|They come in a very, very shiny box!|
Well I guess this review (like so many other around here at the moment) is actually really long overdue. I've had my Heavy Gear Blitz NuCoal mini's sitting in their respective boxes for some time now and I just felt that it was about time I actually told you all what I thought of them. I've held off reviewing them for a number of reasons:
- I've been really busy, pretending I'm really busy (actually I have been really busy of late).
- I've actually been waiting on some magnets to magnetize these bad boys.
- I've also been waiting on some MDF hex bases from Sarissa Precision for another article I'm planning on bringing you all.
Honestly though? I got fed up of waiting for the magnets and the MDF laser cut bases have now arrived. So I don't have anymore excuses for holding off on the reviews now do I?
Right well the first thing to note is that these miniatures come in an exceedingly glossy shiny box that makes them quite hard to photograph, but very lovely to look at. If I was a shop owner I'd be very pleased at their presentation is to a very high standard and their petite size maximises that shelf space! As I say, it's a compact nicely presented product. The miniatures are multi-part white metal figures... when I say multi-part I mean it too. They come in a lot of different pieces do these miniatures, and are highly poseable. They also come with multiple weapon loadout options too. There's an awful lot of metal in this box, and if you're clever with magnets you can actually pose the miniatures so you can swap in and swap out the weapons options, which makes for a nice change and a great money saving option. I however got a little bit impatient waiting on magnets and decided to forgo that option. Each Chasseur miniature comprises of between 6 and 7 pieces, and that's without the main weapon options. All in all there are roughly 50 metal components in this box, which gives you multiple weapons options, so it's actually quite a bit of stuff you get in the box. You also get 5 plastic 25mm Hex bases to stand them on... although I'll be going for something a little different myself.
Character 8.5 out of 10
I'm a big huge, nay massive anime mecha fan. No scratch that, I just love the idea of giant big robot smashing seven shades of brown stuff out of each other. As a kid I obviously had a love for Macross, Gundam and Appleseed. Now while there is no doubt that Dream Pod 9 have taken some of their cues from Japanese anime robots, it's arguably more from the likes of Patalabor and definitely Votoms, and yeah possibly a smidgen of the aforementioned Appleseed... but who hasn't been influenced a bit by Appleseed and the work of Masamune Shirow? So I'm not going to lie to you when I say as I put these miniatures together they raised more than the odd smile. In fact as I pinned them together and saw them take shape in front of my eyes I actually grew rather fond of them, with their rounded work hat heads and their boxy limbs. They look brilliant! I could see much of Kunio Okawara's design ethic in them.
|Votoms Scopedog - Kunio Okawara.|
But I really don't want to make it seem like these miniatures are just riffing on the design concepts of Japanese anime and other peoples work, despite their open homage at points. Because they're not, they have their own sort of industrial western charm about them. There's no denying where their DNA has sprung from, but these robots look a lot more rugged and stout than most of their influences. They look workmanlike, ready to go to war, far more so than the often slender and sleek designs of most anime mecha they take their cues from. They wear their rivets and their rugged mechanical appearance with pride. These are fighting machines rather than cartoon renditions of fighting machines. While in anime mecha always seem like sports cars these Chasseurs just seem to evoke a distinctly more diesel truck like appearance. Plus getting them into 3D sculpts does add a really nice sense of solidity to all those anime cartoons I used to watch. They also feel very different to the other mecha game I played in my youth, Battletech. I do feel that Dream Pod 9 have just about struck the right chord between homage to the giant robots I so loved watching as a kid, and their own take on them.
|Chasseur CV - Primed and ready to be painted.|
These miniatures are also relatively poseable too. Of course much of these Gears stances are restricted by how their legs are placed and also the need to carry their weapons. I still found though that I was able to twist torso's, replace arms and put heads on at jaunty angles and get the sort of motion out of the pieces that I wanted. In terms of poseability I'd guess these are right up there with Jes Goodwin's plastic Space Marines. Remembering that these are in metal, that's actually a commendable way to go with these miniatures. Although it does create it's own challenges that I'll talk about later on. However, from a purely aesthetic point of view I love them and I love that I have some control over how they stand. They're not going to be to everyone's taste, they simply aren't, because lets face it not everyone loves giant robots. But if you like your mecha like I do, then there's a lot of appeal and charm in these Chasseurs. However, I did decide to add some short range radio aerials to my Chasseur's so those aren't part of the original miniature, but I felt they set them off nicely.
|This back pack is slightly smaller than a Space Marines.|
Given that these are the same size roughly as Games Workshops Space Marines (possible ever so slightly smaller) part of me thinks I shouldn't be surprised at the level of detail they contain. However, I am. Let me explain why, firstly these Chasseur Gears are sculpted in a very different scale to those 28mm Space Marines, they're 10 to 12mm miniature scale in effect, and much of the really small details on the metal surface convey this fact brilliantly. Details like small air vents, rivets and metal panels are all nicely to scale if not 100% right because of artistic licence, they do convey that these are giant robots very well. The teeny tiny access panels are man sized and add a great sense of scale to these Chasseur's, as do all the little lights and sensors that seem to be stuck all over the place. All of it crisply and sharply reproduced. Is it up to the delicate lines and standards achieved by the likes of Corvus Belli and their Infinity range, or Freebooter Fate? No not quite, but then again given the subject matter is big boxy robots it wasn't ever meant to be, was it? I'm personally really pleased with the surface detailing on these miniatures and I think it's more than appropriate for what they are.
|Some delicate pinning on a knifes handle.|
Right this is a tough one to judge, as there were no casting defects and the detail retention is actually very, very good. So why have I given them only 8 out of 10 instead of 8.5 or 9 out of 10? To be honest it was a very difficult call and one I'm still not entirely sure about. Let me explain myself though, because that score really does need a qualifying statement. These are exceptionally well cast miniatures, and I want to make that clear, the mould lines were minimal, there was no flash and all the pieces were fine. However, they are also multi-part metal miniatures that have a high degree of poseability in them. All good stuff in principle I'm sure you'll agree, and if you hobby-fu skills are as adept as mine are at pinning miniatures then you can whack that quality score up to 8.5 out of 10. Because although they'll require some careful work, you'll find it easy and enjoy the range of poses you can achieve. If you've been brought up on Games Workshop plastic miniatures, and metal miniatures scare you, then the score should be closer to a 7.5 out of 10. So I'm sitting on the fence right in the middle with my own score.
|I personally felt the need to do a lot of pinning to make these suitable for gaming.|
Because here's the thing, these miniatures require some work and for my money are aimed at experienced hobbyists, who have amassed the tools and skills required to make a success of them. If you have those skills you'll enjoy putting these together like I did. If not, you might find them frustrating to assemble. I used a power drill and some fine watch makers drill bits and it was a doddle, but with a hand powered pin vice and normal hobby drill bit? Well lets just say I hope you have a large CD collection to play as you're drilling away. I've had a bit of a discussion with some of my friends as to whether or not all my drilling and pinning was necessary. I take their point that maybe the torso and legs didn't require pinning, and maybe neither did the head, as the contact points for the size of pieces was probably good enough for a pure super glue bond. But those arms? Hell no they need pinning if you're going to be using these for regular gaming sessions even more so, and I didn't like the look of the shoulder mounted missile launchers either, so they got a damn good pinning too!
|I chose to break the leg joint myself, to make it firmer.|
Service 9 out of 10
I've had two interesting deliveries from Dream Pod 9, who lets not forget are based in Canada, while I reside in Britain. This delivery came as part of the NuCoal super bundle deal and was actually with me inside of 7 working days. In fact it made it to me in 5 working days and as far as I'm concerned that's exceptional customer service. They came really well packed and there was absolutely no damage at all, which is good considering how international parcels normally get handled in North America (I think it's mandatory to throw them around wherever they go). So for this particular delivery the service was outstanding. However, please bear in mind if you do live in Europe that you could end up with your parcel sitting at customs for a week or two, and then stuck in a distribution depot for a further week or two, like the other parcel that was sent me. But as I say, on this order it was a great service.
Price 7.5 out of 10
The Canadian dollar exchange rate has not been kind to Canadian manufacturers over the last few years. The last decade in particular has seen their weak dollar gain in strength against other global currencies, so while it used to be great for exports, it has somewhat hampered things of late. The previously weak Canadian dollar actually made purchasing Dream Pod 9's miniatures quite cheap here in the UK, that's not so much the case anymore. I brought this GP Squad as part of the NuCoal super bundle deal, which represents roughly a 20% saving overall and I think is a pretty good deal at $299.95 Can or roughly £190. Individually the GP Squad costs $43.50 Can or £28, so as part of the deal that works out at £22.40 for 5 decent sized metal miniatures with options. Or £4.48 per miniature, which is more than comparable to other companies metal miniatures. The only other issue to bear in mind though is that you need more of them than your average skirmish game. Currently I think we're looking at between 15 to 25 miniatures at the scale we want to play at. So as a rough guide an army in Heavy Gear will look to set you back about £84 to £140, which isn't quite as expensive as say Games Workshops two main products, and possibly on a par with a 35 to 50 point HoMachine force. It's not Mofaux cheap, but it's not as expensive as it might first appear as a product either when you first start looking at it.
|Here's the completed studio paint jobs|
What can I say? I've always been a sucker for bit robots, gears, mechs or whatever you want to call them. My first real wargaming love was probably Battletech, which itself did a nice line in giant robot battling death. These are a significant step up on those particular miniatures I owned in the 90's, of that there is certainly no doubt. They're not quite as nice as many of the glorious individual sculpts I have in my current two skirmish games of choice Infinity and Freebooter's Fate, but where they do score over those products is the scale of the game on offer... that, and they're big robots! Hevey Gear Blitz scale is set to full on Battle scale if you will, as opposed to the minor skirmishes many of my other games seem to represent. That counts for something with me, because I do quite like the idea of grander scale battles taking place, but at 12mm scale it's not as daunting a prospect as a game of 40k is. On the evidence of these specific miniatures, and indeed the others Heavy Gear miniatures I own and have seen I'm really pleased I decided to take the plunge with the game after all. Peace out!