Friday, 22 July 2011

Review: Dystopian Wars Ika Squid

Right before I go any further i need to make a disclaimer about this review. Firstly this miniature was given to me as a gift by Neil and Spartan Games after I recently went down to see the guys in Shepton Mallet to pick up a huge order for a gaming club I go to with a friend of mine. I think it was given because Neil is a really friendly guy and just loves chatting about the miniatures and games his company produces and when he found out I was a mainly Empire of the Blazing sun player he gave it to me as I was leaving. There was no intention that I was going to review it, and certainly no favours asked in return because Neil simply isn't like that.

I felt like I needed to get that out of the way because there are plenty of people on the internet who get promotional gifts, or just freebies of any kind and review them without ever mentioning they've got them for free. Then there are the other people who are honest about it and give you the reader all the information and let you make up your own minds. I think its fair to say that I fall into the later camp and although I think the following review is a fair analysis of what I think of the model, some of you may take the decision in the light of the fact that this miniature was given to me free that the review and me the reviewer have been influenced in some way. I just want to make it clear that if I EVER review anything that has been given to me I will ALWAYS make it clear from the outset.

Product Description

I've added the EotBS Battleship for a size comparison

Its a mechanical squid for use in the Empire of the Blazing Sun fleet (the greatest fleet ever I'll have you know!!!) and it comes in 6 parts. There is a submersed base and then a surfaced base, there are also 4 metal tentacles that attach to the surfaced base that flail off to the front on the miniature, two have big shooty cutter thingies on them and are longer than the other two arms that look like they are there to hold whatever poor ship ventures too close in place while those other two arms do their work.
Character of the piece 9 out of 10

When I first read that the Empire of the Blazing Sun was going to get a mechanical squid, I wasn't all that sure to be brutally honest it would be a good idea. Sure the whole mechanical squid thing has a retro Jules Verne sci-fi Victoriana steam punk vibe to it but I felt it would be 'silly'. However looking at the piece in the flesh I think it just about works. There's no denying that a giant mechanical squid is exactly the sort of thing the Japanese would come up with, and while I don't think its as cool as the Britannians Nemo inspired submarine, it does look cool. even the water bases, which I had my concerns about are just about pulled off, with the waves and wakes being convincing enough and actually adding a real sense of forward motion to both pieces.

Of the two pieces the sufraced and submerged its strangely the submerged one that has more menace. You can see what it is but at the same time you can't and that 'unseen' look gives it a kind of jaws vibe... can you hear the jaw musical motif? That's not to say the surfaced piece doesn't look the part, it does. With its huge grasping metal tentacles and massive gaping mechanical maw full of razor sharp blades, put it this way you wouldn't want to sail too close to it!!! Another thing that strikes you about the surfaced version is the shear size of the bloody thing, its imposing and way bigger than the Brits sub. You could certainly imagine it dragging the odd cruiser or battleship down to Davy Jones locker!!!

Detail 8 out of 10

If you own any of the miniatures in the Dystopian Wars range you'll no doubt know about the surface detail that is present on them. I think it always surprises people when they first get them in hand and look at them, and take in the fine detail on the surface of them. This miniature is no different from the rest of the range, there's all the teeny tiny rivets, so forth and so on, and there is a real sense that at the heart of this piece is beating a coal powered steam engine, with brass pipes shooting off all round the hull driving many infernal conptrations of death!!! However there isn't the same sense of 'whole' that the landships and boats have, they have decks and you can see many of the working parts, the engine stacks. Yet here sadly much of that cool stuff is contained within the piece or as is more likely the case resides below the water line. There's not much a sculptor can do about that sadly but compared to the rest of the range there's no denying that it doesn't wear as much of its steam punk credentials on its sleeve as other Dystopian Wars pieces.

With tentacles on it as you can see its HUGE!!!

The sea bases as I said initially gave me a real concern when I first saw the renders on the Spartan Games website, mainly because the two things I think that are really hard to sculpt well in miniatures are fire and water. In fact they're also possibly two of the hardest things to paint on miniatures and are just a pain in the arse no matter what your artistic endeavor. However here I think they have pulled it off, just. I sat looking at these waves for some time trying to work out if they'd got them right, and if they could be painted to look realistic, I think they can. There's a nice gradual flowing gradient to much of each wave emulating the ebb and flow of water, yet they come to nice sharp peaks like breaking waves, and where there is contact with the hull or motion there is a genuine sense of spray and choppy waters. Its pretty convincing.

Quality 8 out of 10

I think its pretty fair to say I've not really had any problems at all with any of the resin pieces from Spartan Games. These are no different, absolutely no mould lines and no surface blemishes or little bits of latex mould stuck to the miniature (Games Workshop take note). All surface detail is present and correct and still retains that 'it must be made by faeries its so fine' look. Its not all glowing praise though, as those metal arms are a pain in what the french delightfully refer too as the derriere! If you have some rapid cure for your super glue, may I humbly suggest you bring it with you!!! There is a fair bit of weight really in them especially when you consider how small the contact point is, and I made the mistake of losing my rapid cure... d'oh. So standing there gluing the chuffing arms onto my mechanical squid very nearly drove me absolutely insane!!! Still those arms aren't all bad below this text is probably a very bleary image that looks like it was taken by an alcoholic during an earthquake with vaseline smeared on the lense...

Look I was shaking with excitement over new toys

What this hideously bad picture is supposed to show is the one nicely arced arm as they come supplied out of the box, the one on the bottom. However I found that with a bit of brute force and ignorance you are able to gently and carefully bend the arms into really interesting poses. Now word of caution I'm pretty sure this isn't a Spartan Games endorsed method of conversion and I'll certainly take absolutely NO responsibility for you guys snapping your squid arms a wailing and bawling your eyes out, however it does look cool!!! There were some very feint mould lines to clean up but they were easily sorted with a quick once over with a file.

Service N/A

I obviously received great service as I got this for free, delivered straight to my hand... however I can't really give that a score. Just go to your local gaming emporium or use whatever online service you like and trust the most.

Price N/A

£9 is the RRP for this miniature and that contains both the submerged and surface variants. You can however if you shop around find plenty of stores selling it at below that and the webstore I've used for my second squid are all selling it for £6.75, Maelstrom Games if you're interested. However I'm sure Firestorm Games, Wayland Games and many LGS's will be matching that price as hardly anybody nowadays sells things for RRP. Although I haven't given the price a score for this review I happen to think £9 is a really good price for this miniature and the £6.75 I have paid for my second one is even better, I'd give it a 9 out of 10 had I actually paid for it.

When Squid Attack - dodgy documentary not coming to a TV near you soon!!!

Overall 8 out of 10

I really like the miniature as a whole. I think the 'water base' could have gone horribly wrong and it didn't, I originally thought when I saw the renders that it was much smaller piece and was pleasantly surprised that it was as big as it was because I can honestly see that ripping huge ships apart. The styling is really nice and it could've jarred with the 'steam train' look of the rest of the fleet and to an extent it does, however the fact that its a giant squid just somehow seems really Japanese and totally in keeping with the steam punk Victorian universe of Dystopian Wars. If you're a fan of the Empire of the Blazing Sun you'll want a few of these in your fleet.

EDIT: The guys on the official Spartan Games forum wanted to see a comparison between the glorious squid of the noble Empire of the Blazing Sun and the Vanguard submarine of the foul and treacherous Kingdom of Britannia... so here it is:

 The submerged versions - clearly superior length from the squid

And of course girth!!!

The surfaced versions just exacerbate the length and girth disparities

Clearly the KoB have inferior length and girth!!!


  1. Nice review of the squid FG.

    Question for you on DW: what are your thoughts on the way the different fleets play? Aesthetics aside, for a moment, what's the different character of the sides on the tabletop?

  2. That's a doozy of a question Quirkworthy as I have not played or seen anywhere near enough games played to answer accurately. So please take this with a huge pinch of salt.

    KoB - I think these guys are all about the linking of turrets and broadsides and keeping opponents at bay long enough to whittle them down or damage them so that when combat does get close they're more than able to win the day. Very tactical in the sense of having to manoeuvre fleet and keep those broad sides open or pump out torps into open lanes and blat stuff.

    Prussians - I think are all very speedy and are about trying to close rapidly where at close range in general they will tend to have the advantage.

    FSA - These guys appear to be the closest fleet in the game so far to a hoard fleet. I think the idea being to swarm the opposition cut down there manoeuvring options and simple overwhelm them.

    EotBS - Ironically the fleet I have the most experience with I actually feel like I know the least about, although perhaps that's true of any faction you start playing a game with. At first I thought they were about closing fast because their speed is impressive and using those broadsides and not worry too much about damage because of the high DR and CR ratings of their ships. But then they have rockets. Lots of rockets and at extreme distances means the EotBS actually have the advantage over pretty much every fleet we've seen so far and with those high DR and CR ratings can pretty much play a waiting game and their high move values mean that realistically they should be able to keep their opponents at bay. They seem versatile and I like that.

    Honestly though I wasn't initially sure there was too much difference between the fleets at first glance when looking through the rulebook, but its actually a subtle game. With Firestorm Armada I felt just by looking at the stat lines of the various fleets I had a good grasp of what to expect, DW hasn't been the same at all.

  3. Thanks FG. That at least gives me a starting point.

    I've been skimming through the rules (got them yesterday) and have to say I'm not finding it a friendly rulebook at all. No diagram of how to read a statline, no glossary of half the terms, and a highly selective index all go to make understanding the thing tricky without reading it cover to cover. Well laid out rulebooks I can pick up and play within about 20 minutes. Had a lot of practice. This breaks a number of conventions for rulebooks and that just makes life unnecessarily hard IMO. Looks v pretty, and I'm sure it's fine when you decipher it, just finding the utility a poor second to the prettiness at the mo. Will persevere though.

  4. Yeah I think that's a fair criticism tbh of the rulebook. It is a bit tough to get to the rules and there have been a few stuttering and starting moments in games where genuinely neither side is really sure of what the rules actually are. I'd also say DW is actually the most complex of the three systems Spartan do, without question so reading the Uncharted Seas or Firestorm rules wasn't so bad and you could crack a game out in next to no time at all. I'd say of the naval side of DW its all about maintaining the optimal range difference with your fleets to try and maximise your damage dealing to damage taking. If you fancy a game or two to go through the rules with some other n00bs let me know and we can try and arrange a few games for you if you'd like?

  5. Thanks, that's very generous of you. I should probably just badger the guys at my local club though. There are a bunch of them that play it, and the venue is only 2 minutes' walk from my place :)

    You're based in Brum IIRC.

    Maintaining optimal range sounds like a good guideline for most real and fictional battles. I'll see how I go. No desperate rush.

  6. Yeah that's right Jake I live in Brum. Have my own 8' by 4' board because I really am a total geek. Also have all the fleets and carriers as well for peeps to try out and decide which is best for them, also on the 6/8/11 I'll have the Antarctican fleet and carrier too *squeals with joy* God I'm pathetic.

  7. No, no. Not pathetic. Enthusiastic :)

  8. @Quirkworthy, well people keep on patting me on the head and telling me I'm special, I've had it all my life... does that count?

  9. Ah, "special". Now that's different. That means you have carte blanche to get away with anything.

    It's not his fault, he's special...

  10. Awesome... now where are my budgie smugglers. latex gloves and gas mask? I have some noisy neighbours to scare!!! But I'll get away with it because I'm special, Jake Thornton told me so!!! ;)

  11. You will indeed. Secure psychiatric wards are for your own protection and are not a punishment.