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.

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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.

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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.

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…

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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.

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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.

Batman vs Superman Comi-Con Trailer

I’ve been quietly optimistic about this movie. Man of Steel, whilst getting lukewarm reviews, was actually a pretty good Superman movie. It received a lot of negative feedback for the level of carnage wrought on Metropolis but I thought it was pretty representative of what would happen should two super humans decide to knock seven bells from one another. I also think Henry Cavill did a top job of portraying a character many think is quite bland and uninteresting. Sure there were things I didn’t like about the movie and sure there was some casting question marks but overall it was enjoyable enough. I’ve also been vocally confident about Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight. He’s a massively underrated actor. Yes Daredevil was shit but he’s the first to admit it. Equally an actor is only as good as the script and the direction.

I didn’t like Christian Bale. I expected him to do the job but, for me, he didn’t deliver. His Batman came off as a pouting, entitled child. Nothing of the cool, calculating, genius, master detective I know from my large (and growing larger) Batman comic book collection. Ben Affleck is a huge comic book fan and, specifically, a big Batman fan. Which means he understands the character far better than someone who does some reading in the interests of researching a character. In Bale’s defence he was let down by Nolan’s determination to make Batman ‘real’. Which meant bulky ill-fitting suits that prevented fight scenes from being anything other than awkward brawls. Also, little known fact, the hats (they weren’t cowls dammit!) were so tight in the Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises that Bale couldn’t breath through his nose.

Equally Zack Snyder is a huge DC Comics fan. For me Christopher Nolan fell far too wide of the mark when it came to a base understanding of the world he was depicting, either by ignorance or by design. Whichever is the answer it’s a massive middle finger at the fans. However one must not be ungrateful. Batman Begins was okay and its grit and grime is what sparked – I believe – the new era of comic book movies (and action movies in general). People get hurt. A lot. Buildings get torn down. A lot. And not everyone makes it out alive. I’ve had this debate a lot with friends – Batfans and non-Batfans alike. I’m told off regularly for wanting the movies to be far more meta than perhaps would appeal to the broader audience but I think when it comes to Batman it needs it. Not because Batman is a particularly complex character (although there are a lot of layers to him) but because the villains are. The thing about Batman isn’t that he wins every time, it’s that he wins in the end. He gets his arse kicked regularly but he regroups, figures it out and then brings down dark winged ruination on his enemies. All without crossing that all important line. That line, by the way, Nolan ignores in all three of his movies and is just one of many reasons why I don’t like them.

The decision to make the sequel a Batman vs Superman movie and, essentially, a Justice League origins movie was a bold move and one I wasn’t sold on. However, on reflection, and having seen the trailer below I’m entirely more behind the idea. A) Because Batman and Wonder Woman make Superman an entirely more interesting character. Bruce and Clark become akin to brothers over time despite their differences. Superman considers the entire world his to protect but even he grudgingly respects Batman’s sovereignty over Gotham City. Equally Wonder Woman balances Superman in other ways. Aside from (in the current continuity) being sole survivors of their respective civilisations which makes them kindred spirits, they are super humans in an un-super world. Without each other there’s an inescapable loneliness to their lives. But when it comes to matters of world saving and general arse-kickery they approach issues from different perspectives so they complement each other nicely. Plus she’s pretty much the only one who can deal with Superman when he loses control.

More over the order in which the DC Movies are being released starts to make sense as well. There’s an Easter egg in the trailer which relates to the Suicide Squad starring the delectable Margot Robbie…and some other people. Apparently. Combined with the rest of the release schedule – and the increasing likelihood that the new Green Lantern movies is going to be more like the Green Lantern Corp, the actual Justice League movies are going to be utterly bonkers. In the very best spandex clad ways.

Anyway, watch the trailer and see what you think. There’s lots of influence drawn from The Dark Knight Returns which, whilst non-canonical, has some epic Batman/Superman fisticuffs.

Batman: Arkham Origins – A Review

Batman_Arkham_OriginsWhen I heard that there was going to be another Batman: Arkham game I was excited. When I heard it was going to be a prequel I pulled a face but wasn’t surprised as Arkham City had ended rather definitively. Then I heard that Rocksteady wasn’t to helm the project and my excitement started to be replaced by cynicism. Rocksteady did a superb job of building the parallel timeline based on the one-off series by Frank Miller and I was concerned that the newly founded Warner Games Montreal had been founded purely for Warner Games to cash in and cut Rocksteady out of the action in one hit.

If I’m perfectly honest I didn’t get on brilliantly with the comic. It was too stylised and Batman was portrayed too much a like a bitch but there’s no denying the importance of the work and the original game title expanded on it wonderfully. The sequel was a tad far-fetched but still good fun and driven by a great story which for me has always been the appeal of the caped crusader. So Origins had a lot to live up to, especially as prequels tend to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice.

Warners Games Montreal were charged with the development of on of the biggest titles of 2013 and if they fucked it up they’d not only go pop but kill the franchise forever. So, rather shrewdly they didn’t change too much. A few game play tweaks here and there, a few new gadgets, and lots of new menus which are clumsy, annoying and unnecessary. Batman also gets a new look to tie in with the post Year One setting. It’s actually my favourite bit about the game (so far). It feels less like the custom suit of awesome from the first two games and more like a series of components modified with a couple of bespoke bits chucked in. It works very well.

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Unfortunately the similarities to the previous game don’t stop there. Half of the area of Gotham city you have to play in is directly taken from Arkham City. Obviously it’s all in much better condition at this point in the Arkham timeline but I for one felt rather cheated by the fact that half of the environment I was running around in I’d already spent hours and hours running around in. I was also incredibly disappointed to find that Riddler trophies once again made an all too prominent appearance. But instead of question marks (because he’s not the Riddler yet) and riddles data packets and a relay network. But it’s all toss because at least the premise behind how the question marks got around the Asylum and Arkham city made sense. This just doesn’t as it’s an inhabited city and feels noting more than laziness on the part of the developers.

Granted I did spend ages trying to track down all the trophies in the first game because I wanted as high a score as possible. In the second game it was a refusal to be beaten by the Riddler despite how tedious many of the challenges were. This time round it’s just boring.

Perhaps my standards are too high and I shouldn’t expect so much as the second game merely expanded on the first. But this doesn’t feel expanded, it feels copied, tweaked and wrapped up as something new.

Other similarities include ‘Crimes in Progress’ which is essentially like rescuing political prisoners fortunately though this is an improvement as rather than saving a snivelling wretch you get to duff rival gangs, rescue pinned down police officers or duff up crocked cops who are roughing up civilians. So it’s all a lot of fist swinging, face kicking fun.

Well, sort of. Whilst overall the game play is good with the combat mechanic improved further from the near perfect display on show in Arkham City, the crime scenes aren’t challenging, save points during missions are far too far apart and the environment too big to navigate by grappling and gliding which forces you to use bat plane drop off points which would be quick were it not for the insufferable and unskippable cut scene. Should you choose to swing and glide your way about you’ll be rewarded by an extremely rich environment. And despite my misgivings about the environment being copied from Arkham City, it is nice to see those parts of the city looking as they once were. Rather than knackered.

The plot however is pretty good. It’s Christmas Eve and the Black Mask has hired a small army of trained assassins to do Batman in. The story twists and turns forcing you to deal with the likes of Penguin and other well-known Super Villains. If I’m perfectly honest the story didn’t grab as immediately as the but I think it’s much more to do with the freedom of the environment offers as you can spend hours doing other stuff before you even start playing the main story. This is both a good thing and a bad one as it’s easy to get bored with the game without really giving it a go.

Although it’s other big problem is that it crashes. A lot. If I were working for Warner Games Montreal I would be embarrassed. If I worked for Rocksteady I’d be really pissed off. Because the fact of the matter is, for all the duplications and rip offs, it’s still a good and very enjoyable game. But it is totally let down by the frequency it crashes and the total lack of patch available. And they’re not minor either. The game crashed for me just as I was about to defeat Deathstroke – who’s a hard fucker to beat – much to my utter despair.

So is Arkham Origins worth getting then? Yes. Of course it is. Because for all the rehashing and the flaws it’s still a Batman game. It still looks and feels right and it’s still great fun. Should you pay £40 for it? Good God no. £30 from Amazon, fine, but not top sticker because there’s just not enough newness in there despite the good story, the fun ways in which characters are introduced and not to mention some awesome punch ups you get to have with some seriously bad ass villains. It’s just such a shame it’s let down in other areas.

Buy Batman: Arkham Origins because you’re a fan. Buy it because it’s part of a fascinating story. Buy it because you just love to kick in face. Just don’t buy it expecting it to work all of the time. Because it doesn’t. On several levels. And remember, although it may be glitchy it’s still better than most other games in the market. And it has Batman in it.

The Dark Knight Ruleses

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When news broke that Knight Models were releasing a Batman Miniatures game I was very excited because I love Batman and have massively enjoyed playing the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games. My enthusiasm did wane somewhat as I saw the prices of the models but I suppose, as it’s a licensed product it’s to be expected. Then I had to wait and wait and wait for rules.

But basic rules are finally available to download completely free from the Knight Models website. Available for your crime fighting pleasure is a quick guide, scenarios, character sheets, and the rules. And can all be found here. I’ll be having a good read once I’ve cleared a couple of other reviews off the Shell Case desk and I may try to get my mits on a couple of models. For now go over to Knight Models and have a dribble.Batman: Arkham City

Batman Begins…Again

I’d heard about this some time ago but wanted to wait until there was, if nothing else a few more snaps before I put something up about it. There are certainly more snaps and there’s even a bit of info from the developers, Knight Models; a Spanish company who primarily produce detailed miniatures of DC & Marvel characters. Not cheap but very awesome.

No release date has been set yet, at least not as far as I can tell but the models look awesome. The unit cost trouble me slightly but one can only reserve judgement until more information becomes available. On the game Knight Models had this to say…

Batman Miniature Game is a skirmish turn-based miniature game.

The first thing is band creation, you will love this part because there will be a lot of possibilities. Batman universe has a very rich and detailed background, with over 65 years of comic-books, tv shows, movies, etc. The idea is that there will be bosse like the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face …. and they can fight each other as well.

On the other hand many characters of the Batman Universe are not so important to form their own band, these are called “free agents” and will ally to one side or the other according to that point of the story and their background. Each boss can have sidekicks and lackeys, or be replaced by one of them, these sidekicks will modify the way you play with that band.
Each character will have a Reputation value (is the equivalent to what other games call “cost” or “points”). Also some characters will cost USD because they have some special rules or expensive equipment. Dollars will be used to buy additional equipment for your lackeys as well.
Turn will be divided in several phases, first Plan Preparation. The Motivation score will determine the number of actions each character can take each turn, in this phase you will distribute this tokens forming your plan. The plan is open so the opponent can see where you place your tokens, making a very tactical and deep game.
Then comes the activation phase of the miniature, eachn player take turns activating the habilities of the characters following the previous plan, p.e. Batman can use the Batclaw or throw a Batarang, Bane can use a Titan dosis, a Clown his Insane Laughter… as we release figures you will discover the potential of each character and their rules. Each character will be special and charismatic so the player can feel the resemblace to comics, video games and movies of this wonderful world.

After activation phase the turn is over and any effect or recovery of the characters is resolved (yes!, characters can recover from KO or heal injuries).

There will be scenarios (we want it to be an spectacular game!), but I prefer to tell no more, we want you to discover many surprises when the game is available.