This is the first of two starter set reviews that I'm going to be doing for Dark Age. The outcasts are in fact the newest faction in Dark Age, well... until the Core were released that is. So they should in theory be the most accomplished of the miniature ranges on offer in Dark Age. Also they're the faction that I chose to go with, mainly on the back of the Mongo miniature, which sadly isn't part of the starter set. As with the Dark Age Apocalypse Rulebook and the Dark Age Forcelist Book, this Outcast starter set was sent to me as a review copy. So make of that what you will.
Well inside the box you will get 8 miniatures in all, 3 Scuts, 3 Wasteland Warriors, 1 Bully and 1 Brute. These will range from single one off sculpts, to some multi-part miniatures with some quite small details. The miniatures are made from a white metal and all in all there are some 27 components, ranging from huge hulking bodies to teeny tiny knee pads. Some of the pieces are really small so be careful when extracting them from their various packets as it's quite easy to drop them or have them go shooting off, forcing you to spend nearly an hour on your hands and knees searching for a tiny knee pad, that when you find it you aren't even sure where it's meant to go... not that this happened to me of course. Ahem. Any way, you also get seven 32mm round lip bases and one 40mm round lip base, as well as 4 character / unit cards, helpfully for the units in the starter box.
Character 7 out of 10
What we have here is an overall score. Some of the miniatures, like the Scuts and one of the Wasteland Warriors are truly good sculpts. However, overall the starter set is let down by some very static miniatures, and 2D, or flat sculpts. This is the primary criticism that can be leveled at Dark Age as a game, inconsistency. Inconsistency of quality, art direction, scale and vibe. In some respects in terms of the artwork the varied styles is a boon to people like me, who love seeing different styles. However, it can stop the game looking like a cohesive whole, place the Outcasts from this starter next to some early Forsaken or Skarrd and you'd be forgiven for thinking they were from completely different game systems. Indeed, if some of the Outcast miniatures weren't in the same box you might be forgiven for thinking the same. They're not awful by any means, and on the whole are good gaming pieces, but I think it's fair to say the starter set for the Outcasts is a bit mixed on 'character'.
|Now you see him...|
Ah yes the Bully. From the front this single one piece cast actually looks pretty good. He's all crossed arms with big a knife and pistol, with a brooding scowl peeking from under his hard hat thingy. Twist him 90 degrees and the static and 2D nature of this sculpt is immediately apparent. Anymore 2D and he'd be flat and requiring cell shading! It's one of those sculpts that for me is almost perfectly right. The details on this miniature are all nice, don't get me wrong, but its composition lets him down a bit. Perhaps its the age old problem of gaming requirements compromising artistic integrity, which when you read my comments about the Wasteland Warriors might make more sense! The Bully is clearly a sturdy and solid one-piece cast that is more than capable of standing up to the punishing lifestyle of a tabletop miniature. It's just there's no 'joie de vivre' to him at all. Sure his scowl peeking from under his hat sets the tone of the piece right. As do his countless bags and bandoliers spread all over this miniature. He looks every inch a survivalist, which is what he'd have to be. He looks like he's a bulky individual, with considerable body mass too... but that crossed arm pose is doing nothing for him. It's not making him look imposing and it's not making him look dynamic or interesting. No I'm not a fan it has to be said, although I don't think he's awful either.
|...Now you don't!|
I love the idea behind the Brutes in the Outcast faction. Sure they're pumped up mutants with far too much body mass. But, they're not just meatheads who can barely string a sentence together. They record and transmit the oral history of the outcasts... they also crush skulls, dismember limbs and otherwise maim, kill and destroy. Look, everyone on Samaria has to be able to multitask! But this Brute is my least favourite of the bunch of miniatures in the box set. It's such an awkward pose, I think because of the size of the lump of masonry he's holding in his hands. It totally dominates the view of the miniature and piece. To I personally believe, the detriment of the composition. It gets in the way of showing the scale of the miniature. To understand how large and brutish he actually is as a miniature you have to plonk him next to another miniature, because he's dominated by his weapon of choice. The irony being that some of the best sculpting on this miniature is hidden by the lump of concrete in his hands. His arms are also odd lengths to accommodate his weapon, yes I've measured them. It's not a massive inconsistency, but it is enough to look awkward. Then there's the hair and head. The hair doesn't work as it doesn't look like hair, it looks like two pieces of metal work stuck to his head. Plus one side of his face looks lopsided and lazy, like he's had a stroke. I actually like the other two Brutes in the range, the Punisher and Brute 2, but I just can't get on with this one.
Ah yes, we start to get to the 'meat' of the starter boxed set. Normally I'd try and discuss every miniatures composition in a boxed set on its own and give it space to breath, but given these are a unit and that there are 8 miniatures in this box I decided against it. Firstly I have to say that one of the Wasteland Warriors is hyper dynamic in her pose, while the others are two good solid gaming poses. I bet you can't tell which ones are which! Oh, you can. Yep, little miss dynamic at the front of the trio is hyper dynamic, full of motion and animation, and as a miniature and potential display piece is splendid. However, the eagle eyed amongst you will notice she's actually missing a component. Yep, her crossbow. Truth is, she's too dynamic for a gaming piece, there are some really fiddly and fine 'joins' on this miniature and her crossbow, which is a heavy component is attached to her by two stupidly thin straps. Whose sodding idea was that? Nightmare! I've had to re-attach it three tines already and it's driving me bonkers. As did re-attaching her teeny tiny fiddly knee guards. Why? Just why? Despite all this she is undoubtedly the best composed miniature in the box, and I have a soft spot for her. Her motion is perfectly captured and there isn't really any one component of her composition which is wrong, or out of place and would otherwise break the illusion of fluid movement. Although her suitability as a gaming piece has to be questioned.
As for the other two Wasteland Warriors... well the male warrior is the most sensible gaming piece, with a solid poses and minimal fiddly bits. His stance is sound, and his composition perfectly fine, if unremarkable. But hey, he's a gaming piece and the shooting poses is a valid one. I quite like the fact that he is in effect 'faceless' with a domed mask covering his no doubt grizzled features. I also like the fact that like the other Wasteland Warriors in this set his armour is clearly cannibalized from multiple sources... and none of them were likely to have originally been armour. The second female Wasteland Warrior isn't quite as dynamic as her girlfriend, standing knock kneed as she is with her sword raised high above her head, but she is at least more suitable for gaming. Although she too has a brittle joint where her slung over her shoulder crossbow is concerned... I really would like to hurt the person responsible for that particular design feature. However as a group they look dynamic, individual yet cohesive. In short they work as a group.
So as you can see, the Scuts and Wasteland Warriors on the whole look pretty tidy. Sure I have some concerns with regards the suitability of some of the Wasteland Warriors in terms of using them as gaming pieces. Seriously some of those contact points for weapons and pointy bits are stupidly small and will no doubt cause me some headaches in the future, while playing games and transporting them around. I expect the odd breakage, but hey at least they'll look good until that day! I have absolutely no such concerns with these Scuts. They are either cast ion one piece, or two chunky pieces with significant contact points, and if I so choose, a decent amount of surface area for me to plonk a supporting pin. Is that too much to ask? Any way as to the character of the three Scuts in the box I pretty much love them all. The one piece has been cast in a way that retains the dynamism to throwing pose without compromising it. You can see him in the picture to the left. Then there's the young lad to the right, who is standing there looking like a little scamp who is about to clonk you round the head with his makeshift boomerang! Finally we have the crouching girl who is probably the most complex composition wise, but isn't over the top. They all look really good to me, with their ragtag clothes, makeshift weapons and impish faces. No I like these Scuts as they easily fulfill the design brief of wayward kids
So then ultimately the Outcast starter set is fine. It's what I've come to expect as standard for miniatures these days, which I think just goes to show how far the industry has come along,because maybe 5 years ago or so I'd have taken these and thought they were damn fine miniatures. As I say they're not bad and they perform their duties admirably on the whole, but this box is also a microcosm for the problems in effect for the entire miniatures range. I am of course talking about variable quality. There is no question that within the Dark Age range there are some real gems of miniatures, and some real stinkers. This box contains one model that I'd term a stinker, the Brute, some average minaitures, and some really nice one off pieces. Ultimately I guess it is the lack of consistency that harms Dark Age as a product, because the game is solid and fun to play and it does have some cool ideas, and cool mininatures. If they could up the consistency of the quality across the range I think they'd have a more successful product on their hands.
Detail 7.5 out of 10
This is a difficult one. Because on the whole the miniatures aren't badly detailed, true there are some awkward and static poses, but surface details aren't bad. In fact had Brute number 1 not been in the box the overall detail score might have been an 8. Not a huge difference I know, and on reflection, I think a 7.5 is a more than fair score for the majority of what is contained within the box any way. While trousers look like trousers, and so forth and so on, there's nothing truly outstanding about any of the details really on any of the sculpts. On the whole they're exactly what I'd expect to see for miniatures released now. Anything less and you'd be disappointed, anything more and you'd be pleasantly surprised. As it is I'm satisfied with what they have to offer. Sure the Brutes hair is poor and half of his face looks like he's suffered from a stroke, but on the flip side the Wasteland Warriors are quite well detailed, yeah I'm talking about some of those fiddly crossbow components. Plus the Scuts have bags of character to them and are nicely composed with the right amount of detail. I guess all in all though, they do all look like they belong as extra's in a Mad Max movie or Fallout 3, and at the end of the day that's the post apocalyptic vibe I was hoping for.
Quality 7 out of 10
A number of the miniatures came with some fairly pronounced mould lines. Nothing that would ruin the cast overall, there wasn't any mould slip for instance, but it did mean I had to spend a fair bit of work cleaning some of the pieces up. There was also an issue over some of the finer more delicate pieces being... well... fiddly in the extreme. The Wasteland Warriors in particular come with some really chuffing fiddly components. The crossbows on the Wasteland Warriors were not only a pain in the proverbial to put together, but they were also a serious pain in the ass to attach to the miniatures themselves. Whose idea was it to make them that complex to construct, and then have them only attach to the main bodies by two flailing straps? The contact points are ridiculously fragile and really annoying to glue. While taking photo's for this review two of them fell off. Not impressed at all. Still with a bit of delicate green stuffing or Fimo it should hold well enough... I hope. I n terms of quality I feel some of the sculpts were overly ambitious for the medium (metal) and maybe too brittle for use as gaming pieces. While others, such as the Bully are too static, a good midpoint between the two extremes would have been nice.
Price 6.5 out of 10
The price for the Outcast starter set is a bit of an awkward one to gauge really. The RRP I believe for the UK is circa £44.99, which for a starter set for a skirmish game is a bit eye watering when compared to the competition. However, you get 3 Scuts, 3 Wasteland Warriors, 1 Bully and the heft lump of lead that is the Brute. That's 8 miniatures at an average of about £5.60 a mini. Not bad I guess. The problem though here in the UK is further exacerbated by the fact that I can't find any online retail stockist or otherwise in the UK that now keeps the stuff in stock. Maelstrom Games used to, and they charged £40.99 for it, but sadly they look like they're going the way of the Dodo. So the issue now for those of us in Europe is where do we get our supplies from? Answer, the USA and that involves import tax. With the demise of Maelstrom Games there is no question Dark Age and a few other Cool Mini or Not products just got a hell of a lot more expensive to buy.
Overall 7 out of 10
Well overall I quite like the Outcast starter set, and as a faction they're the one that has the least quality variance, and appears to have the most consistent look. That's probably why when I've asked friends if they'd be interested in it most have gone "yeah, but you've taken the only faction I like the look of, the Outcasts". Obviously with the emergence of some of the Core stuff I've had people tell me that they like the look of those as well. I guess that should tell the guys behind Dark Age all they need to know really. Your two latest factions are both quite popular, probably because the art direction is tighter and the quality more consistent. It is therefore some of the older miniatures in the original factions that are what lets the game down on the whole, which is a real shame, because it is a really good fun game to play, and the latest stuff miniatures wise is as good as most skirmish games out there. No it doesn't live with the best there is to offer, but neither is it totally trounced by it either. As starter sets go I guess I'm reasonably happy with what is contained within the Outcast Starter set. All they need to do now is bring the rest of the range up to spec. Peace out!
I'd just like to remind people that I am currently running a Dark Age Story Competition. There is just over a week left to enter the competition now, so I'm hoping that I'll see a flurry of entries soon.