Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: Privateer Press Mini Crates

Privateer Press' Mini-Crates have been on my radar for a few years now, but I've only recently taken the plunge into subscription-based minis. There are three flavors of mini-crate right now: Warmachine & Hordes, Savage (Essentially like Conan the Barbarian), and Legend of the Five Rings. Yorrik & I enjoy L5R, so those have been of particular to us. With Covid keeping us home, we decided to split a subscription.

If you aren't familiar, the idea is basically a Mini-of-the-Month club. You can either buy them one at a time, or pay to receive 6 minis over the course of 6 months (and a 7th if you pay for all 6 months at once). These are new, limited edition minis. They only make as many minis as they have orders for, so if you don't order the mini by the deadline, you'll either be out of luck, or have to pay out the nose on eBay. I did manage to find a Doji Ren mini that wasn't marked up, so that was my first introduction to painting these.

I'm not too keen on the business model, since I'm not big on using artificial scarcity, or F.O.M.O. to sell things, but I understand the thinking behind it. 

The initial price tag is a bit steep at $17 per mini, plus tax (price includes S/H), or $99 for the "VIP" (6 month package). If you subtract a bit for shipping & handling that means you're paying about $13 per mini individually, or $11 per mini for the VIP. It's kind of a niche product, so it makes sense though.

I'm here for minis though, so I'm just gonna stick to my wheelhouse.

I've gotten two shipments so far. They come in these neat boxes.

On the inside there's a small clamshell with your mini, or minis, if you get the bonus VIP mini.

In addition to the mini, you receive a character card. It's not fancy, but it's kinda handy to help you define the different parts of the mini.

I wanted to start by painting the bonus mini, the Shika Speardancer. These sculpts are all based directly on art in the Fantasy Flight LCG, or TTRPG books. For instance, here's the speardancer's book art, and the mini promo art side-by-side.

The minis I've seen have had pretty fine mold lines. The spear was kinda bendy & delicate, so it was a little challenging to clean up some of the fiddly bits. They also take a little work to balance nicely on their bases. I like to make it look like minis are standing on top of the basing material, so it takes a little work to get the tabs to glue just right in the bases.

The mini itself was easy to paint. The lines are nice & clean, the details sharp, so it wasn't hard to pick out specific points, like her ankle wrappings. I painted it over the course of my Monday, so it was decently quick. I tried to replicate the original art, although I decided to skip making it look like she's in moonlight.
I feel pretty good about this one. I even got the little beauty mark under her eye.

The minis I've seen & painted have been high quality. I like the representations of the characters, and variety of clans, roles, & poses. They need more Crab Clan characters, but I'm kinda biased in that regard. Years ago I started out painting the old Clan War minis, and these remind me a bit of those, albeit a bit slimmer & taller (I'll make a post comparing the products in a few months). If you like L5R, and miss the old Clan War minis, these will fit the bill nicely. Give them a go.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Legend of the Five Rings minis

In 2018 Privateer Press announced it was teaming up with Fantasy Flight to create a line of miniatures for the property reboot. These minis would be released as series of limited edition subscriptions, or MiniCrates. Kind of like a Mini-of-the-Month club.

Because they are monthly subscriptions, and changing all the time, it can be hard to scrounge up the mini art, so I'm posting them here to make them easier to find. Each "Season" consisted of 6 minis, and a bonus mini for "VIP" subscribers who purchase the entire season.
L5R MiniCrate Season 1 (November 2018 - April 2019):
Togashi Yokuni

Matsu Tsuko
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Hida Tomonatsu

Daidoji Uji

Bayushi Shoju

Kaito Kosori

Bonus Mini- Naga Hunter

Season 2 (May 2019 - October 2019):
Moto Chagatai

Togashi Kazue

Hida Kisada

Doji Hotaru

Isawa Tadaka

Akodo Toturi

Bonus Mini- Shosuro Sadako

Season 3 (November 2019 - April 2020):
Mirumoto Prodigy

Shinjo Altansarnai

Doji Ren
(I did manage to get my hands on this mini, here's my take on him)

Bayushi Kyo

Shiba Tsukune. You can compare this mini to her earlier Clan War mini HERE

Miya Satoshi (I find the choice of lighting direction to be interesting. Definitely seems to portray him as villainous.)

Bonus Mini- Tengu Sensei

Season 4 (May 2020 - October 2020):
Ikoma Tsanuri

Shinjo Takuya

Yoritomo (I recently painted the old Clan War mini. Once I get this one in the mail I'll do a side-by-side comparison. They're drastically different.)

Isawa Aki

Bayushi Yojiro

Bonus Mini- Shika Speardancer

Yorrik & I weent halvsies on the Season 4 minis, so we'll be painting those up once we get them in the mail & decide who gets what. I'll do a review of how they paint up in the future.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

High Utility Conscripts, part 1

      Ever since the new Necromunda kits started coming out I’ve been eyeing them up for their potential in Warhammer 40k. Having easy to get plastic kits of diverse human thugs is a boon to converters, especially those who dream of seeing new and creative armies of the Astra Militarum fill tournament tables. Now that all six of the classic gangs have kits, I have started an adventure, taking minis from each kit and converting them for Warhammer. I intend for this article series to act as a guide, showing some of the potential each kit has. Each article will be split into three sections: Paint, Head Swap, and Kit Bash, in order to showcase various levels of complexity.

Paint: Long Live the Fighters (Van Saar)

      The Van Saar kit is a boon to 40k overall, because it provides a base for modelling something that has long been part of the 40k lore, but until now rarely presented in model form: the armored bodyglove. Obviously taking a nod from the stilsuits from Dune, I thought a Fremen-style army of Astra Militarum would be cool.
      To this end, I simply assembled the model (using one of the GW Shattered Dominion bases), painted it in brown and black, and applied a desert/wasteland palette to the base. My only regret is the mechandrite/ponytail thing, I think that’s so distinctive to the Van Saars that it distracts from my intent (if I were to expand this project I would leave subsequent ponytails off). That said, I’m very happy with the results – just by changing up the paint scheme and (especially) the base, the Van Saars can transform from pseudo-mechanicus hive dwellers into tough-looking death world warriors.  
      As for the kit itself, Van Saars are an excellent proxy for Astra Militarum. The box contains ten bodies, and each model can be armed with a lasgun (or las carbine, which is just a stumpier SMG-looking version of the lasgun).
      For special/heavy weapon potential there are two interesting opportunities. One is the “heavy” of the gang, which consists of a guy holding a large laser bazooka thing on one shoulder. This could easily stand in for a lascannon, though it lacks the distinctive muzzle of that weapon. There is also a combi-las/melta gun in the kit, which if you snip off the las-barrel, looks just like a fancy bullpup meltagun! There are some pistols in the kit too – laspistols and plasma pistols, namely – for building a sergeant, but the only close combat weapon in the kit is the techno-wizard staff pictured above. Pistol/rod works just fine for a sergeant, but I’m vaguely saddened that there isn’t a sleek chainsabre in the kit.

      So, with no other bits or kits required (except for the 60mm base for a heavy weapon team – ed) the Van Saar gang is an excellent base for an Astra Militarum Regiment.

Head Swap: Cult of the Yawning Maw (Orlocks)

      I was a little underwhelmed when I first saw the new Orlock kit. The bodies are blocky, the arms are lanky, the boots are huge, and the heads are tiny. Frankly I think it’s the worst-looking of the new Necromunda kits… which is to say, it’s a fine kit, containing lots of cool bits and conversion potential. I feel like my hobby is an embarrassment of riches sometimes! For this mini I decided to change the character of the sculpt through a simple head swap. Orlocks are a good choice for this, as unlike some of the other kits their neck joint can easily take heads from other kits. Looking at the Orlocks and their “blue collar workman” aesthetic, I formed a sympathetic bond in my mind between their look, and the genestealer cultists. Both have a mining theme, both are wearing hazard gear and fighting with improvised weapons, and they have a similar “bulkiness” to them that gives them a thematic similarity.
      So I did a simple head swap. I used one of the heads from the Genestealer Cult Upgrade Pack. Though meant to be used with Cadians, the heads fit onto the Orlock bodies like a dream (though to be honest I still feel they’re a little small compared to the large blocky bodies). I will note here that I initially looked at using heads from the actual Genestealer Cultist box, but those heads will not fit without significant trimming, as the bulbous “necks” are made to fit in the very deep spacesuit cradles.
      The Orlock kit comes with a variety of slug-thrower weapons: 4 autoguns and 6 shotguns, though the only thing characterizing the shotguns is an extra tube beneath the barrel, so having one “count as” the other is pretty trivial, as they are already so similar looking. You also get arms for two heavies, who can be armed either with a heavy stubber (convenient for cultist squads) or a grappling spear-launcher thing, which could reasonably be a “counts as” sort of weapon. As for flamers, web-guns, or any of the other cultist special weapons you’re out of luck.
      If you have a specific idea for an “autoguns and heavy stubbers” sort of neophyte squad, the Orlock box can handle that with aplomb, with the only additional bits being a genestealer cult upgrade sprue. You could also field such Orlock/Cultist conversions alongside the regular neophyte hybrids, without a break in aesthetics. Looks good and easy to do!

Kitbash: Muscle Scouts (Goliaths)

      I’ll be the first to admit I did not come up with this idea. It’s been floating around since the Goliaths first got previewed, but it wasn’t until I got the kit in my hands that I really saw the potential. When put next to normal space marines the Goliaths look like enormous mutants, the muscle-bloated swole-bros of Khorne’s nightmares. But when set next to Primaris Marines? Well, they just kinda look like what you imagine Primaris marines look like when not in their armor.
      So here we have it: Goliath gangers kitbashed up with some space marine scouts, intended to be fielded as scouts in an all-primaris army. This provides the double advantage of providing some diversity to the tragically same-y primaris models, as well as the tactical boon of including scouts in your army. So with clippers, knife, glue, and (sadly) greenstuff in hand, I took to turning the biggest, loudest, thuggiest necromunda gang into the sleekest, quietest, and most subtle of space marine warriors. Was I successful?

      I would say “mostly.” There are two ways to do the head swap, either by dropping the scout head directly into the cradle in the Goliath torso, or by chopping and pasting the scout head to fit the Goliath neck, which comes as a separate bit. I’ve done the latter here, which makes the model look more proportioned and natural (the former technique is easier, but makes the scout look a bit squat and turtle-like). The scout hands do not fit onto the Goliath wrists without a lot of cutting and fitting – on this model I had to use green stuff to patch gaps, and the right wrist is an absolutely ugly mess up close. Also, the Goliath armor is covered with spikes, rims, and vials of chemicals, some of which I had to trim and file down in order to make it look more like military armor. I played around with the idea of placing shoulder pads on the mini to make them more closely resemble the official scout minis, but eventually I decided to leave them off. If you happen to have extra space marine shoulder pads, though, they fit on pretty well.
      Like all kitbash projects, this one involves buying multiple kits, which leads to a bad money/models ratio. That said, this kitbash is far better than most, as a single box of scouts (which is meant to make 5 models) provides almost enough bits to convert all 10 Goliaths. The scout box comes with 5 boltguns, 5 shotguns, and 5 bolt pistol/close combat weapons, which means you can make two squads with different armaments. The only issue is heads – only 6 heads come in the scout box. Goliath heads might make for a clash of aesthetics in the squad, but you could get away with some of them. The scout box also provides some grenades and pouches which you can use to further tie the conversion together, like I’ve done on the model’s right shoulder, above.
      Using this kitbash will leave you with all the Goliath weapons and the Scout bodies, which will just go into your bits box. A necessary casualty of the kit-basher’s grisly work.

      Overall I’m happy with this conversion, though it’s hard for me to judge the Goliath box overall. They’re pretty unsuitable for standard Guardsman/cultist conversions (they stand on the larger 30mm space marine bases), but I would be happy to be proved wrong. I suppose they could make a splash as Khornate chaos cultists, but the issue there is WYSIWYG – there is a tragic dearth of pistols in the Goliath box (just two stub guns. TWO!) The gnarly axes and repurposed tools put me in mind of some genestealer hybrid potential, but that will take further experimentation.
      In conclusion, I am very excited about the Necromunda gang boxes. I have more examples of potential painting, head swapping, and kit-bashing on my table, and will present them (as well as further analysis of the kits used) in the future.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Genestealer Cult Patriarch

A few months ago, a member of my local gaming group declared he was abandoning his short-lived interest in Deathwatch minis in favor of a Genestealer Cultists army. He had a few things to trade, namely a Codex, & a few minis, and the new conversion sprue that I'd been drooling over.

I'd recently bought a Patriarch & a Primus for cheap off ebay, but they were pretty low on my painting priority, so I offered them in trade. He gladly accepted & offered me all but a single Deathwatch mini in exchange (about $65 worth of swag) for the two HQ minis.

Like I said, I'd gotten a pretty good deal for the pair, & it didn't feel like a fair trade, so I offered to paint one of them to help even the score. He picked the Patriarch.

He wanted the color scheme to match fairly close to the one on the website & I did my best. I tell you what though. There are some minis that are an outright pain to paint. I disliked this guy for 85% of the time I was painting him. It only came together for me during the last few washes, but after that I was happy with him. The gamer was too, & he was happy to report it's the centerpiece for his army & has been doing a good job of wrecking opponents at the local tourneys as well.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Slaughterpriest Conversion

I picked up a White Dwarf containing a nifty Slaughterpriest a few months back, but didn't have any particular plans for him until last month.

For a few years now the Corvallis wargaming club has done a Secret Santa mini exchange, where participants draw a name, and paint a mini for that person's army (usually an HQ or similar). I drew a buddy who played renegade IG who uses AOS Chaos marauders as troopers, so I decided to turn the White Dwarf mini into a commander.   (sorry for the image quality, I didn't have time to take a proper picture before I wrapped him up)

I didn't change too terribly much about the original mini.
* Head swap with a Blood Angel (trimmed away the hair & modeled on a mohawk-ish haircut)
* Weapon swap with plasma pistol
* Left off the loincloth, so I added a Khorne bit from Khorne Bloodcrushers to cover some divets in the armor.
* Replaced a skull-totem thing in his back with a Chaos Icon (from a chaos vehicle sprue, I think)
* Modeled a daemonic face onto his flail

The hardest part was probably finding the right head. The mini is a lot bigger than you'd expect (at least a head bigger than an AOS Eternal), so scale was an issue. Fortunately I've been collecting various heads for Deathwatch minis & one of them fit the bill nicely. Hope you enjoy.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Malifaux Witchling Stalker

Years ago I saw a raw plastic mini sitting o the modeling table on my local game store and had to know what system it was for. The owner wasn't totally sure, but he'd received several, and allowed me to take it to paint it up. If I'd seen the mini when it was still on its sprue it would have been easy to identify, but as it was.
 I had to do some searching before I found it. Turns out it was a promotional  mini for the 2nd edition Malifaux system, and their new line of plastic minis. I'd heard of Malifaux, but usually dismissed it, since the aesthetic never really appealed to me.

This mini did though. It was simple in design, but well constructed, had a nice flow, and had a neat ash-waste scavenger look to it. Like I said, I didn't know what it was for, or what the mini represented, so I used it for my high-contrast red tutorial. (three years ago, good lord I've been away a while)

This is a Witchling Stalker from the "Guild" faction.

Since I painted this guy in 2013 the Malifaux brand has really picked up in production & popularity. Several friends in my local gaming group now play it, and I decided to pick up a box as well. I spent a good while considering what leader/faction to start with, but ultimately decided to buy into a Gremlin master called the Brewmaster. He doesn't do much damage, but he gets opponents drunk (paralyzing them) and his minions, the Moon Shinobi, do the rest (that pun alone convinced me to buy the box).

I'm wrapping up my masters program, so I still haven't painted a lick in months, but once the summer begins I'll be painting in earnest to prepare for the OFCC tournament in late July.

Hope you're all well,


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Secret Santa Mini Exchange

Back in about 2004 when I was living in Japan, a friend of mine invited me to participate in a Christmas mini exchange. There were a bunch of bases nearby with a surprising number of fellow gamers, so the idea was that we would exchange addresses with someone on an online forum, & we would exchange painted minis with some of the other soldiers, sailors (and some civilians) around the Pacific. I ended up exchanging a Thousand Sons rubric marine for a Dark Elf shade painted by a guy in Australia. 

Fast forward to 2013. I decided to bring that little tradition to my hometown in Oregon. I proposed the idea to our local gaming group, & some jumped at it. We had about a half-dozen participants, and we made sure that each of the miniatures that were exchanged were ones that could be used in the recipient's army. I ended up painting Ulrick the Slayer for a friend of mine who played Space Wolves, and I received a Raven Guard assault sergeant from another friend.

This year a buddy suggested we do it again, and we had a lot more participants. I ended up with a friend that I'd already painted a mini for in the past. You may remember the Mega Nob from this year's Mini Madness. This time I decided to paint up a Killer Kan for him. 

I managed to snag a Kan from Yorrick and started right away. Yorrick had already started painting it, but I didn't have time to strip it, so I used the Krylon Zenith painting technique that I used on my Khador warjacks a while back. 

It worked pretty well, and I was rather pleased with the results. I know I have a rather "clean" painting style, so it was nice to practice Orks again. I think I've gotten better over the years,and I've been able to use more weathering and shading techniques that give a dirtier, oily look. Here's the result.

Sunday the various painters met at a local pizza place to exchange minis. Some folks weren't able to make it due to the holiday weekend, but the bulk of us were able to get there. 

After a little pizza we exchanged our miniatures. We'd pass each one around the table after it was opened so we could get a good look at the gift. There were a number of impressive paint jobs. Yorrick your received a Red Corsair miniature from a Betrayal at Cath mini, there were a few Daemon minis, a Dark Eldar, a few Orks, & a host of Inquisition minis (all painted by Yorrick). I made out like a bandit, since I received a Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch on Flaming chariot, plus it came with the extra Herald, both magnetized so they could be switched easily. This are the minis that were opened at the exchange.

If you've got a good group of gamers I'd recommend you do an exchange of your own. I imagine we'll do this again next year too.