|Yet again the box is exceptionally shiny and very well presented.|
So then after Saturdays review of my NuCoal GP Squad I thought it was best for me to get a crack on and review my second Heavy Gear Blitz boxed set and get it up as soon as I could... so here it is!
I made the point in my review of the NuCoal GP Squad that the packaging was clearly designed with the retailer in mind. The small nature of the boxes is designed to help retailers make maximum use of their shelf space, and the production values on the packaging is really high, and it simply look like a nice quality product. None too subtle hint if you're a UK retailer, or hell a retailer anywhere in the world, this is a good product to have on your shelves! There are yet again 5 metal Gears in this boxed set as their is with most Heavy Gear Blitz squads. The NuCoal Recon squad comprises of 4 Jerboa's and 1 Cuirassier CV, all cast in white metal. This time I actually counted the components in the box rather than guessing like I did last time, and there are 72 individual metal pieces, that's roughly 14 pieces per miniature. That's a lot. Some of those will be options and variants... but not as many as you might think, because the Jerboa's themselves are made up of at least 12 parts each! Yes I know, that's a lot. The Cuirassier is made of 11 components too. It literally is only the odd extra arm choice and whether or not you put blades in the hands of your Jerboa's. So yep that's a lot of super gluing and pinning per miniature again!
Character 9 out of 10
In my last review of a Heavy Gear Blitz product I mentioned the NuCoal Chasseurs bore a passing resemblance to the Scopedog mecha from Japanese anime Votoms. They do too you know, no question about it, and there's nothing wrong with that because I personally loved the Votoms mecha designs. Besides Dream Pod 9 had made them their own with some stylistic tweaking. So what about this motley crew of Gears? What do they remind me of? Well in the case of the Jerboa I think it's pretty darn clear where my mind instantly drifted off too... Macross! Or more specifically the various Macross mecha in their Gerwalk mode, if you've not seen Macross (what's wrong with you?) there's a good picture below to show you and visually describe exactly what I mean. It is not so much that the Jerboa's are an exact replica, because they clearly aren't. However, there are clear similarities between the plane based mecha of Macross and the fuselage shape to the main body of the Jerboa. Clearly there are other similarities including the spindly arms and extremities, plus the fact that they both clearly have 'Transformer' like qualities. But whereas the Jerboa is a road based Gear, the Macross mecha are plane based air vehicles. In short the Jerboa are clearly lacking the wings of their Macross counterparts!
|VF25 - Armoured Ozama in Gerwalk mode (Macross)|
So again there's a knowing nod and a cheeky wink in terms of inspiration for these miniatures clearly being from Japanese anime. But, yet again where Dream Pod 9 have taken that inspirtion they have taken it and gone in their own distinct direction. The large chunky wheels that are present in both legs show a clear and very evident break with the above design aesthetic. It marks the Jerboa out as a clearly land based vehicle, as does the third wheel that sticks out of the Jerbo's 'rear', yes these Jerboa also have something in common with the decidedly uncool Reliant Robin. Yep these are clearly sleek land based vehicles, that are probably no doubt exceedingly nippy! But they have a functional chunky utilitarian feel to them, as opposed to the highly sleek and stylised mecha often found in anime, these look like they could hold their own in a fight. In this box I had one Jerboa in road mode, as I call it, and three in standing / gerwalk mode. These Gears have a wonderfully mechanical feel to them, they look like they're able to change into something else, and they look like they might actually work for real. I particularly like the twin jet engine looking cylinders that fit onto the back of the Jerboa's and obviously propel them at great speeds across salt lake flats, and desert basins alike. It just conjures up brilliant images of them streaming across a dirt red sun bleached landscape at great speeds kicking up huge plumes of dust in their wake. Brilliant.
|A Jerboa in Gerwalk mode.|
I love their little squat heads and I love the shoulder mounted missile launchers. When I first looked at the pictures for the various NuCoal Gears I actually thought that the Jerboa's might potentially be my least favourite of them all. I mean I liked the look of them, just not as much as the obvious Gears like the Hussar's for instance, however having put the four Jerboa Gears together that came in this box I have to say that they've fought their way to the top of the pile for me. Seriously they're just so well executed in design terms, that when you see them in the flesh and they just exude so much cool character that it's hard not to like them. They're not the only Gears you get in the recon box though, nope, you also get a single and rather large Cuirassier CV as well, to lead the little Jerboa's into battle. Now if you consider that the previous Gear's I reviewed, the Chasseur's were roughly the size of a Games Workshop plastic Space Marine, you'll understand the size implications when I say the legs of the Cuirassier are as tall as a Chasseur! Yep, it's a pretty big miniature, true the squat torso means it's probably only a third taller than the Chasseur's, but nevertheless the size disparity with the short, but 'fat' Jerboa's is a really interesting visual effect. It makes the Cuirassier look exceedingly imposing, more so than it normally would I guess amongst other Gears.
|The Cuirassier are significantly bigger than the Jerboa's|
The Cuirassier is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the NuCoal Recon Squad boxed set. It's bulky boxy limbs looking far more powerful and sturdy when compared to the quite sleek and slender Jerboa extremities. Whereas the Jerboa's look quick and nimble the Cuirassier is clearly a brute of a Gear, it looks heavily armoured and even more heavily armed. The Cuirassier's shoulder mounted missile pack is almost as big as the main body of a Jerboa, and it's main armament is longer than the entire length of a Jerboa. The visual disparity between the Jerboa's and Cuirassier CV therefore has the interesting effect of not only confirming the Cuirassier as the command Gear, but also making it look more like a body guard to the ickle Jerboa's. Ahhhh, how cute! I'm not too sure whether or not this disparity was taken into consideration at the design phase, or indeed if this boxed set was considered during that process, but either way the inclusion of the Cuirassier has had the effect of greatly accentuating the features, size and shape of both Gear types. This box does a great job of conveying the scale differences between the various types of Gear in Heavy Gear Blitz... and they all just look ace!
|A Jerboa in Reliant Robin mode... :P|
I think it's fair to say that the Jerboa's are very small miniatures, I could certainly claim that and not fear being taken to task under trade descriptions! So all those really fine lines you see etched onto the surface of the Jerboa's are all the more impressive. As are those dainty legs and arms, it's hard to explain just how fine they are as pieces. Because they really are small and thin, yet have a fair degree of surface detail on them. The tread on the wheels the rivets on the guns, and the minute little head with it's two miniscule eyes, it's all really small and finely detailed, and it's all exceptionally well produced and crisp. I was very pleased at the level of surface detail on these miniatures, there's a significant amount and it all gives the miniatures a good sense of scale. Because although the Jerboa's are small compared to some Gears, they are after all massive compared to humans in scale, as the game is 10 to 12mm scale. The Cuirassier too has a significant amount of fine detail on it too, none more so than the unbelievable fine command aerial on its head, apart from being a ridiculously small piece, and it being more intent on sticking to me that it was the bloody miniature, it is nevertheless a very fine piece of detail, and very well realised. As are all its bulky metal armoured panels, each with surface detailing and ablative panels. Then there are the pistons and mechanical components on display that add a sense of realism and detail to the miniatures, all are sharp and perfectly placed, it's these details that sell these Gears as being plausible, huge, hulking engines of death and destruction.
|Look at the pinning on that!!!|
Right in my previous review I gave the NuCoal GP Squad an 8 out of 10 for quality purposes, but I agonised over that score. No, really I did! It wasn't an easy decision at all to give it an 8 because the casting was so top notch, but they were a bit fiddly to put together. However, with the Jerboa's that fiddly nature has been turned up to the maximum it should ever go to with a metal miniature. These Jerboa's are slightly smaller than the old Games Workshop plastic Night Goblins, yep they're that small. The various pieces though like the arms are so unbelievable thin and dainty and make that same Night Goblin look large and cumbersome. Now imagine, if you will, that the average Jerboa is actually comprised of 12 individual components... go on let that information roll around in your head for a little while... you done? Good. Arrrggggghhhhh!!! I have not had so many blood blisters and sores on my fingers since I decided mountaineering was a good idea for an outdoor hobby. Yeah know, outdoors right? Seriously these components are fiddly as I ever want to deal with.
|Jerboa the third.|
The fact that unlike the previous GP Squad box many of these components had visible mould lines on them just made me want to scream at times. I often ended up filing my thumb and fore finger more than the miniature as I attempted to clean the various components up. The mould lines themselves actually weren't that bad at all, it was more the size of the pieces that caused the issues I had. As did the fact that the 12 components didn't exactly have huge contact points. Now I'm sure that yet again you could get away perfectly well without pinning many of the components on display, but I felt the need to pin the two jet engines to the backpack. Then pin the backpack to the torso. I pinned the torso to the legs, which themselves were pinned together as they came in two parts. I alsp pinned all the third wheels onto my Jerboa's. Now I fully accept that I might have gone a bit OCD with them when I pinned the tiny missile launcher to the arms and then pinned those arms to the torso, not to mention pinning the gins of as well and sculpting new gun handles onto them. However, in my defence I am utterly bonkers. I'm happy though that my Jerboa's won't explode into 12 pieces when dropped, and trust me at some point you're bound to drop your lovingly painted miniatures. Or more precisely a bloody cat is likely to bat it off of the table (bloody Tybs).
Thankfully the slightly chunkier Cuirassier was a tad easier on my delicate artists fingers! Yeah sure I pinned and cleaned the hell out of it as a miniature, but thankfully it's larger size as a piece made the task significantly easier on me... and more importantly my poor suffering finger tips. The mould lines and flash also seemed far less of an issue on the Cuirassier, which might be also a function of the components size. I still pinned the arms, legs, torso, backpack, weapons etc. to each other. But rather than being a particularly devious Trial of the Gods, it was actually a pleasure to pin because all the contact points were so clearly marked and it made lining all those pins up an absolute doddle. Again I'd like to point out in terms of the quality of the casting these are actually not that bad. In fact they're probably bang smack what I've grown to normally expect from metal miniatures. The issue is purely one of assembly, and I don't mind admitting publicly that yes, those Jerboa's even tasked my considerable pinning-fu skills! Still when they're done you can sit back and feel suitably smug at how totally awesome your pinning skills are. I should really get an Xbox Achievement or PS3 trophy for pinning these!!! Sadly life sucks like that and there's no happy pinging noise well you complete them.
|Jerboa the fourth.|
Service 9 out of 10
As I said in my last review, all my NuCoal stuff came in incredibly quick time, and was exceedingly well packaged. I certainly have zero complaints about the service I have received off of Dream Pod 9 so far. It has been professional and speedy so I would have no doubts in ordering from them again. Indeed if I get a job anytime soon that is exactly what I intend to do, possibly buying yet another NuCoal Super Bundle deal if I can convince them to make the odd change to what they put inside the deal. The idea beong to help bulk out my NuCoal force out and get me as many options as I'd like to own. Given that this stuff was shipped across the Atlantic ocean from Canada to the UK in as quick a time as it was, and as unmolested by the various postal services as it was, I do think Dream Pod 9 fully deserve their 9 out of 10 again. It was a great service, just be aware that if you are importing to the EU that your local 'friendly' tax man might take an interest and charge you extra tax as well as hold up your order in customs. He'll probably spend it on a public consultation as to whether the treasury logo should be purple or green... not that I thik our current Government are wasting money on pointless consultations or anything!
|A rather awkward looking group shot. Sorry!!!|
I think in many respects all these boxes are going to suffer the same initial problem that any largish scale wargame that uses metal miniatures is going to suffer with. That is namely that although the individual miniatures might indeed be reasonably and competitively priced, the need for more of them than other games instantly hits the wallet in ways certain other products don't. Do I think that $43.50 CAN / £28 GB is a fair price to pay for the NuCoal Recon boxed set? Yes I do. Would I hesitate if I was asked to pay that again for another set of them? No I wouldn't, but it's clear to me that many people right now are not really wanting to spend too much money on a single game, and any single army project right now. I can understand that point of view, hell I have a good deal of sympathy with it. However, Heavy Gear Blitz still remains a significantly cheaper option than either Games Workshop games, probably a bit cheaper than HoMachine too, although Privateer Press seem intent on ramping up the scale and associated cost of their games, so HoMachine is likely to be far more expensive in the long run than getting a Heavy Gear Blitz force. I guess what I'm saying is that it's not as expensive as people might first think it is, or indeed as expensive as I first thought it was. As before I got this Recon set as part of Dream Pod 9's NuCoal Super Bundle so that conferred a 20% reduction on cost, so for me the Recon Squad actually cost £22.40. Bargain!
Overall 8.5 out of 10
As much of a pain in the ass as these models were to put together, often quite literally (don't ask!), I have to be honest and say I really love the look of the Jerboa's now they're pinned and ready to rock 'n' roll. They're so reminiscent in terms of shape to the various Macross mechs in many ways, and they do ape the flowing lines of fighter planes as do their more famous mech cousins do. They might look daintier or more slender than many of their Heavy Gear Blitz counterparts, but the Jerboa's are actually quite weighty in size when you see the profile shots of them you realise there is much more too them than you might first think. The Cuirassier is however as big and beastly as it looks, it's a bit of a monster and it's legs are as tall as many smaller to average sized gears are. It really is a nice centrepiece for the unit and provides a nice sense of scale, standing next to the Jerboa's. Even more than the NuCoal GP Squad I really like the aesthetics of the Recon Squad Gears, and when they're all put together there is no denying how great they look as a unit. I'm really starting to get very excited about this game now. Peace out!