Friday, 11 May 2012

Review: NuCoal Sampson APC (Heavy Gear Blitz)

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.

Product description

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
Character 8.5 out of 10

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!


  1. Good review but I wonder were your DreamPod 9 tinted glasses in heavy use for this one ; P

    I appreciate they may be using a quality resin but to me the Trump Towers may be made from the best quality Spanish glass it still looks, well, not so great.

    The details you lovingly refer to don't seem to be present in these pictures. I really do hope the pictures are a facsimile of the real thing as you appear to have been gifted a brick with 4 small bricks glued to the side and no I won’t accept a couple of panel lines and indented rivets as fine detail.

    I am prepared to accept that well maybe it’s not for me, it’s not aimed at me, but the product does not speak of the craftsmanship implied.

    I've been on the fence about Dreampod 9, frankly it’s a game I will never buy there are no players ready to shell out here so it’s not an option and they don't really suit as great painting models (the lines are too soft for the look I prefer). Also the price OMIGODSORRYKIDSUNIVERSITY ISFORPOSERSANYWAY

    I did check the other tanks they produce as I am prepared to accept I just don’t like them but there are lots I like ( I haven’t commented on any other articles of this game and doubt I will for others but really I just can’t see this product being the rating you gave?

    Character – 7 its quirky but unattractive and unless the pics (official) are lying the lines are too soft.
    Detail – 6 nothing out of the ordinary without a lie I have seen better detailed models for smaller scales than this. (6 is my bar for mantic as well so you know where I am headed)
    Quaity – N/A you have the nouse I will accept you say its 8.5 I’ll agree.
    Price – N/A gonna opt out as its Canadian shipping to me would be a rort which I would have to include in the price so it’s not really a fair point of comparison.

    Am I confused yes. But I think we are big enough to accept different opinions. Now go blast some mechas with it and make pew pew noises.


    1. No problem at all wit you giving an opinion Minitrol. I have said that I think it's steep in price so on that we agree. As for the detail score it's actually wrong. It should actually be an 8 out of 10, but obviously this morning I was tired and hit the 9 instead of 8. I still think it's better than a 6 out of 10 though, and by quite some distance. As for Mantic being a 6 out of 10, I think that depends on the actual Mantic mini personally, I wouldn't give anything they produce currently that I've seen anything more than a 7.5 on the detail side of things.

      But back to the Sampson APC, the scale of the thing is at 10mm to 12mm. It's not big at all and as such those lines are actually very very fine, and as someone who has painted it they're actually quite sharp too. The pictures don't really do that justice.

      On the aesthetics well that's personal choice. I personally love boxy looking tanks and things that look like they were designed to be brutal. I personally think it has some charm to it. I'm certainly not going to say it's for everyone though, because looks are a personal thing. As for the thing you like, the Hussar, it is a really nice mini too, but is a real kick in the pants when it comes to cost again.

      However, on the whole I don't think HGB is quite as expensive as I personally first thought it was as a game. Sure it's not the cheapest either, and certain things could do with dropping a little in price. But on the whole I've found it to be just about worth it.

  2. The small round part is the ecm(2) for the command variant. If you go in the NuPAK direction in your city-states choice a HPC-64 Pacifier is US$21.97 so maybe 13.64 via current currency trading and it is still an all metal mini

    1. Huzzah!!!

      Well at least it's not left over. Just wandering how the hell I magnetize it. o_0

  3. I do really like the Sampson, it's the designs of all the things in the NuCoal that make me think about starting an army for them, but unfortunately I don't have the time nor money to start a third heavy gear faction, much as I love the game.

    I will agree on the cost of the game, as it is high when compared to other games of a similar scale. A heavy tank for Critical Mass costs £11. Admittedly you tend not to use many in Heavy Gear (unless you're an CEF player), but still it is high.

    Might interest you to know there's another store stocking it. Pyre studios located up here in Edinburgh (the wrong coast!!) sell the stuff, and it's a bit cheaper. Looking at their site, a Sampson costs £16.50

    1. Thank you so much for the link. I am one of those rare HGB players in the UK, and I HATE Wayland!

      So will definitely check out Pyre. You should encourage themselves to make themselves known btw if local...I know a lot of people wanting HGB stuff that can't stand using Wayland.

    2. Yep, I'll second the thanks for Pyre Studios link.

      @Anonymous, there are lots of people in the same boat as you with regards to Waylands Games. I'm not so sure about them as a company. I don't like all these exclusive import deals they do... we've had a certain company in the past get big off of such exploits and well... you know the rest. Their website is shocking too, it's like an episode of the Krypton Factor trying to buy anything. Whereabouts in the UK are you? Maybe if you're nearby we could get a few games in?

    3. I am down South, Bournemouth to be precise. I'm pretty new to Blitz, and am trying very hard to get some locals more into it right now. This will actually help, thats how bad Waylands rep is around here.

      The exclusive import deals are agree are suspect at best. Plus, they just flat out lie about stock levels.

      But enough Wayland Bashing, back to being happy :D

    4. Glad I was of some help. I've bought some of their stuff in person, as they lease a small amount of space in one of the stores over there, but haven't dealt with them online before, but I've heard generally good things about them, certainly no online complaining like I've heard with other companies.

    5. Hey! Great review and thanks for the for the mention. HGB is a great game with some fantastic looking miniatures so I’m real glad you mentioned the kits detail/quality. Blitz! was actually one of the two games that got me thinking of setting up Pyre Studios. It's worth a look regardless of where you source it from but I'd stress getting a demo first.

      In terms of the cost of the game I agree that some of the pieces can seem a little steep but it's important to keep in mind the "scale " of the game itself. You can get competitive, well structured force for under £100 and be done... unless you want to buy more. Sunfyre's post below give a good account of why the per-model-price can be a misleading way of looking at these types of skirmish games.

      @Meha Ace: Happy to deal with you online mate but I always prefer meeting gamers in person :)

    6. @Alex that's a bit of a trek to get to from B'ham and vice versa! Maybe if I'm in your neck of the woods I'll drop you a PM.

  4. The price for HGB is one where you can be blind sided if you look at it as a model to model comparison. However if you look at it from the fact that you tend to be able to get a complete 1K TV force (Which is rather large for HGB) for ~$100-150, it isn't so terrible. This is of course assuming one is going through a shop that gives discounts, such as TheWarstore, or something similar.

    The Sampson APC is one mini that part of me hates and another part of me loves, and honestly I don't know why. It looks great, and for the most part fits in the theme of the rest of NuCoal. However it's a terrible let down when you compare it to the Hussar in tank mode though. The Hussar looks like it means business, but also has a level of finesse to it that the Sampson simply does not.

    The metal and resin DP9 uses is amazingly tough. I have dropped my Chieftain IV more then once onto concrete and only the faintest of dents formed in the pewter. My Cataphract felt as sturdy in its resin form as most of the pewter minis I get from GW or PP. Of course when you have the hard pewter that DP9 uses, pinning can become a pain, but it is worth it in the end.

    At this point I am planning to build a 2nd force, but haven't decided between Leagueless, NAF, or NuCoal. Each have at least one very tempting option the others don't have.

    1. Well I can vouch for the toughness of the pewter. It ate my diamond tipped micro drills for breakfast and even caused furrowed brows while using the titanium drill bit. Still once pinned and put together they're of sturdy construction. The resin I'm not so sure I'd use firm, because it's not quite the right word to describe it. It's good stuff though, as I've dropped it multiple times while prepping it for painting and even while painting the damn thing. Not a single problem with it.

      The thing though with the Hussar is that most other things in the range look a little bit lame in comparison to it. lol. I'll be reviewing the walker and tank variants next actually. Once I get my arse in gear.

  5. What I like but find strange about the Samson APC is it's resemblance to the hover truck from Gundam 08th MS Team. Which is still pretty awesome.

    1. If you mean the one with the down-turned hover wheels and the open cab at the back, then I dismissed it as not looking like it actually in this review. lol. I do take it you mean the EEF Hover Truck? There is a similar theme I guess, and the front cab area is similar as is the bumper thingy on the front of both.

  6. Finecast is not a "God awful bubble, defect ridden mess", at least not any more. If you actually bought finecast models instead of just whining about them you would have seen how the quality has improved.

    1. Well considering I know a number of GW managers in my local area and couple of independent store owners and know the return rate due to defects in casting they all have... I'm going to say it's still a God awful bubble ridden mess. This could be due to the fact that the resin they use is too viscus to spin cast effectively with, or it might give off gas while it's setting, and thus there are always likely to be air bubbles in it. But I'm sorry it is my opinion having seen many miniatures recently it is still pretty damn bad. The fact they've released liquid green stuff as a product to fix their original defective product tells me that they've stopped trying to get better and accepted that where they are with Finecast is as good as they are likely to get. You are entitled to your opinion and I'm entitled to mine. Finecast is a poor product and if you'd seen product from other companies you would almost certainly think the same. Because honestly it is in comparison with other firms products that really shows Finecast up... still.