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REVIEWS

Review: A-Case Victory 2.0 Carrying Bag

INTRODUCTION

Moving painted miniatures to a tournament or painting competition can be a real challenge. I bet that every single miniatures painter had one or more miniatures damaged while being transported. Sad truth is that no matter what we do, situations like these happens. Still, when it comes to safe transportation of our beloved miniatures, we’re not completely helpless.

In the world of miniatures painting there are two well established ways of professional miniatures transportation, both with their own pros and cons: Foam Bags and Magnetic Bags. Today I would like to talk a bit about the latter and present to you the A-Case Victory 2.0 from A-Case, one of the leading companies in the market.

QUALITY

During my years as a hobby store manager and a hobbyist, I’ve seen my share of transportation bags. This imho allows me to say that when it comes to quality A-Case is king. Everything fits, everything is smooth, no thread going wild along the stitches, inner metal casing of great quality plus the overall feel of an exclusive product.
New A-Case Victory 2.0 saw a lot of improvements compared to previous series, such as a much sturdier construction, reinforced trays, strapped side pins to keep the trays in place and more.

VISUALS

I know this part is totally subjective, but Dayum! The Victory 2.0 looks so good! Everything from design, through quality makes it feel prestigious, both in the inside and the outside. To be fair the sole look is what made me crave a Magnetic Case of my own when I scrolled through facebook and saw it time and time again. Just couldn’t resist. At least now you know why I’m so hyped about it.

FUNCTIONALITY

Coming from a position of an orthodox foam fan I have thoroughly tested this carrying case during last month. Apart from obvious features like light weight, comfort of use, adjustable strap with a shoulder pad, handle, large pocket and removable trays Victory 2.0 has some cool features that improve on the case’s functionality. A Velcro strap on top and at the front allows to attach badges, while water resistant material will keep your miniatures safe in case of bad weather. My favorite though are side pins to immobilize the trays in place. In previous series these might get lost but now attached with flexible straps they will follow the trays around.

PRICE

It’s not easy to compare A-Case’s Victory 2.0 to other transportation cases as there’s really no high tier competition in the market. Yes, there are some magnetic cases out there (Battle Foam, Tablewar etc.) but most is just out of this league. Coming at a price of around 180€ Victory 2.0 is also more expensive than foam counterpart, but it offers a totally different method of miniatures transportation. One that does not involve your paint job touching anything, even as soft as foam. One that allows you to transport large quantity of miniatures in a rather small bag. Most importantly one that is durable and will last for years to come. In addition A-Case offers free shipping around the world and in some cases (like US) that means huge savings.
For me the pricing of this exclusive product seem fair. Taking the cost of miniatures and time/money spent on painting into consideration, around 180€ seems like a small price for solid, comfortable and very aesthetic protection.

SUMMARY

To summarize, if you’re looking for a solid and comfortable way to transport your miniatures – A-Case Victory 2.0 is the thing. It looks great, it is very comfortable to use, made of high quality materials and with utmost care for detail. On top of it the case is reasonably priced. 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 deem this product awesome! 10/10 Victory 2.0 totally revolutionized my approach to Magnetic transportation and ended twenty years of my foam addiction.

WHERE TO BUY?

Victory 2.0 is currently being produced after a successful kickstarter campaign. If you suddenly crave for your own Carrying Case, head to:
A-Case website,
A-Case Facebook,

If you’re more of a patient type and want to save some buck – wait for the next A-Case kickstarter campaign, which is sure to take place at some point in the future.

Victory 2.0 and other Carrying Cases from the Hybrid series will be available to purchase in December 2019! Stay tuned!

BONUS: ROLL BAG

Brushes and Tools Roll Bag is another product of A-Case that I really like. This smart solution of brushes and modelling tools transportation might come in handy when you plan to take your hobby on a trip, or engage in hobby activities at a local store. Personally I’ve used it to transport my tools to airbrush workshops I ran. Also took it to hotels couple of times. It’s great and I can’t figure out why it ain’t that popular with hobbyists?

Either way – I have three of these and currently use two – this leaves me with one spare Roll Bag. You’ve made it through the entire article and deserve a reward – so here’s where the surprise starts:

The top right Brushes and Tools Roll Bag (Orange) can be yours!
To join the raffle simply:
* Like Scarhandpainting Facebook profile,
* Like this facebook post and comment on it with a #gimmerollbag,
Results will be posted at Sunday 10th of November. Good luck!

Nazroth

Review: Guild Ball Champ

Guild Ball on the workbench once again, with a brand new Champ miniature that was sent to me for review. Let’s just get into it…

This time the resin is smooth, with crisp detail and sharp edges. It looks very high quality and seem exclusive. It is hard to bend and works perfectly with knife and file. It behaves almost like harder version of Games Workshops plastic. Very pleasant to work with. Much better quality than Forge World resin, light years away from board game plastic and huge improvement in Guild Ball quality overall. I love it!
The design is also very nice, with no parts that might be susceptible to get damaged. On top of that the miniature looks just awesome! The dynamism of the pose is clear to see thanks to a very natural combat stand. Cool miniature.

The base is also top quality with no issues what so ever. Sharp, flat edge, no miscast, no mold lines – perfect.

As a side note: I think that the best proof of SFG’s quality improvement over the years is comparison of new resin Champ (left) vs Kickoff plastic Harmony (right). These are two completely different worlds.

Summary:

  • design thought through,
  • nice crisp detail,
  • no difference between two sides of the mold,
  • mold lines thin and easy to remove,
  • no rough surfaces/distortions of texture,**
  • material looks exclusive, 10/10,**
  • there are no issues when working with knife & file,**
  • base looks great,**
    **These are all big improvements compared to previous miniature.

For more Guild Ball related articles go to scarhandpainting.com/tag/guild-ball

Nazroth

Review: Guild Ball Legacy Collection (Resin) Mortician’s follow-up – Gaffer

Another short follow-up to “Review: Guild Ball Legacy Collection (Resin) Mortician’s“.

Being a part of Steamforged Games Media Network allowed me to get a copy of Free Cities Draft new release – “Gaffer” miniature. I’m still learning Guild Ball rules, thus I will leave power level talk to those who are more into it and do my part instead. Let’s review quality!

This resin differs from Mortician’s resin and is much more like Falconer’s Ikaros from Organized Play Kit. The main difference between Gaffer and Ikaros is obviously colour, but also texture. Here and there a prominent (3d print after-effects?) texture distortion is visible. I have mixed feelings about this but fortunately it becomes barely visible after undercoat and should, in theory, disappear completely after few layers of paint. Design is very nice and thought through. No flimsy parts, no mold lines on top of important detail. Material is firm but it also leaves tiny scobs when removing mold lines with either knife or a file.

Base has a sharp bottom line and would have been perfect if not for a strange line going across entire surface from one side to the other. It looks more like a precise knife cut (mechanical damage) rather than mold line design. It is strange and for now I assume this is a one time thing and not standard – cuz who would plan a “feature” like that?

To wrap things up:

  • design thought through,
  • nice crisp detail,
  • no difference between two sides of the mold,
  • mold lines thin and easy to remove,
  • some rough surfaces/distortions of texture,
  • material looks average, has a board game plastic sheen to it,
  • there are some issues when working with knife & file,
  • base looks great (except for a mysterious “feature”)

Overall quality is satisfactory. No major fuckups and only minor inconveniences present. This product is definitely superior to Mortician’s Resin, while being slightly inferior to OPK Ikaros. I’m pretty sure it is a colour related thing, as different colour mixes impact resin properties. I wouldn’t mind if entire Mortician’s range got released in this quality.

Nazroth

Review: Guild Ball Legacy Collection (Resin) Mortician’s follow-up

A short follow-up to my recent “Review: Guild Ball Legacy Collection (Resin) Mortician’s“.

As it turns out some companies are not afraid of constructive criticism. Steamdforged Games impressed me greatly with how professional, open and fast to act they are. More so – I was invited to join SFG Media Network to get access to some review copies! This (kind of) blew my mind!

Today a package filled with review goodies arrived at my doorsteps. Inside was an Organised Play Set (with a miniature) and some cool looking merch. I’m not an authority when it comes to merch, but the fanboy in me squirmed with joy while I went through all the stuff doing my best to assess quality.

Overall merch is really great. I mean – it’s merch – being great is the point of it. I especially like the patch: top notch quality with smooth, rounded edges and solid 3d depth. Adhesive at the back is something I’ve never encountered before and seem like a great solution, allowing for use on plastic cases and carry boxes. Metal pins are my second fav. Design is great, but what impressed the “quality freak” in me the most was the back, which shows how SFG takes great care about their products. I love it.

RESIN QUALITY

All that being said, now’s time for Resin quality review, as this is the actual follow-up to the previous review.

On top of dope dice, metal coins and some other interresting stuff the Organised Play Set contains a resin miniature. I wasn’t sure what to expect (or better to say – coming from a biased standpoint I didn’t expected much). As it happens, this time quality is very good to say the least.

  • nice crisp detail,
  • no difference between two sides of the mold,
  • mold lines thin and easy to remove,
  • smooth surfaces,
  • material looks exclusive,
  • material works perfect with knife and file,
  • base looks great with barely visible mold line, (this time correctly at the bottom of the base)

I have no issues with the miniature – it looks great!

Now I look forward to Mortician’s quality revamp and have full confidence that SFG can pull this off.

Nazroth

Review: Guild Ball Legacy Collection (Resin) Mortician’s

I’ve been a miniatures collector and hobbyist for over twenty years now. Naturally every now and then I find a game or miniatures range that instantly makes me wanna pick a faction and get everything that’s available! This is what I usually do: I go all in. Steamforged Games Guild Ball was not so different.

INTRODUCTION

Initially I had a brief encounter with the game, painted a small commission and observed how miniatures range evolves throughout the years. Once I felt like seeking out a new game to play – Guild Ball was there and Mortician’s guild was ready to take me in with two brand new Legacy Collection resin sets. (Strings of the Spirit Weaver & The Master of Puppets). Miniatures looked dope, community was strong, game was fun – my hype skyrocketed and I ordered both sets…

QUALITY SURPRISE

When boxes arrived I was very impressed with the way Legacy Collection is packed. Two matt & grainy hard paper boxes with shining Steamforged Games logos. Damn, I almost got a boner!

The charm abruptly ended once I sorted out the miniatures and took a close look. Words can’t describe my shock. Just take a look at these pictures:

Please bare with me on this: On top of my hobby history I also worked in a hobby store for straight ten years. I get that in mass productions shit sometimes happens. Still the sheer amount of fuckup in both sets was quite overwhelming.
What I did was sort out miscast garbage from miniatures that I could hope to salvage. To be fair all the miniatures bared some sort of defect or damage but upon thorough examination I decided I was capable of repairing some of them. I started to work on about half and placed a Complaint ticket using Steamforged Games “Submit a request” online form for the rest.

To sum up quality: It varies between miniatures. All have prominent mold lines and tiny holes. Some texture is rough, some is unnaturally corrugated. Miniatures, including bases bare marks of inaccurate filing. Bases come with deformed edge. Pieces does not fit one another… it is really bad.

VISUALS

Steamforged Games pictures promise stunning miniatures with a lot of detail. Unfortunately it couldn’t be further away from truth. Although the overall design and thus renders are breathtaking, the end product does not reflect the quality.

On top of all the fugly texture distortion, mold lines, missing detail – some miniatures are simply different than depicted at the website. In all fairness I simply cannot appreciate visual aspect of these sets when on top of bad quality there’s an obvious downgrade in comparison to what was depicted by the producer.

FUNCTIONALITY

Functionality is very important to me both as a hobbyist and as a gamer. As a hobbyist I prefer material that is easy to work with and does not add obstacles between me and finished paint job. As a gamer I like my miniatures to be durable and designed in a way to prevent some obvious damage. Steamforge Games Legacy Collection is the opposite. Resin is very soft which makes it difficult to remove mold lines. Using a file or a hobby knife leaves tiny gum-like hair which makes it impossible to achieve smooth texture where previously mold lines have been. Miniatures were not properly designed for use of this material which resulted in some weapons being paper thin, flexible and easy to break (some even arrived broken to begin with) and impossible to repair. Pieces does not fit one another. Mold line reserve is put on some vital detail (like faces!). This set is a hell to work with both in terms of necessary time consumption and being unable to 100% properly prepare the miniatures…

PRICE

…and it all comes at a rather ludicrous price of 70€ per set. 140€ total for 17 miniatures and two “balls” would make you think that quality be at least around “ok”. In the meantime Corvus Belli sells a set of 14 highly detailed, top quality metal miniatures for less than 90€!

COMPLAINT & REPLACEMENTS

…My complaint was processed and I got a reply that although miniatures that differentiate from the picture will not be replaced, all the damaged/miscast miniatures will be dealt with in approximate two months.
I decided it is only fair to wait patiently and not review the product before replacements arrive.

They did, three and a half month later. First of all not all the damaged/miscast miniatures got replaced. Secondly, the ones that did, were the final push thus here I am, third hour of preparing this review so that hopefully no one else would end up disappointed and powerless as I am right now.

SUMMARY

To wrap things up these two Guild Ball Legacy Collection (resin) sets are one of my worst hobby related experiences of all time. Games Workshop’s “finecast”, Wizzards of the Coast resin – Nothing compares. 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 feel like not wanting to mention Steamforged Gamnes product. I’m writing this review as a warning to all these hyped hobbyists that see a cool looking picture and expect miniatures to follow up on it. What the fuck Steamforged Games? What the fuckeedy fuck?!

If you don’t want to get triggered like me – I suggest avoiding Steamforged Games Guild Ball Legacy Collection (resin) series and instead supporting your favorite game with purchase of metal/board game plastic series via Steamforge Games store or better – a local hobby store.

You think I overreacted? Or maybe you think my wrath is justified? Let me know in the comments below or at Facebook.

Nazroth

Review: Brush Clash Winsor & Newton vs Games Workshop

Hope you’re ready for another round of Brush Clash! I feel like I’ve misjudged Winsor & Newton Series 7 the last time, thus I have decided to throw it into the paint stained arena once more, this time against Games Workshop’s Artificer Layer!

For the purpose of this clash I used a highly detailed Avatar of Sokar metal miniature from Reaper Miniatures. The Avatar was painted almost exclusively using both brushes with an exception of couple base layers.

Throughout the test both the Winsor & Newtor Series 7 ‘0’ and Games Workshop Artificer Layer ‘XS’ performed perfectly. Tips held their shape, hair kept being nicely springy, not being too firm at the middle.

Winsor & Newtor Series 7 ‘0’ is the cheaper of the pair. The price difference is about 25%. Buying this brush you can be sure of Winsor & Newton’s top quality, further assured by this company flawless reputation.

Games Workshop Artificer Layer ‘XS’ seem to hold up to W&N’s Series 7. Even though I distrust Games Workshop I fully recommend this brush to you. The quality is on par with W&N and both brushes seem to be made with same hair. What makes Artificer Layer special is the black Ferrule, that allows for easier identification when digging through a cup full of brushes in search of that important ‘0’. For me this feature is a life changer.

Aside of the brand new Brush Clash pair, I’ve been using another pair for the last year. Both brands performed perfectly, whereas Tamiya, Davinci, Kolibri and many other brushes got annihilated due to sheer number of projects I was involved in. We’re talking hundreds of miniatures that both GW Artificer Layer ‘XS’ and W&N Series 7 ‘0’ got through more or less unscathed. I grew attached to both brushes with just a slight incline towards Artificer Layer, due to it’s black Ferrule. That’s why I keep the more important XS of the GW brand, while W&N covers all the other sizes.

All that being said, there’s just no way for me to judge which of these fine brushes is superior when it comes to performance. Both have fought well and I hold them in high regard. The combined might of these two brushes can take on any miniature!

Let me know which of these two you find more appealing!

Nazroth

Review: Zen Terrain Base Toppers

Zen Terrain, a company from Poland, known for laser cut scenery and accessories. Zen Terrain’s offer is not vast but it certainly is very well thought through with many advanced and interesting designs. I first met with Zen Terrain back in 2014, when I started collecting Infinity the Game. What drove me to Zen Terrain’s Sci-Fi range was a certain elegant theme that all the products share. Among scenery and gaming accessories, there’s a certain group of items that I had an opportunity to work with, the Base Toppers, known also as ‘Base Overlays’. Below you will find my take on them.

INTRODUCTION

They come in all different types, thickness and even made out of different material. Zen Terrain base toppers offer consists of a wide variety of products including industrial, oriental , cybernetic, technical patterns and more. Below is just a sample. To fully grasp what Zen has to offer visit Bases section of Zen Terrain site.

QUALITY

I will start by admitting the truth: I am a quality freak, when it comes to miniatures, accessories, scenery, literally everything miniatures related. I have mentioned this before so for those of you who read my articles this shouldn’t be a surprise. That being said, I have compared Zen Terrain base toppers quality to products from couple other companies (EU and US based) and as far as hard paper/HDF/MDF goes Zen Terrain range is top tier quality. Zen definitely does not save on material, nor laser cutting time. Material is strong, does not stratify, is precisely cut.

As a side note: Zen also provides quality check and packs this stuff very well for transportation. No missing parts and/or damage during shipment ever occurred when I received my orders.

VISUALS

This one is off course super bias dictated. Zen Terrain aesthetics might or might not work for you. Personally I really like some of Zen’s base toppers a lot. I do strongly ‘feel’ aesthetics of some of them. Going through entire range I do not find any type, that I feel like “naah, I don’t want to work with these as a painter” about.

FUNCTIONALITY

Another important aspect I always look for is functionality. As a full time painter I try to make my life easier and prefer to avoid products that does not go well with that philosophy. Working with Zen Terrain toppers have some merits. For instance they do not require any preparation. Just glue them on top the bases and you’re ready to go. (They fit the bases perfectly by the way, unlike some other worse quality toppers I worked with).

One thing that I find to be a little inconvenience comes from material itself. Where metal, plastic and resin are rather easy to drill, I find hard paper and HDF/MDF to distort around the drill hole. This is not a game changer, just requires a bit more time and some tricks to ‘repair’ afterwards. Figured thing like this is worth a mention if you’re considering laser cut toppers.

Zen Terrain base toppers work very well with paint. Have went through more than 200 of them, from among couple different types, in recent years. Never encountered any uncommon behavior or issues.

PRICE

The final aspect: Price. Pricing looks similar to other companies. For 5 25mm base toppers you will pay about 3,3€ so a bit less than Customeeple 3,95€, but also a bit more than Micro Art’s 2,56€ (these come in packs of 12 for 6,15€ only). Comparing to products from other companies (not only Sci-Fi themed) I would say Zen has a mid-tier price range. Personally I find this price to be well balanced with quality.

SUMMARY 10/10

To wrap things up, if you have no experience with Zen Terrain’s base toppers and consider using toppers in the future, I totally recommend going for Zen’s stuff. The range is there, full of interesting designs. Quality is top, price is good. They are easy to work with and look really nice once properly painted. When it comes to MDF/HDF/hard paper toppers, taking into account material properties I would give Zen Terrain’s stuff 9,5/10 rounding up to 10/10 and that’s 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 try to not be biased on this, even tho I know the man behind Zen Terrain personally. Allow me to finish up with this line: I seriously enjoy working with Zen Terrain base toppers and how they turn out, every time.

Where to purchase? Zen Terrain has it’s official webstore. I invite you to take a peek.

Nazroth

REVIEW: PROSHAKER

Have you ever woke up after a day of painting, hands searing with agony? Do you shake your paints yourself or use futuristic technology to do it for you? Now in all seriousness – have you ever considered getting a proper paint shaker? I have recently decided to treat myself with one. Below are my thoughts about it…

PROSHAKER

So yeah – Recently I’ve obtained a ProShaker – Professional Gel Polish and Lacquer Shaker. Before I chose this model I’ve made a short research in the web and compared it with two other popular, hobby friendly shakers: Nadeco Nail Lacquer Shaker and Robart Hobby Paint Shaker. Don’t know much about the company that produces ProShaker but it looked impressive and durable when compared to other two. It also operates at a wider spectrum of movement so I’ve figured it will provide better results. Purchased via AliExpress, got here in (wow!) just four days and so far I am happy about it, but first things first.

INSIDE THE BOX

Inside the box there are:

* Liquid Shaker’s main body, wraped in a double cardboard casing,

* Power plug,

* Spare springs,

* Quick start manual,

QUALITY

Made mostly out of hard, lacquered metal, with sturdy plastic parts and mechanism hidden in a special compartment – ProShaker seems to be of a good quality and durable. It’s simplicity wotks as an advantage as there are not many parts that can get damaged. The main body is very heavy (seems like about 5kg) and holds in place while working. Power plug is a standard issue, nothing special – it can be easily replaced if broken. I’m not especially fond of a on/off switch, would preffer a more solid, plastic button – but this one does it’s job so I’ll give it a free pass.

PERFORMANCE

ProShaker is very simple to use – just put a paint into the holder and cap it, switch on, wait 60 seconds till it automatically switches off. The holder works fine with Army Painter, Vallejo, Games Workshop and even P3 bottles. Advertised to perform with about 500 rotations per minute – In my opinion it seems more like 4 per second, which gives about half the declared speed – still quite good.

One thing that I find unpleasant about ProShaker’s performance is the noise. It has nothing to do with ‘Smooth, quiet operation’ proudly displayed on the box – and is rather annoying. This might be because I have a brand new piece and it’ll take some time before it lubricates properly. If not – I will use a special spray grease and it should tone the noise down a notch.

Once ‘shaked’ the paint is mixed pretty well. ProShaker managed to effectively mix even a Games Workshop’s ‘dry’ paint, which is a deed in itself. It works especially well with paints that have a pigmentation issue – something that requires a lot of work to properly mix.

PRICE and COMPETITION

ProShaker is an expensive toy. Prices varry between 90$ and up to 170$. Add to it a shipment cost and potential customs and damn – this thing is not for everyone. Still, the quality seems worth it, especially when compared to competition.

From what I’ve seen there are two major competitors to ProShaker, that provide similar results.

Nadeco Nail Lacquer Shaker

It comes in many variations. Price between 20$ and 40$ is certainly a big advantage over a ProShaker, but the quality is clearly inferior. Type of movement is limited to left-right vibration.

 

Robart Hobby Paint Shaker

This seems to be the same thing as the one above, altho it is nicely reskined and priced over 40$ and up to 70$. Casing looks way better than Nadeco, but I couldn;t find any information about the material it is made of. This one is based in the USA so it’s way more expensive for poor folks in the EU due to customs – have that in mind.

IS IT FOR ME?

Assuming price not being an issue, the question you should ask yourself when considering such a toy is – would it really be optimal for you. It’s nothing more but pure economy of work. In my line of work I simply do not have time to ‘masturbate’ my paints, looking outside the window all day long. Time is of an essence, not to mention hands fatigue – I’d rather paint. On top of that there are results, which in case of some types of paints are impressive. So – there’s that.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR?

One important thing that comes to mind is the power plug. I have seen over a dozen AliExpress and Ebay offers, where there was no choice nor information as to what type of a power plug is in the box. In the end I purchased from a seller that provided a choice between EU/UK/US power plug – but be advised to check this out before getting one yourself.

SUMMARY

After using ProShaker throughout entire day of painting I’d say I am pretty happy with my new toy. Yes, price is an overkill and that goes for every shaker mentioned in the article, but like most lasting professional hobby tools – this is a once in a lifetime purchase. From now on I can spend more time with miniatures and less time shaking paints. If I was to tag this purchase on a scale where 10 is life changing, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 – taking quality, price and performance into consideration – I would settle for a 7. That’s because I was expecting a bit more with some particular paints, but also got good results with most of them. Let’s just say – money well spent.

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

Nazroth

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 😉

 

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 😉

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