|The Sampson Hover APC safely packaged away.|
This miniature was sent to me by the lovely John Nguyen at Dream Pod 9 to review. So I didn't cross anyone's palms with silver to gain access to this product. So as always please bear that in mind as you read this review, as although I try to keep things on the level, the fact that somebody has sent me a lovely hover tank for free might have swayed me just a little bit. I personally think not, but you guys and gals are big enough and ugly enough to make your own judgement calls.
To the left you can see the various components that come in the blister pack. The miniature is cast out of an exceedingly high quality resin, I wish to emphasise that point right from the start. This isn't the hard, grainy, easily chipped stuff from Battlefront and their Flames of War range. Nor is it the brittle and delicate resin Forge World use, and it's certainly not the God awful bubble, defect ridden mess that is Finecast. This is a firm yet impact resistant material, how do I know this? I've dropped it... twice... OK multiple times, and it hasn't dented or chipped once. The resin also retains a great amount of surface detail and produces really sharp casts and exceedingly fine lines. So now that's out of the way what's actually in the blister pack? The first piece and the main component is the rather large main body, or should that be fuselage? There are four engines that attach to the man body, they probably should have come attached to a piece of lose resin spru in the blister, but had manged to work themselves free during transit, as had the resin flight stand. There is a small resin ramp that attaches to the back of the APC, a front bumper of sorts, a small panel that attaches to the underside of the APC near the front and four weapons / loadout options. There's also a small round piece with a disc shaped indentation, that quite frankly the purpose of which, I have yet to ascertain! You also get a large round plastic base to mount the miniature on. So that's 15 components altogether, including that mysterious left over piece... that always happens when I put together Ikea furniture too!
|Not a Sampson APC|
Right if you read my previous two Heavy Gear Blitz reviews you'll know that for character I was able link the various Gears to Japanese mecha anime. So what the hell do I link this to? The body of the Sampson Hover APC did seem very familiar to me, and I did look through my anime collection trying to work out if I'd seen it before. I had no luck what so ever, then my eyes rested on my X-Men blu-ray trilogy and I started thinking about Patrick Stewart, he was Jean luc... oh... my... God! Its a Star Trek: The Next Generation shuttlecraft!!! Actually it's bugger all like it but I felt I'd better give it a go as I'd done so in my previous reviews. No I think the Sampson Hover APC thankfully breaks with most design conventions I've seen used on various other hovertanks over the years. Not that I dislike hovertanks, on the contrary I actually love them, as any red blooded geek should! But, all those sleek sweeping lines and curving rounded bodies can kind of start to look a little... well... wimpy.
|Sampson Hover APC - without weapon|
I mean sure it has to hover and fly, so you'd expect it to look a little bit sleek and aerodynamic, but they're also meant to be heavily armoured tanks too. For me that's sort of where many hovertank designs go wrong, sure they get the 'hover' bit nailed 100%... but... they're anything but tank like. First and foremost the Sampson Hover APC looks like it was designed to take incoming fire, it looks sort of like a floating truck at the front, with a rather large looking bumper, and the cab section set back from the front of the vehicle that as I say, makes it look a bit like an 18 wheeler truck! It just looks like the sort of vehicle only a military engineer could design. Sure there are slopes and angles and some sweeping lines, but the reality is that quite clearly it's very little more than a slightly nuanced floating brick. With a gun on top. It's that sort of vehicle that makes designers cringe with its brutal functionality, and possibly the soldiers within it happy they decided to add extra ablative armour on its hull after all. The ramp at the rear of the Sampson proves its utilitarian purpose of safely delivering its payload of soldiers to make someone elses day a little less safe.
|It might have a fat ass... but that's just how I like them!|
None of those touches are my favourite part of the Sampson's design though. Nope it has to be the rather clunky, bulky and totally awkward looking thrusters that have been bolted onto its flanks. They don't look neat, they don't look well designed, they just simply look functional and effective. It makes the Sampson look like someone designed a metal bunker and then said "hey if we stick some jets on this thing do you think we could make it fly?"... and then they did, and it did fly. I get the sense from this miniature though that this isn't the most elegant of hover tanks or flying vehicles. It's boxy and rugged shape, with those bolted on engines means it probably just does what it's designed to do, and stuff the handling! I look at it I get the sense that while it might not quite float like a butterfly it almost certainly has the sting of a bee. I love hovertanks, every sci-fi geek should love hovertanks, if you don't I'm not too sure you can legally claim to be a geek. For my money the aesthetics of the Sampson APC are exactly the way I'd design a hovertnk, tank first, hover later. Sure it's probably a bumpy ride and is difficult to keep stable in the air, I sort of imagine it to move like the Hammerhead out of Mass Effect 2 if you've played that game. But, on the plus side its probably one of the safest places to be on a battlefield... it's just a shame they'll make you get out of it!
Detail 8 out of 10
I'm almost certain that the photographs in this review probably aren't doing a great job of conveying just how awesome some of the surface detail actually is on this miniature. In terms of detail and scale I guess if you've seen some Flames of War miniatures then they would provide a pretty good benchmark, as the size is similar, even if the Heavy Gear scale is slightly smaller. If you remember the best Flame of War miniature you've seen for detail, trust me it's a 6.5 out of 10. Sorry if you're a fan of Flames of War, because that might have ruffled your feathers. If I did that wasn't my intention, I think Battlefront do a pretty darn good job actually with what they produce, and most of it is perfectly serviceable as gaming pieces. But, they're not a patch on the very subtle lines and panels on the surface of the Sampson APC. All the air vents, armour plates, rivets, the access panels and ladders are all unbelievably small details that are instantly recognisabe and exceedingly crisp and sharp. The outlines of the Sampson are sharp and crisp, there's no fuzzy areas or badly cast parts, it is clearly a very good reproduction of the original sculpt. If there is a blemish on the surface I have no doubt that it does indeed exist on the master. I'm going to be honest, I'm impressed by it.
Quality 8.5 out of 10
Before he sent me this miniature John Nguyen was waxing lyrical about how awesome the resin Dream Pod 9 use is. I have to be honest, I've kind of heard such claims before and although I've sometimes had my cynicism overcome by a product that actually lives up to the hype, they are indeed few and far between. So was John over doing it? If he was, it wasn't by much! The simple fact is that most of the resins that you see used for various products within this industry have some draw backs. Either they retain exceedingly fine detail and produce orgasmically good reproductions of the master... but are brittle, snaptastic stuff that just isn't suitable for gaming pieces. The at the other end of the scale is the tough, durable resin that you could use to build battle bunkers out of, excellent for gaming pieces, hurling at mortal enemies and armour plating... not always so great at retaining fine detail. There is of course now a third option known as Finecast, but really lets not go there. So what of this Dream Pod 9 resin? Well it retains detail that's for sure, and has proved quite shock resistant, not that I intended on testing that out quite as much as I have. Obviously a lot of these parts are quite chunky and aren't the slender delicate pieces you sometimes get with 28mm miniatures, like swords, but it does feel like a good quality resin and it's easy to work with.
Service N/A out of 10
It's not really fair of me to grade the delivery service of this product considering it's a free item sent to me for review. If you want to know what I think the service is like off of Dream Pod 9 then can I please direct you to my review of the NuCoal GP Squad.
Price 6.5 out of 10
I'm going to come right out and say it, I'm glad I got sent a Sampson APC for free to review, because I think they are expensive, but I do so love the look of the thing and was lusting after one! The Sampson APC is a 12mm scale tank, and it'll set you back $27 CAN or £17 GB. Yes it looks good, and it's a quality product, but I struggle to justify that sort of expense for a miniature of this size and scale. I know they're not quite as detailed, but when I look at the Flames of War tanks for £6 to £12 for something like the Jagdpanther I struggle a little with that price. Is the casting really high quality? Yes. Is the resin really nice to work with, durable and does it retain a high level of sharp detail? Yes. Do I think £17 is a good price for it? No. I can get a 28mm Plastic Space Marine Rhino for only £3.50 more, or something like the Guija TAG for Infinity for that sort of money, and that's almost a third of my army!
It's a shame that ultimately for me it's the price of the thing that is left as my lasting impression of it as a product. I want at least two more in my collection so I can deploy them as a squad, but I'll have to be flush with cash before I make the purchase because I'm not too sure I can justify the outlay to she who must be obeyed. No, actually I know I wouldn't be able to justify it to her. Sure I can argue that I can magnetize the various turret options and therefore save myself some cash, and it's true that is a nifty little cash saver, and it is worth bearing in mind... but the reality is that's still a small consolation for the initial outlay. I could field it as an upgrade to various NuCoal squads with some infantry I guess, but the idea of having 3 hovertanks swoop in and drop off a battalion is just too cool. Also the UK distributor of Heavy Gear Blitz (Waylands Games) is selling the Sampson APC for £18. Perhaps the fact that Wayland are the sole distributor has something to do with how difficult it is to get Heavy Gear Blitz stuff here in the UK,
Overall 7.5 out of 10
That score is where it is quite frankly because of the cost, had it been closer to £12 I think you'd have seen a score of 9 or 9.5. I'm struggling to myself to justify a £17 price tag for what is essentially a small tank. I know the main body is a sizeable solid chunk of resin, and I get that it costs to produce such a piece in terms of materials. But, when I look at it on the table next to my metal Gears I just struggle to understand the price discrepancy. It's not gasp of horror and outrage expensive, but it is raise two eyebrows expensive. Do I think the resin Dream Pod 9 are using is really good? Yeah, as I've said elsewhere in the review I think it's a fantastic substance to work with. It retails details very well, almost as well as many resin display pieces I have had from the likes of Studio McVey, Kindom death and BaneLegions. It isn't prone to warping and is a firm substance that seems suitable for gaming purposes, despite holding its own in terms of detail retention next to some of the best miniatures in the industry. It's good stuff. But if I want a squadron of 3 of them I'm going to be forking out £51 for a unit in effect. To me that's a bit steep no matter, which way you slice it. So in conclusion I love the look of the thing, it's a really high quality product and it was a joy to work with, BUT when you look at the price tag it sort of knocks the stuffing out of all the other good points just a little bit for me... I'll still be ordering two more though. Peace out!