Collecting Knights and Why I’m Not Mental

I’ve started collecting an Imperial Knights army. I can say that because I now own more than the one I reviewed back in April 2014 back on The Shell Case. This is, of course, thanks to the comically good value of the Imperial Knights: Renegade boxset.


This may seem like I’ve lost the plot, especially if I stop to consider how many models I’ve got and how many of those are unpainted but bear with me and hear me out.

I’ve entered into something of a new chapter in the saga of my hobby and what’s more, I entered into it without even realising.

I think it happened when I went to Warhammer World. It was my birthday and I wanted to get something cool. The problem was there was nothing I needed. My Ultramarines are as big as they ever need to be.

Of course I could get more tactical squads and more assault squads but what would be the point? I’ve only ever fielded the 1st and 5th once in all the years I’ve had the army. It was glorious but hardly justification for collecting the 3rd company which I’d been considering.

Instead I did what anyone would do going to Warhammer World with a figurative pocket full of cash: I went to Forge World.

The thing is, when you have all the Space Marines you need, with all the tanks you need, there’s really nothing else to but get the stuff I want. Which is why I ended up with a Fire Raptor and a Sicaran battle tank.

And that’s the point. I don’t need anything any more. I have two 40k armies, one massive, both legal. I have a Fantasy Chaos army that’s massive and apart from the painting is complete. Ish. I have Mordheim warbands coming out of my ears and a Gothic fleet that can eclipse the stars themselves. I don’t need anything any more.

What want is a Knight army. For no other reason than because I can and it’s a fantastic hobby project to undertake. It’ll also be a very interesting army to use… assuming anyone is willing to let me field it.

It’s indulgent, it’s extravagant and it’s totally unnecessary but that’s what makes it so much fun. Unburdened by ‘I must’ and ‘I need’ I can just enjoy myself. What better way of enjoying myself than collecting an army of Mechs? But not just any old Mechs, Knightly Mechs with a code of honour and brotherhood. I can’t think of anything better.

It may explain why I’ve dropped £30+ on basing materials.

It also explains why I’m considering at least one Thunderbolt for air support purely because I’ve always loved the model.

Hilariously, 5 Knights only weighs in at 2100 points which means flyers and more Knights to get the army up to 3,000 points is on the cards. I knew I was on the right track when the news delighted me rather than put me off.

The bottom line, however, is this: it’s reminded me that collecting an army is exciting. It’s not work, although batch painting can feel that way, or something we have to do. Collecting Knights is a staggeringly expensive business but I had a choice. I decided that the fun of crafting the bases, building the models and painting them far outweighed the cost.

The finished result will be something splendid to behold and a point of pride. Unless I bodge the painting.

But, frankly, complaining about the cost of something I’ve chosen to do is as retarded as getting drunk then complaining about the hangover. I made the choice and I’m having a blast.

Plastiholics Anonymous

My name’s Phil and I’m a plastiholic. I’ve had a problem for 27 years.

Us hobbyists are a funny bunch of buggers. It’s genuinely incredible how we talk ourselves into ‘needing’ new armies. Take my good and dear friend Lee. When we were up at Warhammer World we started looking at the cabinet with the Solar Auxilia in it.

Those are some seriously pretty models. Every model is unique which is testament to Forge World’s skills, commitment and sheer mentalness. Inside fifteen minutes we’d already worked out key elements of the army Lee would collect. But it was okay because it was a slow burn project, mainly because it was going to cost all the monies. Last week he emailed me to say that he’d snapped up two artillery teams on eBay.


So it begins: a new army. There are few things more exciting for us happy band of uber geeks. That excitement that comes with the smell of the plastic or clipping out that first unit. Seeing that first unit painted and the army take shape is immensely satisfying.

But who I am to judge? I may or may not have just ordered two boxes of Imperial Knights: Renegade. And when I say may I mean I absolutely did. Why? Because the idea of a Knight army took seed ages ago and so when Renegade came out it was only a matter of time…


I already have one Knight so four more makes an army. An army of big stompy killer robots (sort of). A throw back to my days of playing Epic and where my hobby really took flight all those years ago.

It’s also an opportunity to build the showcase army we all secretly dream of collecting. To do something utterly crackpot that will either do or die and nothing in between. Something so delightfully, quintessentially 40k-esque that I just had to. Plus it’ll really wind up The Chaps.

It’s hard not feel the lure of a new army when history and emotion play such a big part. At least that’s how I’m justifying it at any rate.

Our hobby is so incredibly tactile that it’s impossible not to become very attached to our armies as we build and paint them. To stand back and marvel at our work, regardless of our painting prowess, is an entirely unique and intensely personal experience.

Which is probably why we all get so precious when our brand new army gets tabled in two turns. That goes double when it’s against some beardy little shitweasel who puts winning above enjoyment of the hobby. And for the record, fuck those guys in the ear.

Perhaps the answer is that we’re not all plastic-crackheads but romantics, creatives and enthusiasts. We’re not drawn to the models because they’re new but for the experience of creating and for the stories we tell with them. We invest our time and our passion to stand at the head of armies of darkness and light. Of ruination and order. And to tell tales of our glory.

What the Hell Was I thinking?

It’s a common question. A question with more than one answer. ‘Because parenting doesn’t seem that hard in the movies’ would be an uncharitable response after the day I’ve had. ‘Because it seemed like a good idea at the time’ is a delightfully catch all answer that covers a multitude of sins. Including the aforementioned notion of parenting.

What I’m referring to, however, is creating another blog. For those that don’t know me, I ran the wargaming site called The Shell Case for four years. In that time thousands of wargaming enthusiasts visited my site every day because, astonishingly, they seemed to care what I thought.

After four years and a lot of blood sweat and tears I called  time because it had stopped being fun. There are reasons and if you feel like trawling through the final few posts you’ll get some insight into a few of them. A handful know the full story and that’s the way it’ll stay.

At the time I was extremely surprised and humbled by the comments and emails I received thanking me for my efforts. Many asked me to reconsider and some, as recently as last month, asked me to bring it back.

To those the answer is ‘because this site isn’t that site’. This is not my return to wargaming journalism (such as it was) but a return to what The Shell Case was created for – a means for me to talk about the hobby that I love.

Followers of old will be comforted to know that I have, if anything, become more opinionated and so there will still be the odd review. But, first and foremost, this site will (and must) focus on my experiences in the hobby as it’s revived from near death and the creative projects I’m currently involved in.

It’s a new adventure with a familiar twist. A reboot, rather than a sequel. If this was a movie JJ Abrams would be directing it. Or, if it’s shit, Michael Bay.

Either way, I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth – A Review


Okay okay, I know I said I didn’t have any interest in getting this game but I’m weak and…well who gives a shit whatever other reason I have?

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth (for those living under a rock or too idle to go to the Games Workshop website) is a boxed game depicting the running battle between the Ultramarine and the Word Bearers Legions in the catacombs below the radiation ravaged surface of…well, Calth. Obviously.

If you’ve been keeping up with the Horus Heresy novels then you’ll be fairly aware of the events leading up to it and the major players. If you haven’t please run full pelt into a wall as punishment. Then go read them.

So Betrayal at Calth is a very splendid looking board game pitting the Ultramarines against the Word Bearers in the dingy tunnels and chambers of subterranean Calth. I do have to address the elephant in the room. Yes it’s kind of like Advanced Space Crusade…and Space Crusade. But in a lot of crucial ways it’s not. It’s easy to make direct comparisons between this and its forefathers but the truth is Space Crusade’s focus was exploration whereas Betrayal at Calth is open war and a fight for survival. It’s tunnel fighting at its very worst. The need for blip counters and a lot of the other very cool things that made Space Crusade iconic just don’t fit.


Truth be told, Betrayal at Calth is a pretty good game. Much like Deadzone, the game uses a grid movement system with an occupation limit. However, unlike Deadzone it isn’t shit. The main differences are the hex system works instead of the vague and wooly cube system in Deadzone…and it doesn’t have all the other reasons that made Deadzone poor.

Broadly, the mechanic in Betrayal at Calth works much like its forebears. You roll some very groovy dice with icons denoting a hit or critical hit or a shield (which is either a miss or a defensive success). Unlike Space Crusade it’s far simpler with a straight forward activation system that allows turns to be rattled through very quickly. Much like the reboot of Space Hulk. Unlike Space Crusade it doesn’t bother with the two tier dice system so you’ll actually bother firing your boltguns in this game.

The aforementioned hex system allows for not only slick movement, shooting and combat but very elegantly represents the cramped environs of the tunnels the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers were fighting through. This is a very good thing. Best of all it’s a simple value equals dice rolled process with additional dice being rolled in certain circumstances. Which makes for a far quicker gaming experience. Of course it gets a little abstract but, to be honest, it doesn’t matter because it works.

It allows you to hamper the movement of your opponent or outright bottle neck areas by using the accumulative bulk of your Space Marines or, better yet, your Terminators. It’s a surprisingly tactical game for what otherwise would be a ‘go here and shoot them’ offering.

The production value is also amazing. The cards are thick and premium, the book almost as luxurious as one of Forge World’s Horus Heresy publications and is resplendent with their artwork. The double sided tiles are also loving rendered. The only negative is that they’re not quite as premium as the Space Hulk tiles. But considering the amount of plastic you get in Betrayal at Calth I’m willing to let it slide.

At first I thought a game of Space Marines vs Space Marines would be deeply deeply dull but the differences in the forces – big scary dreadnought vs badass terminators – and the legion specific decks players can call upon actually really works. Plus the critical hit system actually has the stench of genius about it. Rather than the obvious bonus hits, the effects vary from stripping away activation points to reducing enemy characteristics to zero…which means they get pulped basically. And the exploding assault cannon is back! Huzzah!

The scenarios are…actually a bit like Deadzone’s. They’re paced to gradually introduce gamers to the different unit types which rather highlights one of the reasons I suspect Games Workshop put the game out. To introduce new gamers to the 30/40k Universe. Considering the revival of Specialist Games it makes complete sense.

Betrayal at Calth has a simple mechanic, it’s quick and it doesn’t bombard you with the lore like the main rulebook does. Plus the models are superb.

Honestly, they’re all awesome. The terminators and contemptor suffer slightly from being plastics in a starter set compared to their awesome Forge World counterparts, but broadly Betrayal at Calth is absolutely worth getting just for the models. What really sells it is that the Space Marines aren’t the usual push together at but genuine multi-part models as detailed as the plastic tactical squad. They don’t have Forge World’s fidelity of detail to be sure but they don’t have warping, miscast detail or fucking horrid mould lines either.

Regular readers will know that I’ve got two companies of Ultramarines already and, because all the models are non-Legion specific, this box could put me well on my way to a 30% of third. If I felt so inclined. I’ve had to promise Lee that I wouldn’t use them as Ultramarines…at least not all of them. It’s a fantastic starter army though: force commander, chaplain, dreadnought, terminators and 3 tactical squads. I think it roughly works out you get the characters and a tactical squad for free based on rule retail price which is an absolute winner.

However where it does fall down is it lacks the progression of Space Crusade…which is absurd considering it’s 25 years old and, in that regard, the stronger offering. One of the criticisms I’ve heard is that the tiles used in Betrayal at Calth overall make up a smaller gaming space than Space Crusade. Whilst that’s true, they are double sided and the mechanic makes use of that space very effectively so larger tiles aren’t needed. Plus Space Crusade took forever to play so I’m not sorry that Betrayal at Calth is a quicker game.

Between the simple rules, straight forward mechanic, interesting critical hit system and some truly gorgeous models, Betrayal at Calth is a rare solid hit from Games Workshop. It isn’t cheap but we’re use to that. Plus buying 30 tactical marines alone would cost over £60 so in terms of getting some very cool models for not tonnes of money it actually makes complete sense.

The models really are worth every penny. They look fantastic, they’re cast perfectly and would look amazing either as the core of a new army or swapping out some of the older Mk6 and Mk7 armoured plastics. As I mentioned the terminators and the contemptor do suffer from the limitations of their kits, to be more child friendly, but it does nothing to diminish just how cool they all look.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is a brilliant little game. It looks great and plays well. It does lack some longevity but I believe the Games Workshop are remedying that with new scenarios and such. But even if that wasn’t true, you have the beginnings of a seriously cool looking Space Marine army.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is available from Firestorm Games priced £79.99.

Deadzone – A Review

deadzone logo

Well this review has taken me bloody ages to write. It’s a little from the ‘life kept getting in the way’ column but mainly it’s the ‘I’ve been putting this off’ column.

And why? Well because I didn’t like Deadzone very much.

I wish I could give you a better explanation than that but I can’t. It took me ages to read the rule book because it’s really poorly written. It, like the Dreadball books, are also padded like crazy. Lots of big graphics and lots of wasted white space on the page. On the upside the artwork and photography is pretty good. Which is just as well considering how much there is.


The background is flimsy and in some places I actually felt uncomfortable reading it. The page on the character Wrath, for example, is appalling. It’s frustrating as hell because I know Jake Thornton can do better, and has done better. I just didn’t feel remotely invested in any of it and it wasn’t because the premise is, basically, zombie apocalypse in space.

Much like Project Pandora was a Space Hulk knock off with not-Imperial Guard fighting not-Skaven in Space, Deadzone is not-Space Marines fighting not-Genestealer Cult. There’s a convoluted reason for it all but basically the premise is: a virus breaks out. It makes people weird. The Corporation sends in the marines to contain the problem.

Mantic are doing their utmost to flesh out the Warpath universe but this really isn’t the way to do it. Shit writing aside, it’s too specific a premise to have the column inches to talk about the whys and the wherefores of all the races in the Warpath universe.

The rules are a clumsy read and I found myself losing interest constantly. Which was odd considering they’re not actually that complicated.

The game operates the increasingly common alternating activation method which personally I like as it keeps gamers engaged. Plus with some of the mental stuff going into 40k these days the game can be over in a single turn if you’re unlucky. So this way means you at least get a couple of turns in before you’re crushed like a bug.

The gimmick for Deadzone is the movement across 3″x3″cubes (because movement is three-dimensional) which kinda works but weirdly it’s very limiting. As a result scenery and movement covers a full 8 pages and there’s a lot of buggering about with levels.

What is interesting, though, is by assigning sizes and size limits to the cubes, movement can become very tactical indeed. Moving something too big too soon can choke movement for everything behind it. This does give Deadzone a chess-like flavour.

This is partly to do with the line of sight rules. Basically if you can see any part of the model – including the base or silly hair cut – you can shoot at it. Which is absurd and penalises anyone taking a faction (their word, not mine) with overly dynamic models. It also ignores the golden rule of wargaming: a model represents a flesh and blood soldier/warrior with, if not training, then survival instincts. A game that allows you to shoot at literally any part of a model ignores that.

Other games do similar – the Batman Miniatures Game has an overly picky cylinder rule but even that is designed to prevent players abusing the posing of a model. Deadzone does the opposite. Which is shit.

But good news, you don’t get to shoot at them half as much as you would if you could see the whole model. Which makes it all better.

The action in Deadzone is also divided into long and short actions which is a needless layering of process when a single action with a plus or minus modifier would work just as well. Instead each action is, broadly, repeated  including a modifiers table which includes around 6 modifiers per action to consider. It’s like playing second edition Warhammer 40,000. Although considering who wrote Deadzone, I shouldn’t be shocked.

What is good is the different conditions that the models can be under including suppressed, pinned, alert and enraged. Whilst I’m not sure about the the last one, the others reasonably represent the impact sustained combat can have on a person. However these aggression levels bring with them the aforementioned modifiers. Boo.

But wait, there’s more. Not content with an abstract movement system, a fairly silly line of sight rule and more modifiers than you can safely shake a tape measure at…there’s battle cards as well. This is a randomly generated deck of faction specific cards that can give your army a handy buff. Aside from being yet another thing to slow down play, it gives players an advantage that falls outside army special rules/abilities or their technological level. It’s the proverbial puff of smoke. Randomly a unit becomes markedly better for no obvious reason. But more than anything, it’s just yet another thing to remember. Again, it’s like second edition 40k. Oh, and there are mission cards too…see previous sentence.

The models are, as I’ve come to expect from Mantic, average. The casting of the Corporation models is probably the best I’ve ever seen form Mantic with the majority of the model very nicely defined. The detail is far crisper because they have lots of nice flat surfaces so it casts well. They have a very groovy and very obviously stolen Iron Man aesthetic which makes them my favourite Mantic models by far.

The armour plates are really nicely defined and they certainly look the part of inter-galatic badasses. I’d have liked to see some equipment/peripherals to inject some personality into what are otherwise pretty faceless models. The weapons are a bit of a disappointment in so much as they’re either lacking detail or fussy and lack definition. Whatever the problem it’s the same one that’s been dogging Mantic models for as long as I’ve been reviewing them and I suspect it’s down to their particular blend of plastic/rastic/whatever.

The Plague are another matter. There’s all sorts of madness going on there. The models are big, scaly and nasty looking as one would expect considering their name. It’s all very Tyranid/Genestealer/Scavvy in feel but that’s not a bad thing and not surprising considering everything Mantic has put out is a rip off of Games Workshop in one form or another.

Unlike the crispness of the Corporation models, the casting quality just isn’t as good. It’s fine and the models are certainly better than a lot of the other tat Mantic has put out over the years but fine all the same. I can’t figure out if the iffy texture on the carapace is down to sculpt or bad casting. Either way the detail just isn’t as sharp as the Corporation models. Although one most be grateful for the detail being there at all. The weapons are really quite poor though compared to any modern standard. Again, think early Necromunda and you’re not far off what to expect.


The scenery, on the other hand, is amazing. It’s cast from plastic for a start. So yay. The level is detail is pretty good and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any more so because it’d take forever to paint.

What’s groovy is the system uses clips to lock the panels in place which means you can chop and change the buildings. This gives the system remarkable versatility and makes the contents of the box last far long than it would otherwise.

The downside of that is you’ll spend more time than you’d like fucking about, making the buildings but that can be fine too. If I’m honest, I’d buy the Deadzone boxset for the scenery, because it’s genius. I mean genuinely genius. I’m the first to admit I’m overly critical of Mantic but that’s only because I can see the potential bubbling under the surface. The scenery is one of their best ideas by a huge margin.

Deadzone is full of good ideas but none of it feels terribly well executed. The models are pretty good and the scenery is incredible. The rules lack finesse and the background lacks…everything. That said there is a reasonable game in there somewhere if you can tough it out. I just couldn’t.

Deadzone is available from Firestorm Games priced £53.95.

War World Basing Materials – A Review


The hobby, in the sense of gluing stuff to other stuff or applying paint to things, and I are aren’t really on speaking terms at the moment. However, I have managed to find time to take a look at a few bits from War World Gaming’s basing materials range.

For those of you who haven’t come across War World, they’re a company based in Pontardawe, Wales, who produce wargaming terrain and hobby materials. You can check out their site here. They do some very groovy stuff including a set of sci-fi force fields which I think can find a use in just about everything game of anything.

But on to the basic materials. I took a look at the Snow Scatter, Summer Rock Rubble Static Grass and Sandy Patchy Grass Tufts.


I’ve had a fair bit of experience dealing with snow bases seeing as my Ultramarines have them. I’ve tried to other brands including Games Workshop’s. I’ve even tried using a substance designed for yacht hulls that turns fluffy when it gets wet.

The biggest issue with other brands is the powder is too fine so when it comes into contact with PVA it gets over saturated and dries as a dusting of snow rather than a blizzard. There are ways round this, of course, one being to mix the snow and the PVA together to make ‘clumps’ of snow. This works okay but it doesn’t make for very natural looking bases.

War World’s Snow Scatter is more like static grass only much finer. Which means it responds to the glue better and goes on thicker. You don’t feel like you’re shortening your life expectancy every time you use it either. This is a joyous thing because, frankly, up to now working with snow is a massive pain in the arse.

The downside is that the snow clings to your skin like a bastard which means it can get a bit wasteful but because of how fine it is, it can irritate the skin a little as well. That aside, it’s a great product and at £3.50 for a 180ml tub it’s great value as well.


The Summer Rock Rubble Static Grass is just brilliant. I could beat around the bush but I’d sooner skip to the bit where I tell everyone to go buy it. Whilst I’m a fan of your bog standard static grass it was always the sand that did the real heavy lifting when it came to basing a model. The grass was also, always, far too clean.

The SRRSG (because the actual name is far too long) has a plethora of bits and pieces in there to make it more realistic. I’m not sure if I’d replace sand all together with it but I’d certainly feel more confident about using more than a few spots on a base.

All the different pieces ably simulate the detritus of any real world natural environment. Stones of different shapes, colours and sizes. Leaves, twigs and even a few finer bits of grown grass to give the impression of soil. This adds up to far more natural looking base.

The downside, however, of all the bits and bobs is you’ll need a fair amount of glue to get it all to take which makes making sure your sand is fully set before you apply it. This obviously adds a fair amount of time onto a project that’s all but finished which can be a little frustrating.

However those nice chaps at War World offer a range glues to help you build up your bases correctly. Which, when you think about it, is turning tubs of static grass and debris into its own hobby system. This is not only genius but a long overdue addition to the hobby.


I’ve always had my reservations about pre-made tufts. Whilst I can appreciate the benefit of pre-made basing materials it always felt like a bit of a cheat. Plus there’s the question of matching the sand of the tufts with the sand on the base.

Plus I have a deep seated fear that my tufts may look like someone else’s…is a sentence I never thought I’d write. But it still stands.

All that said, the Sandy Patchy Grass Tufts are pretty cool. The production value is very high and they peel off their backing sheet with minimal effort. Just in case – you will need glue to stick them to the base, the sticky backing will do bugger all.

Where it gets groovy is tufts can be used to jazz up urban, debris heavy or stone bases. Either stuck on top or tucked into cracks and crevasses. The fact that the static grass is mounted on a backing makes it far more precise to work with. It’s far better than just blobbing some PVA into a cavity between stones, pouring static grass in and hoping for the best.

Then there’s the obvious applications for spicing up terrain pieces and diorama. Just bear in mind that if you’re using the tufts with sand or other basing materials, you’ll need to do some blending so they don’t stand out too much.

At £3.99 for 100 tufts they’re pretty good value and are a very cost effective way of tying an army together.

The War World Gaming basing materials are very impressive with real thought given to how the materials will look on the base as well as how they’ll behave during the hobby process. To top it all off, they’re great value.

Check out the War World Gaming website for more details.


X-Wing Miniatures Game: The Force Awakens – A Review


Three years and one month ago I reviewed the X-Wing Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games. I was quite taken with it but what made me love the game was the gradual – albeit slow – release of very groovy expansion packs.

It didn’t take me long to acquire a full squadron of fighters, the Millennium Falcon, the Rebel Transport and the Tantive IV. So, you know, just a couple of things.

The new movie (and the chucking out of the entire expanded universe) means updated rules and, of course, new models. This time, however, it’s the Resistance and the First Order rather than the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Rest assured the old stuff is compatible with what is essentially second edition X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Now I’m going to say something fairly unpopular: I don’t like the new X-Wing design. Whilst the logical part of my brain accepts that in 30 years the design would have moved on, the emotional part is too attached to the original.


It’s the T-70 now rather than the T-65 and basically looks like the Z-95 Headhunter and the concept X-Wing got freaky. Which I could more or less live with that if the wings didn’t split down the middle. It’s a gimmick and it’s absurd. Now, before I get flamed/blasted into oblivion I know I’m complaining about the design of a fictional snubfighter of which the original is just as absurd but there are some lines I don’t feel can be crossed.

The standard of the models has been upped since the original X-Wing Miniatures Game core box. The pre-paint was distinctly okay and the laser cannons on the T-65 X-Wing was troublingly flimsy. I have 4 of them and every time I lift them from the case a little bit of poo comes out.

The T-70 (or lesser) X-Wing is definitely made from sterner stuff and the casting is better quality too, with no noticeable warping on the lasers either.  The paint job is better but it’s helped along by by less detail in some areas but more in others. Either way it looks a more polished piece than the T-65 that came in the original core box.

The TIE/FO Fighters are resplendent in their new, sinister, black paint job, just in case it wasn’t clear they were bad guys. Although when you get down to it all J J Abrams and co have done is reverse the colours of the original. They did make the cockpits red which is all very groovy but, other than giving TIE pilots the option of developing their photos between engagements there’s nothing new.

At least not on the surface. The rules haven’t changed much. They’re been tidied up considerably and the layout is so much better than the first rulebook – which was shit – so it’s readable. Which is nice.

A big tick in the Woot column for the new X-Wing Miniatures Game is the reference guide. It’s actually thicker than the roles but summarises rules and includes all the various different special rules and maneuvers too. This is an absolute God-send, saving a good hour off every game as players fumble about with their cards, reading the rule then carefully returning them to the table with all the appropriate counters and cards that were placed on them.

As silly as it sounds, that’s one of the things to be most excited about with this new core set because it’ll make the flow of play so much smoother. It’ll also stop you from forgetting that all important action you can take to pull your boys out of the fire or turn the tables at the pivotal moment. I’ve lost count of the number of times a Koigan turn has won me the day.

The cardboard has had a tidy up as well with the addition of damage counters to scatter liberally across the board as shit gets serious. Whilst useful it’s yet another counter in an already counter heavy game.

What is slightly odd – although I know the reason why – is TIE/FOs come with a shield. Now I know a lot of Imperial players (dogs to a man) complained that TIEs were too flimsy but the issue was more that they were too expensive, even for the shit ones. Adding a shield makes them way too durable. Throw in the fact that the T-70 X-Wing now has 3 shields instead of 2 all they’ve achieved is making the game take longer to play because the durability is a wash.

One must assume that the TIE/FO in The Force Awakens has shields which rather forces Fantasy Flight’s hands for rule writing for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. The joys of a licensed product. Either way, it makes the TIE/FO quite nasty when fronting off against the T-65 and other Galactic Civil War era fighters. Based on the rumblings coming from Fantasy Flight, other ships will be coming out at a faster pace than the movies which means a few glimpses of starship related grooviness before they’re seen on the big screen.

Beyond the rules tidy-up and a reference guide that makes me want to kiss Jay Little on the mouth, there’s a few additions that are worth mentioning – namely upgrade cards and critical damage.

The critical damage cards are far more pilot focussed which hampers, rather than cripples, the ship taking the damage. It’s a very nice touch and makes the game far more cinematic and prevents critical damage from unbalancing the game.

The upgrade cards have a couple of star players in the form of Astromechs. They’re mad and obviously intended to garner favour with fans for the upcoming movie but screw it, they’re well worth taking. BB-8 (the new droid beach ball) gives you a free barrel roll with every green maneuver. Which is amazing and only costs 2 points!

If you’re new to the X-Wing Miniatures Game this is a great place to start. The rule clarifications, the awesome reference book and the upgrades make it a far stronger offering than the original. The models are a preference thing. I prefer the rules and the design of the Galactic Civil War era stuff but there’s nothing wrong with The Force Awakens models. Far from it as the quality of the models is superior. Not leagues better but still better.

If, however, you’re already got a bunch of X-Wing stuff and feel like your collection is complete…buy it anywhere. Bringing together all the rules from the various expansions is worth the money, let alone the new models and new damage cards.

The X-Wing Miniatures Game: The Force Awakens is available from Firestorm Games priced £26.99.

Batman Miniatures Game Model Review

Back at the start of October I reviewed the Batman Miniatures Game and after a considerable amount of preamble I got down to the business of reviewing the game. As it turned out it was pretty good, much to my relief. It had its issues and bug bears of course. The main one being that it had a painful habit of over explaining everything which I couldn’t figure out was either the writer’s need to make sure everyone knew what they were doing or a ‘lost in translation’ thing.

A worry I had, when flicking through the book, was that the models weren’t going to be up to snuff. The photography and the paint jobs weren’t stellar and pap models could rather sour the pudding.

Of course there was only one thing for it: I was going to have to get some.

I opted for the Dark Knight himself, obviously, and some Joker Clowns. Rather usefully the rules came with a limited edition Alfred Pennyworth model as well…which was nice.

Let’s start with the Joker Clowns. Simply put these are the models that should have had the least amount of effort on the basis that they are just lowly minions. However, at £13.99 RRP for two I was expecting a certain something.


Where to begin…well, the casting quality is very good. The models needed little clean up at all which is impressive from a small studio games company like Knight. The nice thing about the models is that they are immediately identifiable as Joker Clowns from Arkham City. This, of course, means there are lots of nice little details like the thugs being a little bit on the podge and il-fitting boots.

However the overall standard of the sculpts isn’t amazing. It’s not bad, but not amazing. The clown masks have been sculpted so flat that it’s impossible to see any real detail until there’s any paint on them and even then low lighting maybe in order so they don’t look too washed out.

The arms – which were separate for these models – were quite disappointing. The casting quality didn’t match the rest of the model and the arms don’t fit the bodies very well. The axe arms required me to bend the impossibly thin axe shaft which almost snapped.

I’m all for accurate scaling but I think some consideration needs to be given for scale and the material the models will be cast in. The shotgun, whilst having a pretty decent amount of detail for its size, came with a barrel at a 45 degree angle. Drop that model once and you’ll be fielding a Clown armed with a sawn off whether you like it or not.

I’ve seen hundreds of 28mm scale models with scale weapons and they always suffer from being cast from metal. Barrels, blades or handles are too thin and it’s only a matter of time before they break. It’s a shame because £7 a model is quite a lot for something that’s got a good chance of breaking in the building process like the one I received.

The models also come with the all important profile cards – one per model which is excellent – so you can actually use them in the game. This is a real barrier to entry as far as I’m concerned as, looking at the game insolation, you have no way of knowing how good or not the models you’re buying are until you get them home.

As one would expect the Joker Clowns are pretty generic in a fight but what’s very cool is the subtle but significant differences between the two models. They aren’t just Clown 1 and Clown 2. Triston (shotgun bloke) gets a point more endurance, a point less willpower and has the Runaway trait. August, on the other hand, gets that slightly higher willpower and the Psycho trait. Which makes sense as his weapon of choice is an axe.

But what of the Dark Knight himself? This was the model I was most anxious the pose was rather uninteresting. The paint job had something to do with it as all the low lighting and shadowing makes the model incredibly flat.


The reality, though, is the model is let down by an average sculpt and the fact it was cast in metal. The quality shown in the image above is nowhere near what you actually get. You just can’t get the crispness of detail needed for something as subtly designed as the bat-suit depicted in the Arkham City game. It’s not that the detail isn’t there but it’s that it lacks definition.

Batman‘s pose is fine but not really cool enough in my opinion. They did a very good job of making the cape feel dynamic yet weighty enough that it could be used to glide across the fair city of Gotham. The cowl was a different matter entirely. One of the ears(?) was bent so badly inwards that bending it back broke it. Not clean off but enough that I can’t touch it again. The metal was just too thin and for £13.99 a pop it’s not acceptable. Thankfully the arm holding the batarang was cast of sturdier stuff and even fit the model which is a bonus.

Overall it kind of reminds of the Nolan Batman trilogy. It looks like Batman but doesn’t feel like Batman. It’s not a bad model – casting issues aside – and with the right paint job could actually look pretty good, it’s just not the centre piece model I think it should be. Especially as a very high percentage of gamers collecting the good guys will want Batman at some point.

With good reason too. In the game Batman is, unsurprisingly, nails. Not impossible to defeat but they the writers of the game managed to strike the balance between video game badassery and the vulnerability that is often communicated through the comics. He can comfortably take on three, maybe even four, thugs but anything more than that and he’s going to get his head kicked in.

Obviously his bevy of gadgets and gizmos makes Batman far more than a blunt instrument but we all know that that’s where the fun happens. At reputation 130 he’s worth 5 thugs so making use of all his talents is the best way of making the most of the investment.

It’s a tricky one because the game is great and something I would happily play but the quality issues around the models have given me pause. Realistically the problem with the cowl is unlucky but proves a point, the axe shaft is just poor sculpting. It reminds me of something Lee said to me – wargaming is the only industry in which consumers routinely put with a ‘that’ll do’ mentality from the manufacturers. Which is very true.

The Batman Miniatures Game models I have seen are good models. Not amazing but good. They are sculpted to a good standard and with a lot of love and fidelity but between the insistence of true scale and casting them from metal you may well be frustrated with the repair work involved.

All that said, the models are cool enough that you’ll want them and the game is cool enough that you’ll buy lots of them.

Batman Miniatures games models are available from Firestorm Games and the range starts at £3.15.

Infinity: Operation Icestorm – A Review


If I had to give an excuse, if ever one were needed, as to why I hadn’t looked at one of the major game systems until now I would have to say…because I just didn’t care.

Now before I get flamed back to the Stone Age bear with me and hear me out:

Infinity is a super groovy scifi game that has lots of super groovy troopers, super groovy guns, super groovy robots and all in super groovy artwork that depicts said super groovy guns being toted by said super groovy trooper types. The models are, equally, painted in a super groovy style in super groovy bright colours and as super groovy as they do in said super groovy artwork.

But despite the sheer super levels of grooviness Infinity suffered from one big issue: accessibility.

Infinity is prohibitively expensive. Granted you don’t need many models to play a game but just because you’ve only been screwed with your pants on the once doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.

I also found the premise to be weak, a little vague and the apparent super grooviness, despite all the shooting, a bit hard to believe. I know I’m used to the grim dark of the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium but countless games have proven a balance can be struck.

More over Corvus Belli’s determination to make the factions in Infinity seem unique compared to other games requires you to study what the fuck everything is for before you can figure out what it does and what to buy. O.R.Cs? Really? But the worst thing is adding all that together means that a novice gamer wouldn’t know where to start without the specialist help of a game store employee or the local games club oracle. Which isn’t really good enough.

I appreciate I’m probably in the minority with most, if not all, of these views. But, if I had to give an excuse, that would be it.

Does this make the review a foregone conclusion? Of course not. All that super grooviness does count for a lot.

So what’s in the Infinity: Operation Icestorm box? Fourteen of the prettiest models you ever did see, some groovy counters, a paper gaming mat, some fold out card buildings and the introductory rules.

All joking aside, I love the Infinity design aesthetic. Everything is sexy and shiny and fits nicely with my vision of the future. And reminds me of Halo which is never a bad thing. The downside is that everything is too clean. It doesn’t feel like a war, skirmish or even mild bout of fisticuffs is raging through the streets. Unless they’re the most considerate band of professional killers there ever was.

Of course this doesn’t stop you from building your own vision of a shattered (reasonably) near future utopia, it just would be nice if the oh so beautiful card buildings and fold out mat weren’t quite so neat and tidy.

The models – PanOceania and Nomads – are awesome. As I said, I like the Infinity style a great deal and when I’ve ummed, erred and stared at my bank balance before quietly slinking away; it was always PanOceania that I looked at collecting. The Nomads are cool too, I’m just excited to finally have some models that I’ve coveted for the last 4 years.


Sculpts and casting quality – these models are metal don’t forget – are excellent but considering retail they’d be about £30 a set one would expect that. But what makes the models so good is that real thought went into them to strike the balance between super groovy scifi armour and super groovy scifi guns but to maintain proportions. I’ve been collecting oversized post humans for so long I’d almost forgotten what scale weapons looked like.

Unfortunately the only part of the models that does suffer any loss of detail are the weapons but that’s the price you pay for working with metal and keeping things in proportion. But it’s such a minor niggle compared to the overall quality and super grooviness of the model you just won’t care all that much. Although wargaming does seem to be the only market in the world where ‘that’ll do’ is good enough. But more on that another time…

The rulebook, such as it is, puzzles me somewhat. And I’ve read a butt tonne of rule books over the years. The background is just 5 paragraphs long which for someone new to the Infinity universe is a little light. And by light, I mean I’ve read longer poems. I appreciate it’s an introductory rulebook but it doesn’t do much to sell the universe gamers are venturing into.


The rules for Infinity, however are fantastically straight forward. Not amazingly written or laid out but it’s the first time in ages I felt like I’d understood just about everything on my first read through. There are a few niggles but it’s more to do with the aforementioned issue with trying to be different for difference sake. The explanation of Face to Face rolls was so poorly written that it made no sense until the first instance of a face to face roll cropped up further into the book. Quite why the writers couldn’t use the word ‘simultaneous’ is beyond me. Because that’s what they meant. Simultaneous…

It’s an ambitious book however as Corvus Belli approached it almost like the tutorial mode of an RTS game. Each scenario introduces you to different game elements, building your knowledge up gradually so by the time you get to the final scenario you’re fully versed in the core rules of the game.

It works reasonably well but the rules aren’t particularly difficult to master so reading through is a bit of a faff. The other thing is to follow the format of the book, scenario by scenario, would mean you’d be unlikely to run through all the rules in a single gaming session. That’s a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand you’re encouraged to digest the rules, on the other you’ll just get pissed off having to reset the game each time.

But that aside, the rules are good and allowing models to react as the action unfolds is a nice touch And adds an extra layer of strategy as you have to weigh up what your opponent will react to as well as what they’ll do in their own turn.

The way models are activated is pretty cool too. Instead of every model being activated they, instead, generate an order counter which can be used on them or pooled with others to allow other models or single model to perform multiple actions. This allows for very quick turns and incredibly fast paced, cinematic action. The variety of actions available, much like the Batman Miniatures Game, makes Infinity a pretty exciting game to play.

It also adds a further layer to the way you build your force. Opting for cheaper units means more orders but you’re putting weaker troops in the field which could mean you’re burning orders on failed attacks. Additionally certain, crappier, units make irregular actions which basically means you can only spend the actions they generate on them. So whilst you may get more actions you’re forced to allocate a proportion of them. It’s actually a very shrewd way of keeping the game balanced that I’ve never seen before so hats off to Corvus Belli for that one.

The irregular actions also elegantly represents the reluctance or inability of certain soldiers to fight without making them disproportionately shit compared to everything else in the army which is something a lot of other games are guilty of. But most importantly it adds character without getting bogged down in special rules.

The rulebook is awash with gorgeous artwork throughout. It’s the kind of standard seen in the Transformers comics produced by Dreamwave in the early noughties. What bugs the shit out of me though is the rulebook actually mentions its influences which rather ruins any sense of originality that the models and artwork had. I’m the first person to point out influences and I know I have mine, but to actively broadcast those influences seems somewhat counter productive to me.

But the biggest sin of the Infinity introductory rulebook, by a mile, is it’s not an introductory rulebook. It’s a pamphlet. Half the book is the same set of rules but in Spanish, which I don’t mind but it actually makes the rules provided, whichever language you’re reading it in, embarrassingly short for a box set that retails at £75.00. And judging by the thickness of the full Infinity rules a lot of stuff was left out.

To put it in context let’s compare Operation Icestorm to the 40k starter set…

40k is £65 retail compared to £75, has 3.5 times more models, plastic templates instead of card, a full colour how to play guide and a full set of rules. For £10 less. It’s a rare day when Games Workshop comes off as good value.

However, I’m not sure if Infinity isn’t just worth it. It’s a great game with beautiful models and a slick mechanic. The model stat names are a little fussy and I can well imagine it takes a fair bit of referring back to but dozens of other games a just as guilty of that sin.

The price point is hard to swallow but at least the models are sufficient you can get a lot out of them before you start to add to the collection. Although the ranges are so pretty that won’t take long. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rules. If you want to play the game properly you’ll be shelling out £50 for a copy of the rulebook before you know it.

The truth is boutique games need starter sets like fat kids need salad…it’s vital to their survival. However the Infinity: Operation Icestorm doesn’t really do a great job because it’s a false economy. Buying two boxes of blokes and the full rules with set you back roughly £110 retail. The starter set and the full rules, which you’ll need almost as soon as you’ve worked through the Icestorm scenarios, will set you back roughly £125 retail. £15 more for some cardboard and fewer rules.

So despite a starter set, accessibility is still an issue. It’s still prohibitively expensive. There’s still nothing to clearly explain how the various units work or how they fit into the wider army. There’s still nothing to get your teeth into from a background perspective. Or anything to encourage the hobby either for that matter.

All things considered: between the high price and low content compared to other starter sets out there, would I still recommend it Infinity: Operation Icestorm? Yes, with a but. Yes, but only to people who are new to the hobby but know which end of a tape measure to hold. Gamers who have maybe tried Infinity once or twice and want to get in a few games at home before they fully commit. I appreciate that’s very specific but I don’t see it benefitting anyone else.

If you’re a novice or experienced gamer you’re far better buying the products separately. Granted, you miss out on the card templates but for roughly £30 you can get super groovy plastic ones which will last far longer than the flimsy card ones.

Infinity: Operation Icestorm is available from Firestorm Games priced £65.00.

Batman : Miniatures Game – A Review

This review has been a long time in the making. Years really. Let me explain why:

I’ve always liked Batman. As a child I liked the Adam West TV series. But that’s the thing: I liked it. I didn’t love it. It was too woolly and everything felt like they didn’t really understand where they were going with it. It was 2 Dimensional TV for the masses and that would have been fine had it been based on a 2 Dimensional comic book for the masses.

Even in the pastel tinted abyss that was the Silver Age Batman was still a conflicted character. Sure he’d been softened but that was because, unlike any other flagship IP, Batman was a commercial failure. At the time readers couldn’t get to grips with such a dark character. It was a case of evolve or die. The problem was it didn’t evolve, it rebooted.

Truth be told DC are stuffed whatever they do with an era in the Batman timeline that was erased decades ago. Ignore it and people still go na na na na na na na na Batman!…and I die a little inside. Acknowledge it and the only thing that dies is my soul.

The two things that saved Batman, in my opinion, was the Frank Miller’s non-canonical series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and the Batman Animated Series (1992). The former re-established the character as a crime fighting, bone breaking, badass and the latter gave it the commercial appeal it always needed. In the space of 6 years Batman was changed forever.

So what’s this Bat-history lesson in aide of? Put simply it’s to highlight just how much has changed. Obviously there’s been hiccups along the way, particularly with the movies franchises, but the character has come out of the other side as one of the most important and iconic characters of this and last century.

The release of a miniatures game may seem like small potatoes compared to rebooted franchises, multi million dollar movies and we haven’t even mentioned the Arkham video games. But it’s not. It’s important because Batman was and is a universal constant. He’s a hero that has successfully transcended genres, genders and ages.

Allowing a miniatures game is further recognition that we all, basically, want to be the Bat. In whatever form that may take. Even if that form may take running around the house with a bed sheet pinned around my shoulders thattotallyneverhappenedshutup.

But on to the game…


The first thing that is immediately apparent about the Batman Miniatures Game is that the book is a labour of love. The set piece photography has been so lovingly put together you can tell that the writers put everything into it producing something that DC and the fans would be proud of. It reminds me of the first edition of Games Workshop’s Fellowship of the Ring rulebook.

The production value is great. There’s a healthy mix of artwork from the comics and images from the Arkham video games. The book opens with a double page image from the Dark Knight Rises but I won’t hold it against them. It’s a premium production that’s roughly the same price as a Games Workshop codex but, if I’m brutally honest, is of a better quality. My only gripe is the showcase section of the book is 18 pages. Yes the models are cool but they could have been displayed in a more efficient way than that…like in the gang list section that doesn’t exist. But more on that later…

So in the Batman Miniatures Game players build crews of various types be they villains, cops or superheroes. The nice thing about the game, thanks to the variety of criminal scum in Batman, is that you can quite comfortably pit two criminal gangs against one another. Penguin verses Black Mask for example. Equally you can play games using just cops against the crims or just superheroes.

What has been well done is striking the balance between having the superheroes as walking examples of badassdom but still capable of being defeated if they’re singled out and attacked en masse.

The profiles are reasonable straight forward with key stats such as endurance, defence and attack all making an appearance. Where it suffers is the writing. It’s not badly written. It’s over written. Knights Models clearly wanted everyone to enjoy the Batman Miniatures Game so much that much of the book is over explained to the point that some parts I had to re-read to fully understand their meaning. It’s not the whole way through but I found myself skimming because I was getting bored of the repetition.

However this shouldn’t detract from what is essentially a very good game. A lot of thought went into the mechanic and how best to represent the fast paced action of the comics. For one thing every game is assumed to be set at night limiting line of sight to 30cm. This makes the game hugely tactical but suddenly makes anything that produces light a major threat or a major advantage depending on which end of it you’re standing.


In the Batman Miniatures Game each character has a Willpower value which indicates how many actions they can perform per turn. This elegantly allows the superheroes to kick face without having preposterously buffed stat lines as is common practise. Instead Batman gets to perform 8 actions per turn whereas your common crim only gets 5.

I can’t tell you much more about any character other than Batman because there are no profiles included in the book. Now, I didn’t know this which means that there’s a fair chance others picking up the book won’t either which is going to make for a big disappointment. Fortunately each model comes with a card so you won’t be forced to buy additional products so you can play the game.

That fairly major grumble aside the mechanic in Batman works well despite the abundance of tokens required to keep track of everything so, providing you know what you’re doing, each activation is reasonably quick.

Where it comes slightly unstuck is the two tiers of damage. Once you lose your endurance points you get knocked out. But there’s other forms of damage beside, which I’m not sure are needed and it took me three tries to understand how to inflict it and I’m still not sure how it works.

What is cool about the Batman Miniatures Game is the sheer volume of actions you can perform. Sure there’s running and face kicking but you can also do stuff like ping shots off objects to hit targets that would otherwise be hidden. Which is absolutely spot on for characters like Deadshot.

There’s also a list of special rules to put the 40k rulebook to shame. But it all goes towards making the game very cinematic and also encourages you to build and make use of, cool and groovy boards. Basically anything any character in a Batman comic has done you can do in the game. All you have to do is remember you have the option.

The sheer variety available reminds me of Inquisitor and that’s no bad thing.

What’s also pretty cool is a summary of the background at the back of the book for the less nerdy/initiated so everyone, not just the die yards, has a firm understanding of who’s who so they can make an informed choice over who to collect. Other than Batman. Obviously.

The Batman Miniatures Game is a good game. I was pleasantly surprised at how well thought out the game was to balance game play and authenticity. Yes the rules are a bit laboured in places but it doesn’t detract enough that I wouldn’t happily play it.

It’s touches like using reputation instead of points to govern the size of your crew as well as affixing a cash sum for equipment which stops players from having piles of hardware. The simple fact that superheroes are worth far more than henchmen you’re actually encouraged to think and fight like The Bat because you’ll get utterly spanked if you don’t. What the henchmen lack in ability they make up for in numbers and unbridled violence.

It’s great that the Batman Miniatures Game allows for and encourages you to take Jim Gordon and members of the GCPD and better still that going up against a supervillain is a genuine challenge for them. But most importantly, Batman or any member of the Bat Family aren’t unstoppable. Very tough to stop but still stoppable.

The Batman Miniatures Game rulebook is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.49.