Monday, June 17, 2013

A review if Gale Force 9's D&D collector's series minis

If you're anything like me, you were living under a rock when Gale Force Nine announced that they were teaming up with Wizards of the Coast to release a new line of high-quality, resin D&D minis.

When I found out, it immediately struck a chord with me. Back when D&D turned 25, and 3.5 was released, WotC put out a few lines of fun, game-enhancing minis to go along with it. I was a big fan, and still buy these minis when I happen across them in stores (even if they look kinda durpy).

I had really hoped that Wizards would have another similar mini release along with 4th edition back in 2007, but it was not to be. So now, 6 years later, we're on the verge of a new D&D system, and my hopes have been realized.

Shortly after the onset of my May Mini Challenge I discovered the news of the GF9 minis. they had a great looking Illithid raiding party box set so I immediately set out to get my hands on it.
That is we're I will start my review.

I prefer to buy local when possible, so my first step was to call up my FLGS and have him order it.

Turns out that isn't possible.

Since the D&D minis are being released in limited editions the only stores to receive the figurines are "exclusive retailers," stores that carry a certain amount of other GF9 products like Flames of War. I live in the middle of Oregon, an the only store in the state that fits the "exclusive" category is about 90 miles away. Screw that.

So online I went. You can buy the minis directly from GF9's website, but I was feeling a bit miffed that I couldn't buy from a local store, so I went to Amazon instead.

I buy GW, so I'm used to bruising my wallet to get what I want.

The price tag on my box of choice was $50 for 5 minis. Not too bad when you consider how much a single Farseer costs, but it seems a bit steep compared to a comparable Reaper mini.

Likewise, I was only really buying the box for the two Illithids (Illithi?). The Intellect Devourer spoke to me a bit, but I didn't really care about the Duergar or Gnoll. 

No Illithid would go on a raiding party without it's thralls so it makes sense, but it still means I'm buying $30 worth of minis that I'm only lukewarm about. I feel the same way about the Drow War Party set. I love the rogue and the wizard, but I could do without the other three.

The single monster minis seem quite reasonably priced though. The Purple Worm model is large and well detailed for a price if $35. That's reasonable, even looking at Reaper.

One of the first things I noticed was that I didn't have all the right minis. Instead of a Gnoll I received a second Duergar sprue. I was lukewarm about the Gnoll, but I still want what I paid for. Fortunately the third-party store that I purchased from was gracious to ship me the missing mini free of charge. I was happy about that, plus hey, now I've got two Duergar.

There is some creativity here. You can see from the box art that the Illithid's heads have four delicate tentacles. This is done by dividing the head into two bits: the bottom part of the head (including two tentacles) is part of the chest-bit and the top of the head (with the other two tentacles) as another.
The Intellect Devoirer is also rather clever. The hind legs are incorporated into the base, while the forelimbs and head are a separate bit.

As always there are a few casting flaws here & there: an errant air bubble, an inexplicable bit of flashing, etc. The worst I experienced was a large mass of resin attached to one of the Illithid's mouth tentacles. I basically had to carefully carve a new tentacle out of the hunk of plastic. It turned out fine though.

The resin is light, and a little bit soft, so it's probably most comparable to finecast. Unsurprisingly, the resin can be brittle too. The gnoll's leg broke in shipping, but with a little pinning & reshaping with hot water, it was good as new.

Like I said earlier, I knew I wanted some of these minis as soon as I saw them. They're posed very naturally, and look like the models were taken directly from the pages of the Monster Manuals. All of the sculpts I've seen so far are great, with some very deft modeling. Just because I like them doesn't mean I want to buy them all though, as with any range of minis, some appeal to you more than others.

So far they've only released monsters and similar baddies, but they've stated that they'll be putting out PCs & heroic models in the future (Drizzt for instance). GS9 recently announced they would be releasing a Gen Con only D&D Next module "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" and pre-orders would get a free Paladin model to boot. He isn't very energetic looking, but he has a ton of character.

The models are 30mm scale, so they're a little bit bigger than say, Reaper's Dark Heaven series, but on par with their Warlord line or GW minis (which is called "Heroic 28mm").

They also come with their own specially modeled scenic bases, but I'm not actually a fan of those. I get the appeal, but I like to model my own bases sometimes. It's silly, but I also have a strong preference for GW's 25mm bases, and prefer to use them when I can.  

But Muninn, why not just put them on the bases you prefer? 1. I could do that with several of them, but not the Intellect Devourer, since the model is actually a part of the base. I'd rather use the bases they provide than have mismatched minis. I'm kinda OCD like that. 2. What's the point of having Limited Edition minis and not using the whole thing?

In Summary:
I like what I've seen, what I've bought, and really look forward to what they'll be putting out in the future. I hope some of their future releases are available through gaming distributors, so I can buy local, but if the minis are cool enough I'll find a way to get them.

The good:
* beautiful minis
* creative sprue layout
* fun, iconic characters & monsters
* I want to see many many more

The bad:
* Hard to come by
* moderately high price
* non-standard bases
* you buy both wheat & chaff
* typical casting issues



  1. I'm crazy jealous, I couldn't justify buying the entire box just to get the mind flayer rogue... (so instead I ordered some bits to make a conversion inspired by it instead...)

    1. That Rogue is the main reason I wanted this box. I bet you'll be able to do a great conversion, but I'm a sucker for a great looking mini.