Black Knight Variant Mini Coming Soon!

“Please accept this sword as evidence I want you Clan-butt dead…” Adept Rufus Faust, Battle of Tukayyid

Our game company, Creative Juggernaut, has been working closely with Catalyst Game Labs on a number of high-end miniatures of variant BattleMechs. The first two, the Tukayyid Stormcrow and Black Knight have been in production for a while.  While work continues on the Stormcrow, we thought it would be a nice to show you that the Black Knight being shipped to Catalyst. In other words, it will be for sale soon.  

Mystery shipper (okay, it’s Brent) dropping off the shipment of Black Knights

These are not preassembled minis and they come with some variant parts, giving you some opportunities to pose the minis differently.  They come in little ziplock baggies and are plastic resin so they are easy to modify, for those of you so inclined.

Proof that Brent was not carrying an empty prop-box.

The minis will be available on the Catalyst Game Labs online store. When?  We can’t say for sure, but as you can see, they have not only been shipped, but received at the warehouse…so this is finally happening! We encourage you to check the CGL store every so often and watch for their social media announcements if you are interested in these. 

So, this is happening…

So what is next?  Obviously we need to finish up the Stormcrow, which is darned close to being done.  We aren’t allowed to officially say what additional minis are in production, but based on the positive feedback we’ve seen online there are others that are being prepped for casting right now.  Brent has even cooked up a surprise or two. 

Thanks for your support and patience.  We believe it will be worth it. 

A Review of Death Ray Designs Hex City and Corporate Plaza Terrain

Lots of Urban Goodness

I’ve been a customer of Death Ray Designs for a while, having used their airbrush templates for some terrain I have.  I was pretty thrilled that they had released some urban terrain that was compatible with some of the games I play – especially BattleTech.  This is both Hex City and the Corporate Plaza sets from their web site.  https://deathraydesigns.com/

The package for the entire lot is heavy when it arrived, thick MDF and thin plastic pieces used for windows and building highlights.  The instructions are up on the company web site, though some of the building names for the guides don’t match what is printed on the MDF.  It was no big deal to sort it out, but I want to be fair in my review of these. 

I botched building two structures, mostly because I didn’t follow the instructions carefully.  Other than that the buildings have amazing fit and details.  They even come with some little add on gubbins that allow you to add some custom details to the structures. They have etched a lot of details that make the buildings pop visually. 

There’s a lot of variety here, from single story stores to large scale modernistic buildings.  The imprinting of the hexes on the roofs and bases match the scale for the BattleTech maps, which I have to believe is intentional. Personally, based on some of the scale/sizes, I’m going to use these for Alpha Strike games.  Some of these structures would be perfect for games of 15mm as well.

Great detail – even unpainted

I did not use a lot of the thin plastic parts yet.  Some have to be done as part of the construction, which means if you intend to paint these, I would paint the parts first, then do the assembly.  If I had it to do over, I would have painted first.  As it is, I have a LOT of painting to do. 

Some of the plastic details I need to still add.
This layering of insets gives you some neat details
A nice little store to stomp on.

I recommend this product.  Because they are MDF, they support Iron Wind Metals mini’s with no real problems.  The hex imprints on the roofs make it very simple to utilize these on your maps, if you are so inclined.  Total cost is $95.00 for both sets that you see here.  Don’t flinch, you get a good sized city for your investment. I’m looking forward to trying these out once I get them painted. 

Thumbs up to Death Ray Designs on these structures.   

Stormcrow Variant – Creative Juggernaut

Pew – pew

If you are unaware, our little company (Creative Juggernaut) is working on producing variant ‘Mechs for BattleTech in limited production runs.  To address your questions up-front – I do not have a date when they will be available yet (though rumor has it that the Black Knight’s are done.  Don’t tell Brent I told you that though – that’s our secret!)  They will be sold through the Catalyst website – we have to for licensing reasons. No, I do not know what the final price will be.  In many respects, I am a cog in this machine, and in the case of minis, a pretty insignificant cog. 

Brent sent me along a Stormcrow kit so I could paint it up.  This comes with the arm fitted with the pulse lasers, and the option of fitting it out with the gauss rifle or the autocannon.  I opted for the AC20 because I like using one when I play. 

You will see the production baggie (ohh…ziplock!) and the components.

Its like the prize inside the cereal box when you were a kid

The only clean up I did to the parts was with my bare hands, rubbing off a tiny bit of flash. I wanted to duplicate what a gamer might do if he wanted to put in the minimum effort and get the mini into battle quickly.   

It fit together pretty well.  I uplifted one leg slightly, I like the look of my mini’s as if they are moving. I angled the arms a little on-purpose. Not sure if I like that or not. I’m sure some Senior Tech in the Clan will have my hide for that.

For paint, I used the airbrush to do a layer of black, then gray on the bottom, dark blue, with the top being light blue.  I was going for a Ghost Bear look, doing a reversal of the Omicron Galaxy paint scheme. Why Ghost Bears? Because they have some wonderful colors to work with…and they are Ghost Bears! Seriously, I would love to tell you there was some reason for this, but there wasn’t other than I thought it was a neat look.  The layering of the paints did a lot of the work for me and the base coat of black took care of the recessed areas. I avoided doing a wash simply because I liked the effect I came up with. 

Total paint time for this mini was 22 minutes – the vast majority of which was cleaning the airbrush between color changes.  I added some decals, but right now I lack Ghost Bear decals, so I kept it simple. 

Overall, I love the results.  The ‘Mech is very airbrush friendly and can be posed with little effort.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Enjoy!

Building the Variant Black Knight – A Creative Juggernaut Project

“None shall pass!”

As some of you know, Brent Evans and I are part of a company called Creative Juggernaut (www.creative-juggernaut.com).  We have been working on a number of very cool game products under our Shock Monkey Games subsidiary, but recently, our focus has been on making a pair of variant BattleMech miniatures for Catalyst Game Labs.  This post is about building and painting the Clan-Buster variant of the Black Knight. 

Let me deal with the most common questions I keep getting up-front.  These will be sold through the Catalyst Games Labs web site only.  We will not be selling them ourselves.  These are a limited run unless Catalyst wants to do something different down the road. CGL will set the prices on them.  No, I do no know what that price will be.  There are a lot of variants that we are jointly considering and we do not need suggestions. 

Much of what we do is proprietary in terms of the casting process – so I’m not at liberty to share that.  I had Brent send me a production Black Knight.  We decided to produce these unassembled, since we figured that most mini fans of BattleTech are used to putting together miniatures.  Also, it helps us keep the cost down. 

The packaging will have a wrap-over piece of thin cardboard with the image of the assembled figure on the back.  It’s in a ziplock baggie because, well, it’s simple.  For the record, I did almost zero cleaning of the figure in terms of mold seams. I wanted to approach this like a typical gamer might.    

A bag of goodness

Assembling this Black Knight you have to essentially make two decisions.  One, what do you want to do with the hands.  We cast variant hands, and what is really cool, we have some that are open (so you can see the fingers.)  Me, I had to have the sword…duh.  I went with the open hand with the autocannon just because I thought it was cool. 

The other decision you must make is what legs you want to use.  Brent included a bent leg which excited me.  With a little kitbashing, you can actually make a kneeling/prone Black Knight, which is very cool.  One of our team, Kevin, has a kneeling one that looks pretty incredible. I decided to use the bent knee to give the impression of the ‘Mech charging.  I glued it to the base and liked it, for about an hour.  I opted to make a change.   

He was going to be charging as shown above, but I changed my mind.

The parts fit together very well.  The plastic is easy to work with – no pinning.  The detail on the hands is something we just haven’t seen with ‘Mech minis in the past.  Look at the photos and form your own opinions.

During the casting process, we always have a little left over resin.  So what we have done is create some molds of various ‘Mechs and use them to pour our leftover stuff.  These are not designed or intended to be perfect, but provide us with spare parts, limbs, etc, that we can use on the bases for terrain.  Brent sent along a bunch of cast-off UrbanMech parts with this batch – so what I did was cannibalize an Urbie leg and re-pose my Black Knight so that it is standing on the blasted off leg.  Why did the Clans have an Urbie on Tukayyid?  That I can’t answer.  Maybe this is some other ComStar operation…

Some cast off parts
A change of stance. Standing on a fallen foe. I used some rust wash on the Urbie leg.

For painting, I used my airbrush to lay down a base coat of black.  It’s a ComStar ‘Mech, so I went with a white layer next, again with the airbrush.  I used a light dusting of brown on the legs to show mud splatter.  Total painting time was around 20 minutes, including the detailing.  I didn’t use a wash.  It took me longer to clean my airbrush than it did to paint. Usually I use white to show wear on the armor, but with a white ‘Mech, it did my chipping using silver – especially on the sword.   

Final product. I like the mud splatter on the lower legs and the silver chipping on spots.

I love it.  The Knight is beefy and looks ready to kick ass.  My next one will be a Ghost Bear isorla version. My next assembly will be our production Stormcrow Tukayyid variant.

The End of My Saga with Minuteman Miniatures (Miniature You)

 

IMG_0656
Me as a miniature…at long last! 

Per my blog post from October of 2019, I had some serious issues with this company.  I ordered three minis for my son, grandson and myself on December 28, 2018.  It was supposed to take 6-8 weeks.  They did not respond to emails – a LOT of emails.  So I put up a blog post blasting them:  My original rant on this company

Part of the benefits of being retired is that you have time to follow-up.  My plan was to sue them in small claims court here in Virginia then have some fun pursuing the actual cash.  I continued to email them every so often, none of which were replied to.  Three weeks ago, I Googled them and my blog post was one of the top entries for the company.

So I emailed them again.  Essentially I told them about the bad publicity and that the only way that post was ever coming down was if they gave me a refund or delivered.  Again, no response.

Then this week, a box arrived.  It was sent to our old address, we had moved, but I was about to reroute it with UPS so it was cool.

I have to admit, I was skeptical.  So I opened the box and was surprised.

I had ordered three minis, one of each of us.  I got one of my son and grandson, and three poses of me.  Also, they gave us doubles of each one, which was very sweet.  It is worth noting that my son’s and grandson’s figures were not quite the ones we ordered, but close enough.

The quality is VERY good.  The plastic reminds me of Reaper’s Bones, though these are clearly 3D printed.  The faces, which we had scanned in 2018 at GenCon were dead-on accurate – what they said they would deliver, they did. Of course it took them 581 days to do it!

IMG_0658
My grandson

 

IMG_0657
My son – A Jedi Master

So, ultimately, would I order from these guys again?  No.  Look, if they had responded to any of my emails over the year and a half I might feel differently.  I get the impression that they only replied to be because of my previous blog post.  I will take it down…in 581 days. I have actually put it on my calendar.  That is the level of douchebaggery I am capable of.

For those of you out there who replied to me off-line saying you were waiting, don’t give up hope.  They seem to have our files and are producing miniatures still.  Be persistent and annoying with these guys. Follow-up and pester them.  They are not a complete rip-off, they can and do deliver.  They simply suck at customer service and any hope of meeting a delivery commitment. In my case, they over-delivered.  I don’t know if that was to simply shut me up, or if this is their policy to attempt to make amends.  I hope it is the latter.

Gaming Rip-Off – Minuteman Miniatures – Now Called Miniature You

UPDATE – THEY DID DELIVER!

This little saga started at GenCon 2018.  Minuteman Miniatures had a booth where you could get your head scanned and they would provide you custom miniatures with your head/face on them.  Great idea.  I, along with my son and grandson, started the process with our scans.  In December, I ordered our minis to the tune of around $100.00.

I mentally gave them a few months grace period because I presumed there was a backlog. Then I started to email them.  No response.  I called the owner, Michael Elices, and his voicemail box was full.  Not a good sign.  I kept sending emails, every two weeks to both Mike and their support address, but got no response.

Now, a friend of mine did get his miniature – eight months after he ordered it at Gen Con and it looked great.  So this company is not an entire scam.  I am hopeful still that they would refund my money or, better yet, produce the miniatures we ordered.  At this point I would have settled for a simple “we are working on it,” response.  Instead nothing but silence, which is not good.

They have rebranded themselves as Miniature You and are promising an app as of July of this year to allow you to scan your own face and order custom miniatures from them.  I would strongly advise you to not do so.  This company has 21 Better Business Bureau complaints filed against them, all unresolved.  While I am sure their intent is to provide a service to the gaming community, and yes, some people have gotten their miniatures – there are a lot of people out there that have not.   Anyone handing them money for product is doing so with a great deal of risk.

I fully support game companies, especially start-ups.  But for them to not deliver to so many customers, then spend money to create an app to get more money…without fulfilling their orders…well, that’s borderline criminal behavior.

I will be pursuing legal remedies shortly with them.  I wanted to warn gamers out there to beware of this company though.

Review of Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles Game

IMG_2133
Battlestar Galactica brings the little screen to the tabletop

Santa (actually Ares Games) dropped off this little gem just prior to Christmas and I have to admit, I was pretty geeked.  I saw the prototype game at GenCon this year and was looking forward to kicking some toaster-ass. Ares Games has delivered with Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles.

I was worried this was going to be a reskin of Wings of Glory – it is not.  First off the designers have captured the essence of what was saw on the TV screen with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  When you play with the complete rules your ship must deal with kinetic energy and you can do those awesome maneuvers we saw, like rotating your ship while moving a different direction.  Fracking awesome!   This game does not portent to be a mathematically accurate simulation of space combat.  Instead it favors fun and playability, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

First off, you get two Vipers Mk II’s and two Cylon Raiders from the most recent TV series. Ares has committed that this will cover the old TV series as well, so I have to admit I am excited at that prospect.  The amount of stuff you get in the game is staggering – stands, pilot cards, maneuver cards, rulers, dice damage counters, talent cards, maneuver markers, asteroids, a scenario book and the plastic control panels (and more).  The control panels are neat – they allow you to track your speed, kinetic energy, and the rotation of your ship.

IMG_2135
The control panel

Like Wings of Glory (or Sails of Glory for that matter) you use cards to determine your maneuvers.  Firing is a matter of rolling dice to hit then drawing damage chips.  For the Quick Start Rules, this is about all you have to master – meaning you can unpack this game and be playing in, per my calculations, about 15 minutes.  The Quick Start Rules are enough to get you going but it is the Complete Rules that make this game purr.  Here you deal with kinetic energy you build up in your flight maneuvers and you also can rotate.  It took me a few test turns to fully get these rules down to where I understood them, but once I did I saw the brilliance of the design.  It turns this game from a simple fighter combat into a more complex tactical simulation – especially rotating.

IMG_2136
A steep banking curve maneuver card

The complete rules also change the damage your ship takes, using the damage counters.  It makes the games shorter when you start doing special damage to your enemies.   The Complete Rules makes movement more fluid, breaking it into multiple phases.  I found in my solo playtest that it shortened the game considerably.

The optional rules implement altitude changes, ala Ares Games peg elevation system, and introduces pilots and their talents.  So you can play Apollo right down to all of his skills.

The miniatures are exquisite and a little larger than I anticipated – a pleasant surprise.  I am sure in a matter of days there will be custom paint stuff out on the web for these but they are fully playable right out of the box and look awesome.

IMG_2134
The paint is incredible

So what is the downside to this game?  Well, the scale means we probably won’t be getting a miniature of the Galactica, Pegasus, or the fleet ships…my estimate is the Galactica would be over 18 feet long if built to scale (but would be awesome!).  I am not sure how well this game will work with large battles, but I am willing to give it a whirl!  I found you need some space for this game given some of the maneuvers you can do.  Also, the series did not introduce a lot of new ships, which means expansion of this game is going to be likely pilots, talents, etc.  I am looking forward to a Raptor mini though.

The upside of this game – it captures tactical space combat in a way that most game have struggled with for generations and does it with style and polish.  The game cards and rulebooks have the corners clipped off of them to give them the feel of paper materials we saw in the series.  It is that kind of attention to detail that makes this game sizzle and pop.

I give this a solid 10 out of 10 rating – definitely worth picking up and following.  I can’t wait for the “classic” Vipers and Raiders from the old TV series – and the chance to mix things up between the two eras.  Don’t flee from the Cylon tyranny – swing around and blast those toasters! By my command…

Review of Wild West Exodus – Miniatures Game

WWX1

For two GenCon’s now I have seen the exquisite displays for this game – so I broke down and played a quick demo and bought a copy of the rules.  I have to approach this review from two perspectives – one is the game – the other is the universe itself.  I don’t know much about Warcradle Studios, but I am impressed with aspects of this game system.

The game is solid as a miniatures tactical game.  My own little playtest at home taught me that if you have more than a dozen or so minis, it can get slow.  Otherwise, the flow is good.  Players use Activation Decks (of cards) to determine initiative which adds a bit of Old West flare to the game.  The Action Card deck uses a system of points (1-5) to activate miniatures.  There is an Adventure deck where a player draws a number of cards based on the size of the scenario and these can be used for Guts and Glory.  Glory improves your accumulation of victory points – where Guts is the other end of the spectrum or provides some unique quirks to the game such as interruption of another action.

From a game perspective, the minis have statistics that are very close to those for a RPG game (which the rules strangely lack).  You have Quick, Mind, Limit, Fight, Aim and Grit.  I won’t bore you with the details, but each factor into play.  I get the feeling that the designers were on the verge of doing a RPG, but opted for a minis game instead.

Fortune factors in as well – measured with poker chips.  You can spend Fortune on things like aiming, re-rolling failures, etc.  You’re limited with these but my own experience at GenCon taught me that these can change the course of a gunfight.  Other things that factor in are artifacts and magic portals…more on that stuff below.

The miniatures range for Wild West Exodus is outstanding and exquisite and one of the key draws for the game.  I picked up a couple of the minis and was impressed with their detail.  The ones I got were hard plastic.

WWE4

WWE3

Overall, the game has solid mechanics and game flow.  The pace is pretty fast once you go over the basics.  The rules are, for the most part, straight-forward and easy to digest.  There’s a lot of diversity about weapons types and impacts that give the game a good flavor of play.  I love how they baked in the lingo of the old West into the rules for flavor.  Hats off to the designers for their writing.

The universe itself as “The Dystopian Age.”  Most alternate history games change one thing, like the South winning the American Civil War, then the universe is the result of things that happen after that.  I was expecting that.  Wild West Exodus does not follow this model.  Instead it changes dozens of things to craft a crossover between steampunk, Wild West historical, magic, and alien technology. More than half of the rules is dedicated to the background.  Some of the writing here is pure genius, where other parts are hard to follow.

What emerges from this background is nothing like the American Wild West – a dizzying blur of faint historical context and a dollop of incredible imagination. In the end, I like playing the game more than I do digging into the universe background on this set of rules. There were parts of the complex background that I did not like, but parts of it are brilliant.  There are no good or bad guys here, every faction has a dark side to it which I like.  There are a lot of factions to choose from.

The game itself is very good, the background is something you and your players will have to pick and choose from as to what you like.  Overall, I give this an eight out of ten, mostly because I have not warmed up to the background of the universe just yet.

Gaslands Weapons

IMG_2100
Lots of potential here

If you don’t know by now, I’m a fan of Gaslands (here’s my review).  I like the game because it is simple and my grandson Trenton likes playing it and modifying the vehicles out of his Hot Wheels/Matchbox connection.

When I took him to GenCon this year, I got a message from a friend at Iron Wind Metals inviting me to stop by for Gaslands weapons.  I was a little puzzled at the time, because Iron Wind is known for their BattleTech minis.  Gaslands?

I swung by.  As it turns out, Iron Wind had containers filled with turrets and weapons that were overruns from BattleTech.  Better yet, they were perfect for Gaslands weapons.

I picked up a bunch of them and am going to start outfitting some vehicles soon.  I thought I would share my haul (fairly representative of what they offer) along with a couple of primed vehicles for scale.  Hey, you never know where you will get your inspiration from!

Review: Star Wars Legion – The Miniatures

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Apologies in advance – I’m not a great photographer

When I saw a new Star Wars miniatures skirmish game I have to admit, I was a little giddy.  Adding to that, my grandson/gaming buddy, loves Star Wars.  I remember playing the old miniatures game and while fun, it was a pain to manage all of those cards with the minis if you did a larger battle.  I hoped this one would be better and, on the surface, it appears so.

For this review – I am going to focus on the miniatures.  My first proviso, I am not a great miniatures painter.  I am average, at best.

When I purchased the set, I noted that these were 35mm figures…as opposed to the 25mm figures from the old game.  Was this merely a ploy to make sure I couldn’t use the old minis in the new system?  Probably.  At the same time I wondered how the larger size would impact details.  As it turns out, it makes the details pop.  Even better, the larger size seems much more forgiving when you paint them.  Little mistakes (the ones only you notice) disappear on a larger miniature.

Assembly was great, well almost great.  For the Stormtroopers and Rebels, you can almost get by without gluing some of the arms to the miniature, some are that good of a fit. The figures are great to work with, with good facial distinctions and details.  I have to admit it, Fantasy Flight Games did a great job with these.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
These guys are looking for trouble

The only miniature I struggled with putting together was the speeder bikes.  The guide in the rules set simply didn’t help at all with putting on the parts.  I went to two videos to finally figure it out.  On one bike, I got the control vanes on backwards.  I’m refusing to correct it at this stage.  Even more frustrating, unlike other parts in the boxed set that fit together well, the vanes don’t.  One wobbly finger and you end up with a hot mess…trust me.  I hate those speeder bikes for that reason.  I’m sure better modelers fared much better than me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

These minis are not quite model kits in complexity, but are pretty fast and easy to assemble (other than those blasted bikes.)

In terms of painting, be prepared.  There are a lot of videos on how to paint these minis.  In terms of color guides, I found no less than a dozen.  It makes sense with the Rebels, after all, these are ad hoc units so there is some variance.  Well brace yourself, there are a lot of options here which make it great for you as a painter/player.

IMG_2005

The large bases have groves for identifying firing angles.  You need these in game play.  It can make basing those figures tricky.  You can see how I did it.  I wasn’t overly pleased with the result, but it worked.

Stormtroopers are easier.  You have white and black, and a touch of dark gray.  I color coded the bases with the leaders so I can distinguish them on the field of battle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used an airbrush for base coats, which saved time.  It allowed me to do some light camouflage on the RT walker that I liked too.  You will have to judge for yourself.

I purchased Strong Tone wash from Army Painter and this was my first experience with it.  You can judge for yourself.  I have come to love it.  With the Stormtroopers, I put it on and gently wiped the white surfaces so they popped a little more.  I am not a Strong Tone kind of guy when I paint.  It can make a dull mini pop, and isn’t that what you want?

You can see my results as an average painter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of these days I will play the game and do a full-blown review of these minis in action.  Stay tuned!