Cold One calculus than they do of getting a flag and throwing Victory Points up the chutney, but I might try and make some little horns for them and put musicians in there. Those would actually be useful. I still don’t regret going Oathmark though – you get what you pay for and these were dirt cheap back line troops. They fit together nicely enough, they have the same sort of pretend-posability as the old Warhammer Regiments figures from the Nineties, they do the job: but they are definitely up for replacement if I score some second-hand Citadel figures or find a better kit somewhere else.

The Maven is a fine figure, bit fussy to put together but I like her now she’s done. I left off the weird snake-grub-worm-thing she comes with because frankly it makes me feel sullied and unusual. I also left off the twiggy back bits from most of the Dryads as they’re already quite tall and busy enough, although I did give the Champion some extra shrubbery so I can find her in the unit. Next job is to paint them, which will probably happen next “weekend”.

I might even do something uncharacteristic, once I have the trees built and painted up too. I might set up a little battlefield in the living room and try a little solo game. Always feels a bit weird, but then – I play computer games single player, all the time, and I play Scythe, which has a single player variant even if setting it up is such a faff that I invariably end up playing computer games instead. I bet I could knock together something like the old Kill Team with adversaries that drift randomly, charge if they can and so on, and I know exactly what I’ll use for them. Ghouls vs. Trees in the crypts of Crug Hywel. Bangin’ stuff. I’ll need to finish the mausoleum terrain but I’ve been stalling on doing that for ages anyway.

My scenery has been in that exact “drybrushed basecoat” stage since the summer of 2019, when this photo was taken. In my defence, I was very, very depressed.

[Hobby] Mantic Empire Of Dust: Actual Build Review

My previous contact with Mantic miniatures has been limited and sweary. After putting together a bunch of their early Ghouls (which, honestly, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about to begin with) and having a miserable time of it, I wrote them off as pound shop Citadel and sacked off a whole edition of WFB rather than have to deal with them again.

Having put together an Empire of Dust army box, two sets of Enslaved Guardians, and the Revenant Champion (in “waving a flag about” configuration), I have… not exactly and completely made my peace with Mantic, but I’ve found them no worse than others in a lot of ways.

I’ll work my way through the contents in order of assembly and have a good gripe about the bits that weren’t good. I’m a French-dictation kind of reviewer: everything starts off a 5/5 and for everything that pisses me off I deduct a point.

Skeleton Archers: These were quite fun to do once I’d worked out that specific plastic legs off the sprue needed to go with specific metal bodies (some have a locating lug for the upper body and a slightly chunker back than the skinny ones that slot right into the upper body, no lug required). While I was slightly worried about some of the lunging sideways shooting legs they look neat now they’re done. 4/5.

Skeleton Warriors: Oh no, metal accessories on plastic bodies! These always used to annoy me back in the day and I had to take a little salt break after putting the standard bearer together (still not sure he’s gonna stand up on his own, and I’m starting to think I should have used a metal body).

It took me a while to realise I was slightly short of heads (only eighteen, which means picking some fun options from the plastic sprue) and, as with the Archers, some of the bodies are fussy about which legs they fit onto. These felt like rougher casts too, as I had to shave off some metal and plastic to get them to go together; perhaps putting all the Skeleton legs on bases and then testing all the bodies for fit in turn might have been a better way to go about this, or perhaps Mantic could have stretched a point and put in some instructions?

I do like that their hands are open, and allow for the choice of spear or sword, and I also like the plethora of spears and swords on the sprue, which suits me a lot more than the grab-bag of assorted ‘hand weapons’ GW’s original Skeleton Warriors ended up with. I like my Grave Monarchs to look a bit more orderly and have matching weapons, that’s all. I’m slightly less keen on the historical-style open hands into which the swords have to slot. The plastic ones were OK, but some of the metal ones were a bit tight or crooked, and the arms are so spindly that trying to bend the fingers open exerts too much pressure on the lower arm. I cheated on a few of them and chopped the hilts off the swords, aligning them with the top of the hands. I’ll go back and fill those gaps later on, or eventually. 3/5.

Balefire Catapult: This is where the lack of instructions made me gnash my teeth a couple of times. It wasn’t hard to work out how it should fit together, based on the box image, but the angle of photography on the box images isn’t very clear as an assembly guide. Also, some of the parts on the plastic sprue are a bit… nondescript, and I was very glad that one of my crew could just have a metal body stuck on his legs and call it a day. Also, for a small model it doesn’t half have a lot of bits that overhang bases; I’ve bunged it on a Mantic unit filler that’s about 40mm by 60mm and it’s still poking off in a couple of places. At least they did ship it with a base though, and it was infinitely easier to assemble than the original metal Skull Chucker (at least all the pieces had lugs and sockets), so it’s not too bad. 4/5. 

Pharoah: He was fine. Took me a minute to sit his arms naturally but I’m used to that. My only complaint was not having a proper solid base for him – I fixed it by gluing a flat one from my stash over the socket, but I could easily have filled it with some jank off the Skeleton sprue instead. 4/5.

Cursed High Priest: Take a good look at that whisper-thin white metal staff which has no points of contact with the rest of the miniature and ask yourself how long that’ll last in a figure case. Also, the head doesn’t fit at all snugly on the body; I’m still not sure if it’s cast properly or if I should have cut something off or what. 3/5.

Revenant Champion: It’s 2018. I thought we, as a hobby, were past bullshit like this spindly little shite with his separate arms, hands on flagpole and body. That’s four points of contact, on a metal model so requiring superglue, and all of them have to be aligned perfectly for the pose to look right. One of the worst cases of Privateer Elbow I’ve ever seen, managing to come off with it in both arms. Some liquid green stuff in the one joint I couldn’t quite be arsed with and he’ll look fine, but I’m not happy about this one. I get that they wanted to make a multi part kit but I’d have thrown that idea out and gone for a nice solid two piece job – body and banner. 2/5. 

Enslaved Soldiers: Small gripe: I know Mantic probably uses generic packaging for all its regiments, and the boxes have to be big enough to fit plastic sprues, but every time someone ships me a huge cardboard box full of inflatable fillers and a tiny bag of metal bits at the bottom, I roll my eyes.

Wooden bases? OK, I can live with that, although it does low-key annoy me that not everyone’s at the same basic height. They have tiny feet which don’t sit flush with the sheer, toothless surface of the base, so I had to assemble them upside down and let gravity do a lot of the work for me.

They also have a mild case of Privateer Elbow, but at least it’s only one arm that has to line up with a hand and a shoulder, and at least the shoulders are nice chunky ball and socket jobs with some flexibility to them. Once again, I think I’ve been spoiled by GW plastic sprues where there’d be clearly labelled pairs of limbs that went together; I had to do a bit too much guessing and squinting at lugs, and coupled with their unstable relationship with bases, Teddy ended up leaving the pram a couple of times.

They look weirdly small on their bases – I think because they’re compact and sit fully within the 40mm rather than being all lanky and overhangy like the GW Ushabti. It’s a better design, but it looks slightly off and I’ll have to busy up those bases with something later on. 2/5 for assembly but 4/5 when they’re done, because they do look boss.

Overall: A resoundingly average hobby experience. I want to mess around with these kits some more and see if I can’t kitbash some Skeleton Horsemen, but it’ll depend on what the joints are like on Mantic cavalry kits (whether they have the same peg and lug arrangement as the infantry, and whether or not the heads are separate). I’d really like it if I could order more Guardian bodies and put the spare arms to use.

I’m not sure how well they’ll fare when they’re put in a case – there’s a lot of brittle joins in here – but at least an effort’s been made to keep poses within their base area for the most part, and they annoyed me much less than the Ghouls did, so either Mantic have improved their casting/cutting or I’ve mellowed over the last six years. Either way. 3/5.