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P’REVIEW: STUDIOLEVEL BANTAM ALLEY KICKSTARTER

This is not a regular Review, but rather an interresting Kickstarter campaign that I would like to spotlight. StudioLevel, known from producing a hand made wargaming scenery, is now releasing a brand new series of resin bitz and scenery pieces, named ‘Bantam Alley’. So – BANTAM ALLEY hit Kickstarter just few days ago and it is something well worth seeing…

BANTAM ALLEY

Bantam Alley is everything between bitz, round bases, 28-32mm post apocalyptic scenery pieces and entire scenery Battle Systems. Among all the goodies you will find furniture, sewer hatches, industrial plates, trash cans, barrels, pipes, hydrants, air condisioners and even a safe full of gold bars. But there’s much, much more. In my minds eye I can already see a variety of uses for all this stuff. Titles like Warzone, Fallout, Zombicide, Batman, Wolsung are just on top of my head – as this set of scenery covers a wide range of themes. I was lucky enought to got my hands on a sample and take a closer look…

QUALITY

The samples look really good. Resin used varries between different types of products, but as I was assured by StudioLevel – this is by design, not accident. All elements have sharp detail with no micro-air bubles visible. All samples seem to be designed as to limit mold lines to the base of each piece, thus ensuring easier if none – preparation before paint job. Only Bottle Crates had hand grips filled with thin membrane of mold lines – was easy to remove these in a giffy.

 

What’s interresting – all huge, flat elements like gigantic wall safe door, are free from the ‘curve effect’. I don’t know how StudioLevel managed this feat of molding, but they did a great job.

Material, Bantam Alley pieces are made of, is easy to work with – still some products seem to come partially prepared by StudioLevel. Couple pieces bear marks of smoothed underside. This is much better than getting a scenery piece, or bitz with huge chunk of resing stuck underneath it.

PAINT FRIENDLY

I tested few samples with black paint to see if resin is paint frendly or does it require any preparation before paint job. Results are positive – these certainly do not require any cleaning before going under the brush. Paint clings nicely to the surface, working well with the resin underneath.

SUMMARY

The arsenal of cool stuff obtainable by this Kickstarter campaign really overwhelms me. It carries so much diorama / bases / scenery ideas behind it, that it is difficult for me to concentrate on details. I can imagine all those boring, flat walled MDF scenery pieces being instantly transformed into awesome looking – ‘alive’ – gaming tables. Never before was leveling up a boring scenery to something purely extraoridinary that easy!

This is a Preview, thus I won’t be providing a score on the usual 1-10 table, instead I can say that I am really hyped for this campaign and will certainly support it.

If you like StudioLevel’s Bantam Alley – go and take a look at Bantam Alley Kickstarter Campaign and be sure to let me know what you think of it in the comments below or at my Facebook 😉

 

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Nazroth

REVIEW: ARISTEIA!

“175 Years into the future, humankind has reached the stars. As the hyperpowers vie for influence in the shadows, citizens use their permanent connection to Maya, the Interplanetary Data Network, to revel in a bespoke deluge of thrills. Of course, no form of entertainment is as sought after as ARISTEIA!, the Human Sphere’s favorite extreme bloodsport.”

ARISTEIA!

Aristeia! is a game of futuristic gladiatorial combat set in the universe of Infinity the Game. As far as I’m aware this is the first board game released by Corvus Belli, Infinity the Game’s producer. I was raised by a board game industry thus once in a while, if a miniatures filled board game happens to appear in my collection, I use this opportunity to review it. I decided to share my feel of Aristeia! with you. As with all my reviews this one will be totally subjective, so – you have been warned 🙂

COLLECTOR'S EDITION

The reason I bought the game in the first place – a set of eight metal Aristeia! characters. I knew what to expect from plastic miniatures, thus decided to spend more and get the best quality product. Metal miniatures are standard for Infinity the Game players, but are something totally new for regular board game muggles. To all of you who might not know Infinity the Game quality – these are one of the best miniatures in the market. They require a lot of preparation and must be put together before use, but would reward all the work put into them with great quality of detail.

IN THE BOX

Now, let’s leave awesome miniatures behind and see what’s inside the game…

The ‘Box’,

The box is solid, standard board game quality. Hard paper, smooth with no grating. It is not the quality that some of the most popular board game producing companies (FFG, CMON) spoil us with, but is still acceptably durable. In comparison to Corvus Belli’s usual front designs like Operation Icestorm which literally screams ‘Fuck yeah! So much action inside!’, Aristeia front is kind of dull. There seem to be a lot colours with not much coherency whatsoever, which is further emphasized by white background. My reaction to the box is that it would have difficulty catching my attention in a board game store – but hey – totally subjective.

‘How to Play’ ergo Rules,

A 15 pages long, ‘How to Play’ booklet. This one will lead you through game components and then a pre-setup game with pre-defined rolls and actions. Going through this should make you understand the game’s mechanics and feel comfortable going into your first ‘serious’ game. The booklet is designed to introduce some rules at certain point. If you are a seasoned board game player you would probably get bored in the middle and skip ahead to a real deal game… Seem nice for less experienced players tho.

‘Access Guide to the Human Sphere’ ergo Fluff book,

An interresting addition. Corvus Belli is well known for providing a deep background for their products. Aristeia! is not an exception. With this 14 pages long booklet we get to know the setting and the characters of Aristeia! A really nice way to get a bit more into the game and ‘feel’ the characters. Here’s also where you will find the best graphics of the game in high resolution.

Two-sided Gaming Board,

Made out of hexes and looking like a giant hex is the Hexadome board! Usual board game quality. After setup it lays flat on the table. It is rather clear to understand. I am a bit dissapointed that both sides have identical layout with only difference being the visual design. Hoped for two totally different gaming areas that would provide much more variety and replayability.

2 Control Panels,

When I look at these I want to quote Dutch from Predator poronouncing “What the hell are *you*?” with utter distaste. Supposedly fancy shaped to fit the board at the start of the game – utterly retarded once you realize that instead of helping they do the opposite. On top of that these look like out of entirely different game – they just don’t fit the visual layout of Aristeia! and mess up entire futuristic sci-fi feel of the game.

If you haven’t read the rules of the game – I advise to skip the list of issues below, not to get confused too much.

  • Why there’s only 5 (6) spots on the Movement and Actions counters? Apparently with Tactics invovled – some characters can have more. Why not use tokens to keep track of these instead?
  • Do really both players require a Turn counter? Why not just a single, separate turn counter?
  • Why such a fancy shape? If these were rectangular instead, they would fit the long edges and save space on the gaming table, not to mention being much less susceptible to damage (with no sharp angles).
  • Why are they in the game anyway? Why not use tokens to count Action and Movement Points and keep Initiative Cards before you set up from left to right, Infirmary characters on the left, Bench characters on the right?

Overall Control Panels are a waste of resources, needless gadget – I am trashing my own and adding a ‘Aristeia! Control Panel’ to the list of words that trigger me.

A shitload of Tokens, including Obstacles, Damage, States, Victory Points, Frags, Green/Orange, Blue/Orange, Red/Blue, Red/Green, and Underdog.

When it comes to quality, once again this is just a regular board game quality. No grating, regular hard paper stuff. Gameplay wise these are clear to understand and easy to use, except for the pain in the ass tiny  droplets, which really might have been the same size as ‘Damage 3’ tokens. Visually tokens present themeselves poorly. Once again a feature that doesn’t feel right and is far from fitting the supposedly futuristic aspect of the game. Tokens look like from some poor, booring game without theme. Quite dissapointing – and that’s actually strange comming from Corvus Belli, known for caring about visual and theme aspect of their products.

8×8 Stickers, because reasons…

I don’t want to talk about this. I know what they are for. I think they look poor as fck. I get why they are designed in this simple manner. Still look poor as fck.

‘Reference Guide’,

I am used to Reference Tables placed at the back of rules. This one is much more interresting, with 30 pages filled with answers, examples, rules claryfications, Scenarios and a list of about 90 topics and key words. There’s a Quick Reference Sheet at the back of this small size booklet and once you are done with ‘How to Play’ you can switch to ‘Reference Guide’ for life. I find this one to be a really great idea, even if it’s not entirely user friendly and rules redirect us to other rules, which then redirect us to other rules – classic ‘Spanish style’. Fear not! You’ll get used to it at some point.

I would still like to get a proper Rulebook and then use ‘Reference Guide’ as an ingame help.

14 custom D6 Dice,

A set of custom, easy to understand dice. Symbols are concave which transtales to almost infinite lifespan of such dice.

52 Tactics Cards,

Standard size cards with ‘Tactics’ – special actions players can use during the game. This piece is the one that could really use grated paper to provide much more durability. Gameplay friendly, with clear areas and strongly exposed rules section. Visually – I have mixed feelings. A lot is going on in the cards with Aristeia! characters jumping, kicking, shooting, hacking. There’s a comic like expression, suspense and feel to the pictures and yet pastel colours render it a bit silly and flat.

Visuals aside – what I would like to see is a mark in top left corner for all ‘Standard’ Tactics. This would quicken the process of finding Standard Tactics among other cards. Adding two colours distinction between these marks would also make a ‘How to Play’ part of our experience more pleasant, like ‘give orange dot cards to your opponent, take green dot cards yourself – now dig for cards numbered… whatever’.

8 Character Cards,

At first might seem a bit overwhelming, but in truth these are simple and easy to understand. Pretty nice design. Quality of paper is the same as Tactics Cards with an exception of visible cut markings on top. A pack of sleeves would render this irrelevant anyway.

8 Initiative Cards,

These are just awesome looking 42/63mm cards. Visually they present themeselves really cool. I think that adding a textured background and more edges is what makes these graphics outshine the rest.

8 Plastic Miniatures,

Bag’o’miniatures – a set of 8 miniatures, made out of soft ‘board game’ plastic. These come already put together (by some Chinese prisoners) and ready to play. Some have issues and all seem to be improperly glued onto the bases. If not for that then quality is almost the same as in Zombicide or most of FFG’s games. If you hoped for quality and detail simmilar to Infinity the Game – these would be a huge dissapointment, otherwise they are a regular board game miniatures and would serve their purpose perfectly.

Oops! So this is how one of the miniatures came in. It is not uncommon among board games – not a faulty design or production, just an accident in transportation. Complaint placed – will await a replacement.

Thin plastic box organizer,

So, the Organizer is a great thing that I come to appreciate, if delivered properly. This one is clearly made for the purpose of holding a factory issued game untill it get’s unpacked.

  • It lacks space to place Tokens in. Sure these can be packed into zip-bags and placed underneath the organizer, but removing it from the box time and time again would definitely damage soft plastic it is made of.
  • Why not place another niche or two in that huge flat area on the left? I don’t know…
  • Once sleeved, cards barely fit the area designed to hold them so no way to fit more cards once an expansion hits the stores.

Could have been a cool feature, would go to trash instead.

RULES & GAMEPLAY

Aristeia! has a well designed engine, that offers a lot of options to competitive players. Most of the time it made me think about which option to choose from rather than how rules work. Alternate character activation, Tactics Cards and special ‘Switch’ activated effects kept me occupied throughout the round, all the while rotating Scoring Zones and planning my characters Activation sequence pleasantly stimulated my brain cells. I appreciate that Aristeia! has some elements of deck and team building, providing options to construct a deck of Tactics Cards and a team of selected characters. This is yet another feature that competitive players might find interresting. Once I got to know the key words and rules mechanisms of the game seem simple and enjoyable. I especially appreciate a fast and not complicated end phase of every round, which does not disturb action.

The way in which rules are served is a bit of a downside. Some things that are meant to be intuitive ended up being confusing and entire process of being led hand in hand with a pre-designed turn from ‘How to Play’ was exhausting and not very pleasant. In the other hand everything is there in the booklet and many in-game situations are covered so once through it – I quickly knew how to proceed.

Some crunchy mechanics are:

  • Line of Fire rules described in a confusing and overly complicated way. In some situations is not clear on the gaming board. A hard paper ruler in the box, so that players could use it to check the exact Line of Fire would do the job of easing gameplay. Still I am certain that with more experience this one would stop to be an issue.
  • Adding Attack/Skill results in your head, instead of on the board. This one is a bit problematic. There are no Dice, nor Tokends destined to be used as markers for all the ‘additional’ Damage / Shields / Special that are added to the Attack / Defence roll. Let’s say I roll three dice and scored: Damage, Damage, Shield, Special. My opponent clearly sees the result. Then I add a misterious one Damage from my character ability, then use a Switch to exchange one Special from the roll for another one Damage… but there’s no way to indicate this on the board. In a competitive game this might lead to some bad blood situations and in a friendly game this is just very confusing. I would gladly see an additional set of WHITE dice with Damage / Damage / Shield / Shield / Special / Special symbols to use them as markers for any additionl results added to the roll so that my opponent and I myself can see the exact total of the Attack, before we apply any Switches.

 

IS ARISTEIA! FOR CASUALS?

If you hope to bring this game to a friendly meeting and just start playing with your Settlers of Catan friends – I strongly recommend not to. Corvus Belli did a fine job of introducing symbols and intuitive elements, but the game is still full of key words, special skills, triggered mechanisms that might confuse board game muggles. This game is a fine piece for two seasoned players who would like to clash against one another and win eternal glory in the Hexadome!

IS IT SIMILAR TO ANY OTHER GAME?

In my opinion gameplay-wise Aristeia! is very similar to World of Warcraft Miniatures Game, which at some point I enjoyed a  crazy lot! This makes me look at Aristeia! from a friendly perspective and I have some hopes for the future of the game.

IS ARISTEIA! BALLANCED?

In a straight out of a box ‘How to Play’ way – nope. Some ballance comes with Experience but you won’t be able to achieve perfect ballance untill you and your opponent both have a box of your own. Once there, you will be able to build a Team and Tactics Deck from among all available components and the game would become ballanced. For less competitive ‘one box’ play I see potential in drafting heroes or just switching teams with gaming buddy from time to time, so that no one would end up feeling like his team is underpowered in certain aspects.

IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUALITY OF METAL AND PLASTIC ARISTEIA! MINIATURES?

Yes and it is a gargantuan, Pacific Rim sized difference. Just take a look at the pictures and see for yourself…

ARISTEIA'S FUTURE

From what I am aware there are some big plans for Aristeia! Organized Play. We already know what to expect from the first expansion ‘Soldiers of Fortune’, and these are meant to be introduced every seazon. Seasonal expansions would make for good replayability and should keep players interrested. In my opinion Aristeia! has some potential and is certainly much more suitable for competitive play than Infinity the Game. Would it become as popular as X-Wing? I hope not, cause this would mean cancerous individuals soiling community built and cared for by Corvus Belli. Still I keep my fingers crossed for CB’s success, even tho they seem to diverse some of their attention from my favorite game.

 

SUMMARY

Even tho I spent almost half of my life in a Hobby Store Aristeia! is a conundrum to me. In one hand it is clearly an interresting game and I enjoyed the gameplay. Aristeia’s mechanisms aren’t anything that I haven’t seen before, but the way they work with each other translates to a really thinked through set of rules. On top of that the game has a lot of potential both in competitive and hobby aspects. In the other hand some components are just fucking ugly and it hurts my eyes to look at them. Taking Metal Miniatures out of the equation, for me Aristeia! is totally gameplay over looks. Would I purchase this game if not for trust Corvus Belli earned from me? Nope. Would I purchase this game if not for Limited Collector’s Edition miniatures I want to add to my Infinity the Game collection? Nope. Yet this is due to my prefferences, not the game itself and once I actually got Aristeia! I must say it is a nice game. Price also seem legit and I bet that with 59,9€ starting price there will be ways to get the basic set for less than 50€ – and that is not bad for a game set enabling you to participate in Organized Play. On a scale where 10 is awesome, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 I would say Aristeia! is somewhere between 6 and 7, and that’s only because of some ugly components that drag the note down.

If you don’t care about the looks of Tokens and ‘Trigger Word’, if you like illustrations on the cards and feel like going through a bit spanish’ish rules – you should totally give this game a try. If my expectations for visual aspect of the game were met I would totally rate this game an 8. Im sure that Aristeia! will reward you with a fine and interresting gameplay, so long as you approach it with a proper mindset.

 

Agree/Disagree? There’s a comment section below where you can stand for your opinion 😉

Store.CorvusBelli.com,

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REVIEW: GINGERMANE STUDIO WARGAMING TERRAIN

For those of you who follow my articles it would be of no surprise that on top of being a painter I also am a gamer. That being said – As much as I strive to provide valuable painting related articles for this blog, I sometimes find myself in face of a need to write about something related to that second part of my hobby. Right now I happen to be in such a grave need – a box of something truly awesome has been delivered to me just few days ago! Who am I to shackle inspiration? That’s why today I bring to you a review of Gingermane Studio’s wargaming Sci-Fi terrain.

GINGERMANE STUDIO

My story with Gingermane Studio started recently, as I was commissioned to paint some Infinity miniatures by a ‘friend of a friend’. Between many e-mails and hours spent on chat I got to know that aside from being an Infinity the Game fan, my customer designs wargaming terrain. He showed me some pics of early products and I simply fell in love with them. Time passed, miniatures got painted and Gingermane offer grew. Finally I was able to visit the friendstomer in his base of operations at the other end of the country, and we gave his scenery a spin. Soon after that I was ordering my first parcel…

QUALITY: 10/10

Gingermane Studio’s products are one of the best I met on the market. The MDF is cut perfectly, everything fits and follows a certain design theme. Products are thinked through, from the designs through playability to choice of material. I was shocked to see graphics for the ad-stands in form of self adhesive stickers, instead of the usual ‘you need to cut it by yourself’ prints. Everything has a nice ‘exclusive’ feel to it.

VISUALS: 10/10

Visual aspect of Gingermane’s scenery is responsible for stealing my heart. Smooth white surfaces joined by clear orange plexi and magnificent grapfic designs work like a charm. What stands out is the depth of different layers of MDF that creates a very original look. It’s like a mix of industrial facility with high-tech, exclusive feel o a clean, futuristic city. It is a bullseye right into my personal taste.

PLAYABILITY 10/10:

I already tested these on more than one occasion. As an experienced player I can only say that they fit Infinity the game perfectly. It is clear that the designs were tested and adjusted with gaming in mind. Hard angles, partial covers, access and proper dimensions make these terrain pieces very playable. It is also important to point out that due to specific colours, the Gingermane Studio’s scenery pieces make miniatures and tokens clearly visible on the game board. Another small win for the playability.

On top of that some terrain pieces are stackable and hold each other firmly. This works for Containers and Buildings…

FUNCTIONALITY: 10/10

Gingermane scenery comes pre-painted, or rather pre-coloured and does not require any paint job to look awesome. It all comes pre-cut and ready to be assembled, following a simple and well made manual. Working with these was a real pleasure.

PRICE: 9/10

With buildings between 16 – 20€ and Ad-stands varrying from less than 10€ to some about 15€ Gingermane Studio’s products seem to follow the price trends. Sure – they might have been cheaper, and that would probably made everyone happy – but they are well priced for what they offer.

OTHER FEATURES:

+ PACKAGING

Everything came in one piece, secured thoroughly and – as I was assured – hand checked before it was packed. Plexi and stickers got additional protection. Each individual product came packed separately. Yes – overall packagind does not look as nice as fabrically packed products, but is thorough and well protected.

+ CUSTOM DESIGNS

A cherry on the cake – Gingermane Studio does some individual projects and custom designs. If I was granting a ‘Fuck Yeah!’ awards in my reviews – Gingermane Studio would get one right now!

SUMMARY: 10/10 +

Seemingly simple and yet very stylish, the Gingermane Studio’s scenery stole my heart at first glance. I’m sitting here looking at these and just cannot stop smiling to myself. Maybe I’m overhyped. Maybe I am not being impartial in my evaluation. What can I say? I love these so god damn much! I want more and I want it now! On a scale where 10 is awesome, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 – I hereby grant 10 and a ‘Fuck Yeah!’ award to the Gingermane Studio’s wargaming terrain.

Gingermane Studio Facebook,

Gingermane.eu,

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Nazroth

REVIEW: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS COLLECTOR’S SERIES

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

Who does not know Dungeons & Dragons from either paperback or PC role-playing games? I myself am a big fan of D&D franchise due to uncountable hours spent gaming or reading related stories. D&D offers a lot to our imagination, but in the recent years Wizards of the Coast took extreme efforts to both promote and expand the variety of products branded with the holy D&D logo. Well, as it happened, there is a vast series of miniatures designed to fit the universe of D&D. Easy to say that I was thrilled to work with some of the Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s Series. More so, when I saw the boxes delivered by a courier. These looked really sweet and the designs and intricate detail presented in the cover was pushing my impatience into the danger zone!

PACKAGING: 5/10

When it comes to how these miniatures are packed I can only say that the boxes look great. Classic D&D style with nicely painted miniatures in the cover. Unfortunatelly looks are the only thing of value, as the protection offered by the box is rather mediocre. Inside each box I found a protective layer of cardboard supposed to keep miniatures from harms way when it comes to some degree of damage, but failing exponentially to keep the miniatures from being crushed. That’s because one long wall of the casing is loose and not supported by the short one . On top of that each miniature was wraped in a piece of bubble wrap for additional protection, but the boxes were not filled to the brim. This led to miniatures being thrown up and down during transportation and some small details were damaged beyond repair. This would be totally ok in case of regular plastic miniatures, but resin, of which these are made, is crunchy as hell and was punished severely by the lack of better protection.

QUALITY: 2/10

I must confess that the first impression when I took a closer look at the miniatures was ‘what the fuck?!’ I was almost blown off the chair and couldn’t believe that Wizards of the Coast accepted this quality to actually hit the stores. Some might say that Games Workshop or Corvus Belli’s quality spoiled me, but guys – this seemed unreal. I was swearing under my nose and shaking my head with disbelief. The miniatures presented in the pictures where nothing close to the final product and as much as I understand how things work with modelling and that some miniatures require additional preparation – I considered calling the friendstomer and declining the commission. This would have been the first time in my entire career. I really like the particular friendstomer so I decided to inform him of the quality and proceed with the miniatures, but the bad taste follows me up to this day…

 

So, what is actually wrong with the miniatures? Everything… I know how it sounds, but just take a look at the pictures below and weep. Oily surface with dimmed details, holes, extreme mold lines, shifted form, shifted surfaces, broken parts and unbelievable differences between the pictures and the real deal. Add to it that almost all thin parts were distorted and you might have a dim idea of what I faced. Atop of that some parts just did not fit each other, creating huge gaps inbetween. This last one was a common thing in every big creature from the series I have worked upon, but almost each miniature had some major defects. Even the bases looked like crap and that is not something I usually deal with…

VISUALS: 6/10

The ideas and designs for D&D miniatures are really nice and if not for extremely bad quality these might have been a group of really awesome products. What pains me the most is the amount of work required to bring these to a decent level so that they might be painted. I never done so before, but upon agreeing with the owner I just had to skip some of the defects or in one case even trashed a miniature. I don’t know how these would fare if not for specific style I choose for the job. I won’t lie – upon finishing the commission I was happy with the effect, but would always feel like these might have been done better if the quality let me. For this reason and taking the quality factor into consideration I must give a ‘6’ which is just ‘OK’.

FUNCTIONALITY: 3/10

I already mentioned the defects that clearly translate into bad modelling experience. Instead of repeating myself I would like to point out two more things.

  1. Material used for the miniatures is very fragile and does not work well with the super glue. It has high contractility thus leading to even the big parts being distorted and not fitting each other.
  2. Designs for casting ducts and casting templates are horrendous, obscuring important details, leading to excess resin leaks and detriments in key fragments of the miniatures.

Most of the quality issues could have been avoided by simply improoving the casting ducts and redesigning the way the miniatures are divided into particular parts. All in all the quantity of work required to prepare the miniatures was insane. I would never call these even close to proper and functional. Actually I think that the Wizkids Dungeons & Dragons miniatures might be much more hobbyist friendly than the Collector’s Series… and these are made of gum…

 

PRICE: 2/10

Here’s probably the craziest thing. For the quality and functionality already described a box of approximately five to six miniatures is around 50€ (E-bay prices). Let’s say that these are of perfect quality, then they still would have been a bit overpriced but fully acteptable. With ‘crap in the box’ that you get the pricing is just ridiculous! 🙂

 

SUMMARY: 3/10

Miniatures should look cool and working with them should certainly be fun. I tend to pick products that I really like for a review, but once in a while I feel compelled to shout a warning to fellow hobbyists and this is just such an occasion. On a scale where 10 is awesome, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 – I would give a 3 to Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s Series and would advice you to avoid these products if able. I myself would decline taking these to my desk, unless these are for a particular friendstomer of mine in which case I will make an exception, cuz he’s my bro.

 

Please remember that this is just my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and you have full right to disagree. I wish all of you the best possible experience with Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s sets and that I’m ultimately wrong about this series.

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REVIEW: ARMY PAINTER TUFTS

ARMY PAINTER

The Army Painter – a worldwide supplier of hobby products, such as paints, colour primers, glues, brushes, tufts and well… fck’n barbaric ‘Quickshades’. The company entered the market in 2007th introducing a medium sized offer of hobby products meant, as the name suggests, to paint entire armies. My personal adventure with Army Painter started pretty early, as I was a hobby store manager back in the days they’ve appeared. Easy to say that throughout ten years I had a pleasure of getting to know their entire range to a point, where Army Painter’s products had no secrets from me. Since 2007 the Army Painter’s offer had grewn potentially expandindg their paints range more than thrice and introducing some revamped products as well. This brings even more opportunities to get to know some new cool stuff.

When it comes to my opinion about entire AP’s range – I have mixed feelings. AP do have some fantastic products like:

  • Washes Warpaints, love them, old Games Workshop’s washes 100%, Strong Tone INK = Devlan Mud etc.
  • Metallic Warpaints, again love them, old GW’s ripped off 100%, they even taste the same and I will always use them!
  • Basic colours from Acrylic Warpaints, 18ml of white/black priced 25% cheaper than 12ml GW’s? Count me in!
  • Miniature & Model Super Glue, best in the world, I love it, it’s my favorite hobby product – ever.

Still, they also produce stuff like:

  • Quickshades, such barbarism… just watch THIS and frankly: die laughting (and I’ve tested them thoroughly).
  • Battlefields flocks and basings, reminding me of the old guys modelling trains, not nowaday’s quality, nor price.
  • Brushes, which are ok, but such quality comes waaay cheaper where I’m from.
  • Colour primers, varrying from awesome to utter crap.

Atop of all the above they also produce Hobby Tools, different glues, paints, Licensed Warpaints and Battlefields XP Tufts – and today I would like to take a closer look at the latter.

QUALITY: 10/10

For me the most important trait of a product is the quality. There’s plenty of products priced closely in the market, but among them there are some which exceed in quality. That’s where I aim, when deciding if I should purchase a range of particular products or not. In case of Army Painter’s Battlefield XP Tufts I used them for a very long time due to easy access and limited competition. Back in the days I wasn’t entirely happy with the AP’s tufts, as their quality varried between good and very bad. Old tufts were applied randomly, rendering a significant part of the product useless, be it due to not enought material being used or some tufts being applied to the fold in the foil, they came attached to. New tufts in the contruary, are applied selectively, numbering the exact 77 ideal pieces in a straight raws and varrying in shapes and sizes. This makes the new tufts superior to their previous incarnation and most of the current competition in the market. One might say that they are as close to being perfect as possible.

VISUALS: 9/10

They come in a variety of colours and designs. I really dig the entire range. One thing that set’s me on edge and lowers my rating from ‘awesome’ to ‘very good’ is the number of differently coloured blades mixed with the main colour. Oh’ Army Painter – why, for the love of God, you do things like this? These black hair are more horrific than your graphic layout and it is ‘a thing’…

Jokes (or not) aside, I miss the old Swamp Tuft’s strong green colour, not to mention old Winter Tuft. I do hope that with all the new designs and revamps you will bring more tufts to the fold and fill the void in my heart. Either way – be it mixed or solo, all the new Tufts look very good.

FUNCTIONALITY: 10/10

I have the exact zero issues with new Army Painter Battlefield XP Tufts. They come in perfect shapes, hair held firmly in the adhesive base. All hair are pointed upwards and on the sides. Colours are mixed well and in some cases different colours are also of a different length. Being arranged in straight raws makes these tufts easy to grab, while adhesive base has enough glue to keep them in place once used.

I have a little fetish of mine, tending to apply tufts over Super Glue and AP’s tufts behave very good when done so.

 

PRICE: 9/10

Army Painter’s Battlefield XP Tufts are very well priced. They are priced close to previously reviewed Paint Forge products, offering 77 pieces in a variety of sizes, including big ones. Would be awesome if they were cheaper, but that would be just too good, to say the least.

SUMMARY: 9/10

On a scale where 10 is awesome, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 – I would give a solid 9 to Army Painter’s Battlefields XP Tufts. I had a strong need to give them a ’10’, but hey – they could’ve always been insanely underpriced didn’t they? he he he… Either way, they look cool, are very user friendly, easy to apply, of solid quality and come in a variety of colours – and yes, the price is exactly what I would expect of these.

 

All in all I’m happy to finally be reviewing the Army Painter, with which I spent like ten years of solid painting by now. In my opinion some of their products are totally undervalued by hobbyists around the globe. I plan to bring more AP’s products on to the review table in the future. Mostly, the ones I like to use and have plenty of, like Washes or the best of the best Miniature & Model Super Glue.

Where to purchase? If you are lucky, then your local hobby store has some, but if not – go straight to the source at Army Painters Online store. If you happen to be managing a hobby store in Poland, then I strongly recommend you to contact THESE GUYS, they are very friendly distributors based here in Rzeczpospolita Polska.

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CORREGIDOR BASES TO HIT THE STORES!

Long time ago in a galaxy far away I started to work on my own design of round bases to use them for Infinity Corregidor Collection. Throughout the years these bases became somehow popular with customers asking me to make some for their own collections. At some point Micro Art Studio asked me to prepare a series of bases using my designs as a template, so that the series would be MAS produced. The entire process of designing, processing for approval, redesigning, correcting and producing took almost eight months, but finally, the official Corvus Belli approved Corregidor Bases of my design hit the Micro Art Studio’s online store!

Seeing the end product I can’t help but notice that Corregidor Bases made a long way since the initial idea. The design evolved a lot to reach it’s final form, but even such detail as different approach to paint job provides Corregidor Bases with a totally new looks, pushing them in the direction of that old, scarred jail ship theme.Micro Art Studio’s team did a great job.

Must say that it is awesome to see a real-deal product of  my design being released by a company of Micro Art Studio’s grandeur, not to mention Corvus Belli patronage over the project. Such great support to a project ensures quality of the end product and secures my name in the annuals of the hobby. Still, for me, the best reward would be to go to a tournament and encounter an army based on Corregidor Bases there. Damn! That would just rock my socks off 🙂

I look forward to seeing all the cool paint job ideas, players around the world would have for these bases. Can’t wait to get my own set – this would make basing my own collection so much easier 😛

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REVIEW: PAINT FORGE TUFTS AND FLOWERS

Static Grass or Tufts? That is a question that each painter has to answer by himself before going commando with basing miniatures. My personal favorites are off course Tufts as they offer a great visual effect. Sure, tufting entire base can be a bit expensive in comparisson to using Static Grass, but isn’t the looks what truly matters? So Tufts it is – and during many years of miniatures painting I used a variety of them. Recently I work with Army Painter’s, Citadel’s and MiniNature’s but when I want to pop the visual effect of a base with something more colorful or just fancy – I bring Paint Forge to the table!

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PAINT FORGE

From what I know Paint Forge is a Polish painting studio, that produced tufts and Flowers for own use, then seeing how popular they are – started mass production. I first encountered their products by accident, just scrolling through online offer of a friendly hobby store – seeking something to fill my shoping cart with. After seeing the offer I grabbed a handful of different Tufts and Flowers to test them. Since then I already had to resupply as I used up couple of packages during INFINITY: TOHAA project. Must say that most of the time I’m happy with Paint Forge’s stuff but let’s take a closer look at how their products present themeselves…

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QUALITY: 8/10

Both Tufts and Flowers are of fine quality. Once you work with them you will quickly notice the lack of the flaws that most of the nowadays Tufts and Flowers have. There will be no huge, random chunks of Tufts that require you to tear them into smaller pieces before usage. There’s almost no need to prepare either Tufts nor Flowers before use as they go in shapely groups – self adhesive and ready to be glued onto the base. When I say ‘adhesive’ I mean – like really, really adhesive – these are based on some sort of goo that really sticks to the surface. Upon opening the package there won’t be hundreds upon hunreds of loose grass blades – only few of these. There’s also no Games Workshop-like shine of the grass blades. Some flaws are still present but it is common with this kind of products.

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VISUALS: 10/10

What can I say? Paint Forge’s Tufts ands Flowers just kick ass when it comes to Visuals. I know that it is a matter of taste but hell – I’ll just drop some pictures of the miniatures that I used Paint Forge’s stuff on:

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TAU Ethereal 3

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FUNCTIONALITY: 8/10

Paint Forge’s Tufts and Flowers are rather functional. Most of the time the only preparation they require would be to pick them with tweezers and just put them on the base. Some things that I have issues with are:

  1. Rough grass blades, which can be encountered in Flowers. Instead of growing out of the base (goo) of the tuft, they are kept by the upper flower part. This qualifies them for removal, but…
  2. Goo that keeps everything in place is soft and sticky. If you want to remove a single, regular grass blade – it will work just fine, but if you want to remove a grass blade kept by the upper part, then more will surely follow, as the base will give up before the upper part does. It is also near to impossible to tear the goo appart without damaging the Tuft.
  3. Mutated grass blades, which happen to appear in Tufts. These extremely long hair tend to go through entire goo-base of the Tuft making them difficult to be effectively removed without damaging the soft base of the Tuft.
  4. Goo-base of the Tuft is sticky and will surely keep the Tuft on the miniature’s base, but if you happen to be a fan os Super-gluing tufts onto the bases then Paint Forge’s Tufts will dissapoint you, as once the glue is applied you will encounter some crazy difficulties with gluing the Tuft onto the surface.

These are not some huge flaws, still once they appear – they tend to consume time, and time (at least for me) is the most important factor in miniatures painting. Either way these are rare while the overall functionality of the products is really high. No need to remove a rough grass blade – it’s easier to stick the Tuft on the base so that this flaw will stay hidden. You can also try to reposition such grass blade into the goo. There are many quick ways to fix any encountered bug – while using the Tufts with ease.

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scarhandpainting-review-paint-forge-purple-flowers-3-very-bad

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PRICE: 9/10

Paint Forge’s products are well balanced when it comes to price. Not too expensive with price gauge placed somewhere around Army Painter. It wouldn’t hurt if they were a bit cheaper, thus competitive, but considering the quality – pricing is really ok.

SUMMARY: 9/10

Not too expensive, great looking and user friendly – Paint Forge’s products are a great choice to compliment the arsenal of Tufts and Flowers used to base the miniatures. Personally I fell in love with them and will expand my collection. I only wish I got to know them a bit sooner so that many fine projects would benefit from it – still there’s a lot of projects before me and you will notice Paint Forge’s Tufts and Flowers appearing in a lot of them.

 

Where to purchase? The best way is to contact Paint Forge directly via Facebook or to visit Vanaheim.pl/eu and order some!

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REVIEW: RIGHT ARM LABS WARGAMING TERRAIN

If you are reading this blog regularly, then you already know that my life is not entirely composed of painting – some gaming is also involved! Here and there a more gaming-centered article pops out and today’s review is just such an article. If you came here for a painting article, please do not be discouraged and still give thise one a try – who knows, maybe you will end up ordering a bunch of miniatures along with some cool looking terrain, or at least see something new?

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RIGHT ARM LABS

I stumbled upon Right Arm Labs during Polish National Championships of Infinity the game. This friendly, wargaming terrain producing, company visited the event, providing awesome looking terrain pieces for couple of gaming boards. Many times have I gasped with admiration seeing how cool looking and playable their gaming boards were. Unfortunatelly for me, back then I didn’t play a single game on their terrain, but in the end I won a painting competition and received some gifts funded by guys from Right Arm Labs. (Lucky me!). So I took my spoils of war back home and gave them a try in couple of games. Here’s my thoughts on them…

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QUALITY: 9/10

If I’m to categorise Right Arm Labs products I’d say they are of a good quality. The material used to construct them is durable and the parts fit perfectly to one another. They are easy to put together which is uncommon in the market of wargaiming terrain. Another uncommon thing is that they come pre-painted and not in some dismissive way, but a totally nice looking, precise and ready to play one. Sure, the colours could use some juice, but it’s better than regular HDF!

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VISUALS: 7/10

Right Arm Labs took an interresting approach to visual aspect of their terrain. Exteriors are a bit crude and some features were clearly left out to make these terrain pieces more playable. At the same tame there’s a lot of detail and pre-painting. Sure it’s not Zen Terrain complex design or Micro Art Studio’s fine style, but still it appeals to the eye isn’t it? We must remember that there are plenty one-man-companies that produce flat walled cubic buildings and don’t even bother to add detail. Right Arm Labs proudly stands above the latter.

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PLAYABILITY 10/10:

Along with nice looks the Right Arm Labs Terrain comes with high playability. Flat surfaces and sharp angles are perfect for Infinity and will fit in many different games including Warhammer 40,000. Height and dimensions of the objects and terrain pieces goes well with 28mm scale, providing enough cover and options for our miniatures to explore. While smaller scenery pieces can be mounted on bases and used as objectives, the buildings are designed in a way that lets you manipulate their features between games! Just take a look at this interresting Control Room:

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Now let’s break it into particular pieces…

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Each of these pieces, even the floor, is two sided, with one side being more military themed and the other more industrial…

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Walls can be switched at a whim and go smooth into special sliders designed to accomodate them…

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I see many different uses for this kind of building, including but not limited to: Objective Room, bunker, regular building, urban platform…

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FUNCTIONALITY: 10/10

They come pre-painted and let you manipulate features for more re-playability, but most of all they are well designed with particular pieces being held in place by sturdy elements. Even doors are made of two layers – one fitting perfectly into the wall, while the other is holding it firmly in place. Also, due to the clever construction, the walls seem much thicker than they actually are. The key feature is that the entire construction can be easily assembled/disasembled in a matter of seconds.

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PRICE: 4/10

Price is the only thing setting me on edge when thinking about these splendid terrain pieces. A complex objective room along with a roof that must be purchased separately will see you spend around 50€ to obtain. I’m not suggesting it is not worth the price – I’m saying it’s just a lot for a single building. In comparisson for this price you will get not one but between two to seven Micro Art Studio’s buildings! It is a well known fact that most of us would rather spend majority of their hobby cash on miniatures instead of a gaming board. Still if you count in the time and resources required to paint a single building – the initial price of Right Arm Labs terrain does not look so bad.

 

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SUMMARY: 8/10

Personally I think that Right Arm Labs does a nice job with their terrain. Their products are not ‘designed for Infinity’ but rather designed for Wargaming, but ideal for Infinity. I’m willing to forget the price issue due to awesome playability and unprecedented solutions. I can only recommend you to try some of their stuff yourself. I’m sure that you won’t regret it. To contact Right Arm Labs check out their Facebook page, Instagram profile or write’em an e-mail. (This is their preffered way of providing you with particular prices.)

If you have some experience with Right Arm Labs products – I’ll be glad to read your opinion in the comments 😉

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REVIEW: DISPLAYS AND GLASS DOMES

Have you ever created a work that you were so proud of as to arrange it in a display or glass dome? If so – you probably know that finding such is a quest in itself. With few ‘worthy’ miniatures of my own I have wandered the web in search of proper displays and glass domes. I’ve seen many forum threads and online stores but to no avail. At some point I even abandoned all hope. Stores that might provide me with good quality items, that I was searching for, seemed to elude me. Years passed by, while I grew more and more tired of my unsuccessful search.You see the biggest issue about the displays in modelling is their size. It’s difficult to find a display of the exact dimensions to suit 28mm scaled miniatures. Usually what’s available for purchase is huge in comparrison to what you are looking for and in worse cases – of bad quality.

 

Fortunately for me, the search ended abruptly few weeks ago when I stumbled upon not one but two ideal sources of the items I was looking for. After making a test purchase I’ve decided to share with you some the insight…

 

IZMOD DISPLAYS

Izmod is a Polish company producing Displays for miniatures and models. The company seems to be a one-man bussiness with a small online store. The owner is a kind and trustworthy person, open to ideas (at least that’s my opinion) so I asked him about few things and  got to know that right now he is preparing an english version of his website. Good news is that anyone interrested in the purchase can still contact him via e-mail, as it is possible for him to sell and send the items abroad. He also informed me about the differences in the wood structure and the ways his displays are being glued. I’m sure that he is ready to answer any questions regarding eventual purchase, while his producs – well, just see for yourself…

Displays and Glass Domes 1

QUALITY:

Quality of Izmod’s displays is really nice. Depending on the choosen type of wood, the base elements are smooth and cut in a way that compliments the shape of the base. The base comes laquered and feels great in touch, while also being paint-friendly. The plexi displays came to me unscratched (excluding one that was damaged by the post office and exchanged shortlya fter with a new one). The walls are perfectly translucent and edges are rather even. I say ‘rather’ cause here and there some small irregularities appear, but I would still give them 8/10. The only flaw I could find is the way the outer cuting edges are rought in some places, but I’m sure that these can be further polished once I’ll start preparing these displays for the exposition.

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PRICE:

Price of these items is fair, varying between 13-25€ with no item from the above picture being even close to the upper price. I’m sure that once you will check out this offer you will find the price well balanced.

LARGE SELECTION:

As I have already mentioned – these items come in a large selection. A variety of shapes and sizes with bases being cut in few differend ways and laquered in different colours. For me being able to choose from between the size of 6/6/6cm and 50/35/35cm is just a thing of beauty. To sweeten the deal, the displays come in few types of wood.

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Maybe I’m hyped a bit, but I just want to scream ‘awesome!’ about these things. If you are looking for a proper miniature display – be sure to give Izmod a shot.

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IKEA GLASS DOMES

Everyone knows IKEA. So many houses felt it’s presence these days. Every kind of house related stuff can be found there, still I was somehow shocked to see a series of cool looking glass domes there. Maybe that’s because I was hunting for a fine glass dome with a wooden base for couple of year – don’t know. What I know is that once I accidentally caught a glimpse of a glass dome – I just stood there mesmerized untill me gf bumped into me asking what am I looking at so intensely. It was like a dream come true. Just look at these beauties and you will understand…

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QUALITY:

In comparison to what I already had at home, the quality of Ikea’s glass domes is very good. Glass is smooth and translucent while bases are perfectly shaped. Some small flaws can bee found here and there, but the overall visuals of the domes is just cool. Also the glass is thin making these domes light (which can be very helpful while cleaning the insides).

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PRICE:

Both domes are priced around 10€ which is more than a fair price. I remember purchasing an unbased glass dome for more than 15€, with glass being dimm and blurry (can be seen in the above pics). I don’t know how these will be priced in your place, but be sure to check out both items in the closest Ikea.

Small glass dome code: 303.272.52

Large glass dome code: 403.273.03

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Here’s my advice for you. If you have any advice for me in return – be sure to leave it in the comments section – I’ll be happy to expand my collection of displays and glass domes.

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REVIEW: BRUSH CLASH KOLIBRI vs WINSOR & NEWTON

Are you hungry for spilled paint? Ripped hair, broken handles? Another fight of the century is upon us! Today, in the left corner, we have a Kolibri 88 ‘3’! This, standing 7 inch tall, 2 grams of a brush is ready to fight till death against a half inch taller and one gram heavier – Winsor & Newton Series 7 ‘2’! Will ~8$ Kolibri prewail or will it be crushed by ~12$ Winsor & Newton? Both fighters seem to be in shape so let us begin!

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Both brushes used are of similar properities, tips shape and size so I decided to clash them against one another. For the purpose of this clash I used Warhammer 40,000 Tau miniatures. Got plenty of those on my desk, awaiting further paint job – so I seized the opportunity. I also used a mix of Vallejo Rust, Bright Bronze, Black and Thinner (Which I called the ‘Underrust’). After checking out the paint and preparing some working space – I’ve started with Kolibri 88 ‘3’, painting ten miniatures with the ‘Underrust’. The surface being painted was rather small, but I tried to compensate by quantity of the miniatures being painted…

Kolibri after 10

Kolibri went through this test really nice. Regardless of not cleaning the brush with water mid-testing, the tip stayed sharp with no hair being separated (Remember Citadel Layer S from the last figt?). Head worked very well, but at first I had to get accustomed to it’s softness. Painting with Kolibri for the first time in my career was a pleasant experience.

I switched to Winsor & Newton Series 7 ‘2’, checked the tip and went all ahead full with another ten miniatures…

Winsor and Newton after 10

The painting experience was almost identical to Kolibri. At some point a single hair split from the tip but rolling it in the paint reshaped the tip to it’s former shape. This happened two times during the ten-miniatures test, but other than that I did not encounter any alarming behaviour of the brush. Main difference between these two brushes was the softness of the head. While Kolibri was pretty soft, W&N stayed firm throughout the test.

I counldn’t decide which brush performed better thus I decided to continue the test. This time I went all-in and painted the entire collection of miniatures with four layers of paints including wash. I grouped the miniatures into two similar groups of over 30 pieces and started my work. It took almost four hours to complete (Oh how the time comes and goes)…

Brush Clash allin

Here’s the video from the fight – I filmed the first round so you can see that the fight was a real deal 🙂

RESULTS:

This was a really long battle between two very good brushes. In the end I was able to test both brushes to the extent of their capabilities. I really liked and will certainly paint with both of them from now on, but there can be only one winner of the ‘Brush Clash’. During these four hours of painting I grew accustomed to Kolibri – it felt somehow more pleasant to paint with it. The price, size and weight of the brush have nothing to do with it – it’s just my personal feel. I’m sure it’s because the head of the brush is softer and it was easier for me to operate – at least in this kind of paint job. That is the reason for me to deem Kolibri the winner of the secong Brush Clash, with Winsor & Newton being defeated just by the margin.

If you have any experience with either of these brushes – be sure to leave me a comment with your opinion on it’s performance.

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