What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.

Avatars of War Dwarfs – A Review

AoW_logo_300Awhile ago Avatars of War did a kickstarter to get their Dwarf range off the ground for their game Warthrone. Always one to support a good cause I immediately got involved, helping AoW hit their total and a couple of stretch goals. The result? Lots and lots of lovely dwarf models for those with bearded leanings can buy and drool over.

Avatars of War kindly sent me a box of goodies including three of the new Dwarf regiments – Pathfinders, Warriors and Berserkers – amongst other things which will be reviewed in due course, which I’ve been pouring over. For your benefit obviously…

Now, just to be clear, I don’t have the foggiest idea of how Warthrone plays or how nails the Dwarfs are in it but I’ll tell you this: the models are the absolute tits.

The quality of the sculpting is superb. I mean really really gorgeous. I’m forced to make direct comparisons with the Games Workshop kits as a frame of reference and, to be perfectly candid, they wee all over them from a very great height. Granted the Games Workshop models have been knocking around for a few years but whereas the GW models are tiny little men with big beards wearing dresses from Human ladies, the offering from Avatars of War feel entirely more in proportion. I suppose, to put it another way, they feel more like a civilisation than a themed army. Which is just better.

The design of the models just make sense. The Beserkers are stunning. They’re big burly bastards with slabs of granite for chests and big manly beards that look like they might actually grow from someone’s face rather, coils of ship rope painted ginger and sticking their instead.

AOW_plastic_berserkers-700x560Again, it just comes down to the AoW models feel more real. The weapons whilst being fooking huge, don’t have ludicrously thick hafts being gripped in equally ludicrously big hands. In fact, the weapons from the Avatars of War models are all lovely. Every one of them has detail that far outstrips other ranges. And the standard for the Beserkers is hella cool. If slightly impractical.

All the models are covered with lots of lovely, thoughtful, detail that go a long way to making the regiments feel distinct beyond the obvious visual cues like big beards or massive axes. They really are very cool models. And they go together. Properly. Even the bits that afford you variety, like crests of hair and backpacks. I know it seems silly to harp on about it but other models from other companies that shall remain nameless (Mantic) struggle with that from time to time. And the relative prices are the same.

And now for the rub. Penny for penny the basic unit types, like the Thunder Warriors (Thunderers) are more expensive than their GW counterpart. You get 4 more in the AoW box but you pay a tenner more for privilege. Which makes the decision, assuming you’re not bothered about where your Dwarfs come from, a very easy one. The Beserkers, by contrast, are mad value because GW punt out 5 for £15.50 and they’re old and shit. You’ll pay twice over for much poorer models.

If I’m honest, the older kits aren’t quite as sharp as the Beserkers on the casting front. I could be wrong but they look like rastic – that God awful stuff that Privateer Press use, which whilst casts consistent, it can sometimes can feel a bit flat and soulless. But that’s just me being a moany old bastard, they’re still much better Dwarf models than just about anything out there.

When it comes to proxying models from one range to another there comes a bit where you have to hang the expense. Pound for pound the Avatars of War range is more expensive. Yes, someone finally outdid the Games Workshop. But two things are worth bearing in mind. 1. If you’re buying multiple units you’ll make savings as the special units, like the Beserkers, are significantly cheaper than the Games Workshop models (half the cost). And 2. They’re really really good models. So hang the expense. Basically.

The Avatars of War range is available from Firestorm Games, prices starting from £8.95.

#warmonger of the Year 2013

A year or so ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided I’d find out who the #warmongers community thought had contributed the most to our merry band and reward them for their efforts. After a lot of votes and some very worthy nominees @docbungle was the deserving winner.

So popular was the ‘award’ that I simply had to run it again. Voting went on right up until midday yesterday and there were more votes than last year, with even more nominees. However there can be only one winner and the person to have earned the respect and admiration of their peers is none other than @NigelSBartlett.

Having got to know Nigel via the Twittersphere I’m delighted to announce him as the winner. Aside from being a top hobbyist, he’s always on hand to offer up tips and helpful hints to his fellow #warmongers.

So a massive congratulations to Nigel. He’ll be receiving some lovely toys from Avatars of War and a signed copy of Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight…and anything else I can organise between now and the new year.

BloodOfAsaheim01_873x627

Kickstart

This evening’s post came about through chatting with my esteemed friend and fellow Alliance member Liam Hall – aka @MunkeyKungFu. A thoroughly upstanding sort and great to chat to, he’s always on hand with suggestions when I throw the subject of a blog post open to the Community, as I’m prone to do from time to time. And some of them are even sensible. On this occasion Liam struck gold as he mentioned Studio McVey’s awesome and gorgeous Sedition Wars and its current Kickstarter campaign.

Although I’ve written about Studio McVey in the past and was even lucky enough to write a first look review of Sedition Wars back in Ocotber last year, the subject of Kickstarter/Indie Go Go campaigns has been cropping up a lot lately both in the Community and with The Chaps as Project Awesome draws ever closer to being ‘finished’.

When I first heard about Community funding schemes I was in two minds as it seemed that the Community was propping up companies who wanted to fund new projects but couldn’t afford to. And then once all the new shiny toys were in production that same Community was going to give the company their money all over again. However, I didn’t appreciate the following:

1. You get cool shit for the money you pledge.

2. The companies that write the games we play or design the models we paint are as much a part of the Community as anyone else and there are times when they need our help.

A wargaming company is only as strong as its weakest enthusiast and so by encouraging the Community to invest in its future we not only feel a profound and enduring sense of connection – which will increase our enjoyment and help their business – but we ensure that the games we like to play endure. It is, for a change, a win win situation. Businesses remain viable and we get to play toys to our hearts content with the knowledge that we made a difference.

It may all seem a bit gushy but the fact is that times are just as tough for our niche market as they are for everyone else. We still spend our hobby allowance, come what may, but we’re spending less or it just isn’t going as far (are you listening GW?!). By spending our hobby allowance on a Kickstarter or Indie Go Go campaign we are still getting toys, or a limited edition print, or whatever, but we are also guaranteeing a toy fix for a couple of months time. The difference being that we helped when it was needed. Besides, without these campaigns being a success some companies would never get off the ground and others wouldn’t be able to expand and eventually fall by the way side and then we’d have no hobby at all. And that would suck.

But when you get down to it, the likes of Avatars of War are asking from a few quid to produce some pretty amazing toys and, in exchange for those few quids you actually get to have some. I’m sorry, is that the awesome train arriving at the station? Yes I believe it is! All aboard! The same goes for Studio McVey, or even the guys at Membraine Studios producing Exodus Wars. A big slice of awesome is your reward for helping them. Not to mention the ego boost and the sense of well deserved smugness.

There is no shortage of worthy causes. The following companies have campaigns running. I’m sure there are plenty more so feel free to leave a comment letting me know what they are and, providing they’re wargaming related I’ll add them in. But take a look and should the mood take you; donate to the cause. If I have some spare money next month, once I’ve paid for the wife’s birthday, I too shall be donating.

Avatars of WarDwarf Army Campaign

Membraine StudiosExodus Wars: Fractured Empire Campaign

McVey StudiosSedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster Campaign

Infamy MiniaturesJohn Watson Campaign

ManticKings of War