Sunday, September 3, 2017

Painting figures for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars Imperial Assault

(from left: BT-1, Hera and Chopper)
Recently, I was asked by a friend to paint some figures for the Star Wars Imperial Assault game by Fantasy Flight. He saw some of the figures I had painted for myself, and he liked them.

I agreed, and I finished them yesterday. So here they are, my first commissioned figures ever. Hopefully there will be more to come because (a) I enjoy the work, and (b) I can always use a little extra money.

The figures he asked to paint are all individual characters, two droids and a Twilek pilot. If you're at all familiar with the Star Wars Rebels animated series, you'll recognize Hera and C1-10P (Chopper).

My friend provided me with picture references of how he wanted them painted. BT-1 and Chopper were pretty straightforward, just like they appear in the comics and animated series. For Hera, he wanted something a bit different. He wanted her flight suit to be in more muted tones, and her skin to be a pale blue with subtle green markings.

BT-1

BT-1 and his reference photo






C1-10P (Chopper)

Chopper and reference photo



Hera Syndulla

Hera and reference photo



Overall, I am very pleased with how they came out (and I hope my friend is as well). These figures are intended for gaming, not for display. They look better in real life than they do in the photos, as extreme close ups bring out every flaw and brushstroke.

I'll share some more pictures of my work in future posts, hopefully some more paid figures. :)

'Til next time!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lego 70607 - Ninjago City Chase - Review

Lego set 70607 - Ninjago City Chase

For this post, I thought I'd do something a little different... a review of a Lego set. If people like it, I'll do more.

The Lego Ninjago Movie doesn't come out until September, but the affiliated Lego sets have just hit the streets. I've seen the trailer for the movie, and it looks like it will be the usual fun Lego romp with lots of laughs along the way to learning a lesson about the importance of family. (If that doesn't sound familiar, it's because you haven't seen the Lego Batman Movie yet!)

I've never been a huge fan of the Lego Ninjago sets. My main interests have always been City sets and Trains. But recently a friend recommended the Temple of Airjitsu, and this combined with the upcoming massive Ninjago City set, have convinced me to add a Ninjago area to my layout.

Since I likely won't have mechs or airships battling over the neighborhood, I was looking for a set that could fit in with the Ninjago area while also being able to mesh with the overall city theme. I found what I was looking for in this set - Ninjago City Chase (70607). It's one of the smaller Ninjago sets out, and I picked it up locally for just under $19.

So, where to start with the review... Well, with the box and contents of course!

The front of the box for set 70607.

The front of the box shows a scene of mayhem on a city street as Officer Toque and Nya chase down a Shark Army Thug, while Lloyd Garmadon leaps from the top of the police tuc-tuc, and Ham laments the destruction to his fish and fruit stand! It also has an inset image detailing the five, yes five (!) minifigures that come with this set.

The back of the box for set 70607.

As usual, the back of the box shows more scenes you can recreate and different ways to play with this set.

So, the box looks great, but what's inside?

Instructions, two bags, and a sticker sheet.

Just like almost every other Lego set ever made, you get an instruction book. There's a set of stickers and two numbered bags. Bag 1 will build the police tuc-tuc, while Bag 2 contains the parts for the fish and fruit stand and lampposts.

Police tuc-tuc and (from left) Shark Army Thug, Officer Toque, and Lloyd.

In addition to the tuc-tuc, Bag 1 contains Lloyd Garmadon, Officer Toque, and a Shark Army Thug. I mention them here for the sake of completeness, but I'll review all the minifigures together later on in this post.

The tuc-tuc is a great little build. It's small, but has a lot of character, and will look great in the Ninjago neighborhood. I also think it will look at home anywhere on the layout, as it is a unique police vehicle that is very useful. From neighborhood patrols to parking ticket duty, you can expect to see this little guy all around town. It won't be my first choice for high-speed pursuits, but you can't have everything.

The tuc-tuc has room for a driver and one passenger or prisoner in the back. Additional officers can catch a ride by grabbing onto the bars on the side of the vehicle. There's a clip behind the driver to hold an extra set of handcuffs. The only stickers that go on the tuc-tuc are the badges on the front sides and the police signs on the top and rear. These are written in a font that gives them a lot of Asian flavor, while still being clearly legible as "Police."

2x2 tile with two studs.

Reverse curved 2x1 slope.


The tuc-tuc has a couple of parts that I believe are brand new with the release of this theme. There's a 2x2 tile with two studs in black, and a reverse curved 2x1 slope in light bluish gray. Both are fantastic additions to the Lego builder's arsenal.

Spare parts from Bag 1.

As usual, Lego provides spares of some of the smaller parts. Among the spares in bag 1, you get an extra pop-top for a soda can (which is a great piece to have extras of) and 1x1 "cheese" slopes in white, transparent blue, and transparent red. All are very useful parts that will quickly make their way into other builds.

Fish and fruit stand with Nya (left) and Ham.

Bag 2, as previously mentioned, contains the fish and fruit stand, a pair of lampposts with signs, and the Nya and Ham minifigures.

Ham's fish and fruit stand.

Ham's fish and fruit stand has a very Asian look. It uses three stickers: one for the fish sign, one for the fruit sign, and one for the name of Ham's business. From what I understand, the signs in Ninjago City are written in an imaginary alphabet, which looks Asian but is a 1-to-1 replacement for the English alphabet. Brickset.com has a great article on the language here.

The sign above Ham's stand says "Shop." The shop has two attached trays, one on each side, to hold a pair of fish or cherries. The stand also has a pair of red lights overhead.

Lampposts and signs.

The set includes a pair of lampposts, which are connected with a black string with climbing grips. The lamppost construction is very creative, and they look great, though they are quite tall. Each lamppost has a red light - which in this case is a transparent red minifigure head! Personally, I'd not seen that part in that color before, so I was pretty excited.

Each lamppost has a pair of signs, which is where the remaining four stickers are used. According to brickset.com, they read (from left): Newtown, Arlo, Hotel, Uptown.

Spare parts from Bag 2.

Again, Bag 2 has a nice selection of spares. Of note are the tan 1x1 slope, a cluster of cherries, a black lightsaber handle, and a pearl gold 1x1 tile with pin holder.

From left: Ham, Nya, Lloyd, Shark Army Thug, Officer Toque.

Rear view, from left: Ham, Nya, Lloyd Shark Army Thug, Officer Toque.

As promised, now I'll take a closer look at the minifigures. This set comes with five figures - which in my opinion is fantastic for a $20 set. Considering the collectible minifigures cost $4 each, this is a great value.

Ham comes with a tan conical Asian hat in a style not seen previously. Because of the style of the hat, he does not have a switch head, which is a bit of a pity as his only expression has him screaming in fear or anger.

Nya's figure is fantastic! She's got her hair up in a ponytail with a silver band, and is wearing a black jacket over a striped shirt. Her legs are her best feature - she has on a pair of ripped jeans! She does come with a switch head, so you can make her look happy or determined.

Lloyd is another great figure. He's got on a green hoodie and black pants. His switch head is less than exciting, as there is relatively small difference in the expressions on either side.

The Shark Army Thug does not have a switch head, so his only expression is a one-eyed scowl - which is quite appropriate for the villain in this set. His torso printing shows a web belt and pouches, and he's got on knee pads.

Last, but not least, we have Officer Toque. He's a cop with Asian features, and no switch head, under a police helmet. He's kind of generic in my opinion, but he's a welcome addition to my City police force.

I am sure Nya and Lloyd will provide torsos and pants to a great many minifigure conversions in cities and towns all over the world.  I'm thinking of picking up extras of the Shark Army Thug for my special operations troops.

Accessories.

Each minifig carries a unique accessory. The Shark Army Thug has a fish-hammer. Yes, apparently that is a thing. The cool part of this is the fish in a new color - light blue!

Officer Toque has handcuffs for securing the bad guys. Nya has a very cool light gray 1x2 tile with a phone printed on it, while Ham has a green 1x2 money tile. Lloyd is drinking a can of soda, with the previously mentioned 1x1 round tile with the pop top print.

Set 70607 assembled.

As I think you can tell from the tone of the review, I am very pleased with this set. It is worth the cost just for the figures, if nothing else. When you throw in the police tuc-tuc, the stand, lampposts and other parts, this set provides one of the best overall Lego values I've seen in quite some time. It also provides a great play experience, in my Adult Fan of Lego opinion, with a nice little scene and lots of options.

This is a set that I can see builders buying in multiples for the figure parts and accessories. I know one or two more will likely make their way into my collection, without a doubt.

So that's it, my first Lego set review. Tell me what you think in the comments below: good, bad or ugly. If there's enough positive response, you may see more posts like this in the future. Thanks for reading, and as always...

'Til next time!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Arena Rex - unboxing the Zephyri Starter Box (Review)

As I mentioned in a previous post, Arena Rex is rapidly becoming quite popular at the local gaming store.

I'm in the process of building an arena table for it, but in the meantime I picked up a starter box. Thos of you that know me and my passion for Vikings, will not be surprised that I chose the Zephyri. This faction comes from the fringes of the Empire, and is a blend of Norse and Native American aesthetics. Couple that with the fact that the Zephyri Starter Box comes with one of the best looking models (in my humble opinion) for the game, and for me the choice was easy.


Zephyri Starter Box

The models are all completely resin (with one exception that will be noted later) and as a consequence the package is extremely light. I must admit, I felt strange about paying $50 for a box that felt empty.

So, given that the box is certainly NOT empty, what does it contain?


Contents of the Zephyri Starter Box.

Inside the large bag are three models and various game aids and cards:
  • Frigge 
  • Bjarrhvit 
  • Sven 
  • Three 4x6 art cards 
  • Three game cards 
  • Three plastic Arena Rex bases and tokens 
  • Zephyri Benefits card 
  • Pit hazard card 
First the cards:

The card contents.

The three art cards are beautiful. Of course they're not used for the game itself, but they're really nice to have. Each figure also comes with a stat card for use in the game, which details its characteristics, damage output, special abilities, etc. There's another card with special rules detailing the benefits of running a Zephyri cohort (if at least 75% of your cohort comes from this faction, you get bonuses). Lastly, there's a square card with a pit hazard. I'm planning on modeling an arena with actual pits carved into the floor, so do not have a need for it, but it is a neat addition to the set and lets you place additional pits anywhere on the board.

Of course, the real stars of the set are the figures! So, what do they consist of?

The figures, bases and fatigue tokens.

Each figure comes individually bagged, and is accompanied by a plastic base and a plastic fatigue token. Including the tokens is a nice touch. The tokens are double sided (one side is used for a character that is fatigued and the other for an exhausted figure). The bases are, well, basic. This set comes with two 300 round bases for Sven and Frigge, and a 40mm round base for Bjarrhvit.

Since Sven is the most Viking-looking figure in the bunch, it's not a shock I chose to start with him. Plus, he comes with the fewest parts so I (rightly) thought he'd be the easiest to assemble.

Sven

He consists of the main body, a hand holding a sword and a hand with a spear (the spear hand is metal - the only metal piece in the set). As you can see in the photo above, the resin cast had a lot of tiny, feathery flash (this was present on all the casts). It does not impact the overall quality of the cast, but it is annoying to get rid of.

Sven, ready for gluing.

I am a bit particular about my figures, so I decided to pin Sven in place on the base. I also pinned his hands. For those that are not familiar with the process, pinning is a simple means of getting a stronger joint between parts.

First drill a small hole in the parts you want to glue together. It is important that the holes line up exactly. You put a drop of superglue in one hole, following by a small piece of wire. You clip it close, creating a small pin that fits into the hole on the other part, then you glue it in place as well. The figures had small resin pins, but they did not provide as strong as a join as I wanted, which is why I went ahead and pinned them for strength. (My figures tend to take a beating, literally as well as figuratively.)

Tools used to assemble the figures.

The photo above shows the tools I used in assembling Sven and the other figures. From bottom: clippers to remove the parts from the sprue; a pin vise with a small drill bit used for pinning; a small piece of wire to serve as the pin; a craft knife for removing flash; a toothbrush, which I found quite useful in removing the very small bits of flash.

And here he is: Sven in all his glory!


Sven (left) and a Gripping Beast figure.

I put Sven next to another figure to show the difference in scale. The figure on the right is a Gripping Beast model from their Pagan Rus boxed set for Saga. As you can see, Sven is clearly head and shoulders above the Rus figure. You can also appreciate the wonderfully intricate detail of the resin casting as well.

Next up - Frigge. I made another assumption (this one incorrect) that the most complicated model to assemble would be Bjarrhvit since she is the most impressive in the box. Frigge is a beautiful figure that consists of several small, fiddly parts that I found to be a nuisance to place properly.


Frigge

The casting has the same feathery flash, though there was less of it. I had to make use of the excellent photos on the Arena Rex website for reference, as I was not certain exactly where all the feathers and braids went. As I did with Sven, I pinned the hand holding the axe. Frigge's leg and left arm fit very nicely without pinning, so I just used superglue. There's feathers that go on the shield, which were easy to place. On her head she has a braid in the back that's a separate piece, as well as a small braid with feather and a larger group of feathers that go on the side of her head. With patience, super glue, and a little green stuff, I got the parts placed properly. Once the green stuff dries completely I will clean up the joints.


Frigge - this is a beautiful model!

That left the big boss, Bjarrhvit.


Bjarrhvit

Bjarrhvit consists of the main body, both arms, and the single most detailed piece in the set - her gorgeous braided polar bear cloak.

Likely because of the complexity of the cast for the cloak, this is the piece that had the most issues in the set I bought.

Tip of one braid broken off.

The very tip of the longest braid was broken, as you can see in the detail insert above. To me, this is not a big deal as the braid still flows elegantly and will look great. No one will even know the tip is missing.

Miscast tips of other braids.

The end of another braid was miscast, looking more like a spearpoint, and the braid that it connected to had quite a bit of flash right beside where it met the sprue. (Again, see insert photo above.) I cleaned these up, but the area where I removed this flash lacks detail. In the scheme of things, this is not a big deal, as there is so much going on with Bjarrhvit's cloak I doubt anyone will notice these small marred areas.


Completed Bjarrhvit.

Above you can see the completed Bjarrhvit. I did pin her right arm, but her left arm fit perfectly with the small resin positioning nub provided. I am certainly not the best figure painter, but I am looking forward to painting these (Bjarrhvit in particular). The amount of detail in these casting is very impressive.


The gangs all here!

The game can be played with cohorts made up of any number of figures, but the rules recommend groups of three to start. This boxed set provides that, along with all the accessories needed to play.

My verdict:

9 out of gladiators approve!

I gave this set 9 out of 10 gladiators.

First of all, the cards (both the art postcards as well as the game cards) are quality products. They look great and are printed on thick, glossy cardstock. The printed pit was a nice bonus. The plastic fatigue tokens are basic, but functional, and will serve their purpose well.

While those accessories are nice, it is the figures that people buying this set are really after, and I must say these figures are amazingly detailed and wonderfully sculpted. The poses are very dynamic. Sven's description from the Arena Rex website says he is "a patient warrior who favors maneuvering around his opponents and exhausting them before closing in for the kill." His pose shows exactly that, as he appears to be circling his victim. Frigge is poised in mid-step, charging with her shield held high and her axe ready to strike. Bjarrhvit's pose is magnificent, with the highlight of course being the flowing cloak, with the braids whipping around her. 

I mentioned the small issues I found with the castings. While admittedly minor, I did think they were worth mentioning, especially with the price of these figures. They're definitely on the upper end of the price scale (leaving GW out of the equation), and I would have liked to see a little less flash. The starter box is a very good value, saving you about 20% compared to the cost of the individual figures. And in the starter box you get the Zephyri cohort bonus card and the pit.

Overall, I'd recommend this set to anyone interested in getting started in the game, as well as modelers looking for beautifully sculpted figures to paint. I can see these all as display pieces as well as playing pieces.

I have yet to see how this team performs in actual combat (hopefully a future post will discuss that), but any figures that make me this eager to get them painted up and on the table as soon as possible are worth their cost!

'Til next time!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Arena Rex - making the arena (Part 1)

A new game has swept onto the scene at the local game store: Arena Rex.

It's a fast and furious game of arena combat between various mythical factions and beasts. There is NO ranged combat - it's all close in and personal!

So, what does the game require in terms of terrain- an arena, of course! Filled with plenty of traps, hazards and other dangers.

A quick search of the internet showed that some people were using the Playmobil Roman arena (set 4270) as the basis for their gladiatorial terrain. In fact, the Arena Rex guys themselves take one to conventions!

Since I happen to have one of those arenas taking up space in my basement from my Playmobil-collecting days, that was obviously the easy way to go. I measure the arena, determined that it would fit perfectly on a 3' by 3' table, and set off to gather materials.

I used a 1/2 inch thick sheet of MDF for the base, cut to 3' by 3'. I framed it in 1x2s, making sure to countersink all the screw holes. Since the flat part would be the underside of the board, I wanted to make sure it would not scratch whatever surface it was placed on.

3' by 3' arena board (bottom view)
I also sanded it all the way around and slightly rounded the corners in order to removed any splinters and sharp edges.

Sanded corner, countersunk screw holes.

The completed frame, ready for paint.

I did not like the natural wood color, so I grabbed a can of dark brown spray paint from my stash and covered all the edges that would be visible.

Painted board.

The inside area would be filled with insulation foam. I bought a sheet of 1" thick foam (and was amazed at how expensive it has gotten!).

1" thick insulation foam.
The inside edge of the board is actually 1.5" tall, so I took some scrap pieces of packing foam that were 1/2 inch thick to make up the difference. Since I am a terrain maker and a pack rat, seldom does any packing material enter the house that it does not join my Styrofoam hoard.

After some careful cutting and fitting, here's the result:

Foam, cut and placed in the board.
Putting the foam inside the 1x2s will protect it from getting banged up and chipped. Foam is not the sturdiest of materials.

I did not glue the foam into place yet. Pits are an important part of the terrain. Much of the game involves knocking your opponents back with your attacks, and pushing them into a pit can be a very effective way of removing en enemy fighter from play.

I want the pits to be cut into the foam, so I placed the arena on the board to trace out the inside diameter and locate the pits before cutting them out. Once the pits are cut, I'll glue the foam down permanently.

Looking good so far.
In the meantime, I also started on simple hazards. I took a couple of bases I had sitting around, some chopsticks, a skull bead and a plastic torch and got to work.

Basic supplies for hazards.
I cut the sticks to size, sharpened the edges and pinned them to the base. I actually made them very sharp, and stabbed myself while putting the hazard together!

Spikes cut to length and ready for gluing.
I also made another hazard consisting of a pillar surrounded by spikes, with a skull-shaped torch holder.

Two hazards for the arena.
I'll add some sand and paint to finish them off.

I really enjoy the excitement of a new game. Planning new and different terrain, and seeing it take shape, is one of my favorite parts of this hobby. In fact, sometimes I enjoy making the terrain for a game more than actually playing it!

'Til next time!