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Thursday, 1 December 2011
Mantic: Undead Warhost Review
Product: Undead Warhost
Game: Kings of War
Manufacturer: Mantic Games
Contents: 50 plastic models (20 Skeletons, including Command. 20 Revenants, including Command. 10 Ghouls. 1 Warmachine with 2 Crew)
I have always had an interest in Fantasy and Sci-fi genres, and sometime in my early teens this interest formulated into miniature gaming. Growing up during the 'GW era' these models became really easy to get hold of and over the course of many years one purchase has always stood out as being of great value, a plastic skeleton army box which at the time cost £9.99 and had a gazillion plastic skeletons, horses and even a chariot (gazillion being child talk for a lot). This childhood memory has stuck with me and has become a kind of bench mark by which I judge other box sets in terms of value.
I first came upon Mantic after seeing a selection of their models on theminiaturespage.com early 2010, from there I checked out their website, liked what I saw and kept the page as a bookmark on my web browser. Although I don’t play any 28mm fantasy game involving large armies, I do like to paint the odd selection of models from time to time, and after a quick search of Mantic website (which is a very good site) I decided on the Undead Warhost box set, 50 models for £30, a nice selection to get a good feel for the models, and a fair price.
First Look – Packaging
When the models arrived a few days later, the first observation that struck me was 'Wow, nice box'. Upon opening the main box I was even more surprised to find two solid plastic cases that housed the sprues, not some flimsy piece of cardboard (think a really fat DVD case, shoved full of minis). 20 skeletons and the war machine in one box, 20 Revenants with the Ghouls in the other. Both boxes clearly marked with wrap around art work. Both cases are sturdy pieces of work, and stand nicely on a shelf for storage. Great work Mantic on your packaging.
Inside each box the sprues fit perfectly and you can open and close the box without any fear that the models will get damaged or that the box wont close properly again. The sprues are cushioned by foam sheets at the front and back of the case. Also included are the models bases, shield stickers, and a nice little introduction booklet to Mantic Games and the Undead, which features brief but more than adequate assembly instructions and a mini painting guide.
My only gripe here is the painting instructions, which are, well, not instructions on what colours to use but more an instruction TO PAINT your models. Step 2 (of 3) in the guide simply stating 'With a fine brush, paint your Undead models', but in Mantics defence the small print underneath does guide the reader to the website, where it is claimed there is more information.
The Models - Assembly
The sprues range from 2 part models (upper torso and legs) to a small selection which have a choice of interchangeable arms, weapons and heads. This seems like a 'meet you half way' approach, not having all the models multi part and interchangeable means less time spent constructing but also less possible variations. The majority of models (which are 2 part, torso + legs) are also cast in such a way as to make it difficult to convert should you wish to add a little more variation, but by far the biggest problem is that the skeletons are all cast with shields. It would be a lot of work should you wish to have model or two without shields mixed into the units. It also means there is no variation in shield position should you buy additional models – two identical models may be able to have a different weapon, sword, spear or even an axe in their open hand, but they will always have the same positioned shield. Some variation of shield arms would have been nice.
Sculpting and Poise
Skeletons – seem tall and thin, which looks a little odd at first, but once assembled and painted begins to look very impressive. Their battered shields and tatty uniforms are draped across their bones, belts seem fastened tight and hang of the hip bone rather than fastened around waists. The only armour that seems to fit, apart from the odd shoulder pads are the helmets. Overall the look of the models is very good. The sculpts are impressive and they look and feel like a real undead medieval infantryman.
Revenants – these guys seem to have a bit more about them. Their sidewards, almost uniform, pose, indicates they had (during their living days) a higher standard of training than the basic skeletons. They look more elite, and more battle ready, like they remember more of their training. However, what is lost on these models is the shabby feel of the skeletons. The armour on the Revenants seems to 'fit' the model (i.e. isn’t too small) and loses the rag-on-bone effect that works so well on the skeletons. It is an odd contrast considering both sprue s (Rev and Skele) use the same 'legs', and even the same character parts are found on both sprue s, leaving only 6 torsos and heads – the heavy armour – to be different. Shields are again all cast on the models, so there can be no variation here without some skilled crafting. One aspect which I think could have been improved for these models would have been on the legs. A separate sculpt could have added more leg greaves or similar armour.
The Ghouls – my least favourite models of this set. The ghouls look like weird people doing bad 'ghost' impressions, and with only two variations of torso and legs, one gets the feeling the budget ran out by the time it came to commissioning these models. Aside from the fact the models seem to have hammered nails through themselves in places you would think would disable limbs, my main dislike is the weapons that are included. Not that there are only 3 to choose from but that all three options require you to cut off the hand on the model itself before you can add the weapon as each weapon is cast with a clenched fist holding it. An open palm on the model itself (like on some of the skeletons) would have made it far easier to add weapons to these models.
The War Machine and Crew – The catapult, and the crew are very nice. The machine is a very simple design and easy to construct (thankfully as there are no assembly instructions in the box). If I was to find fault it would be with the shields added to the front of the machine for protection. These seem like they have been added to the machine by the crew rather than a design of the catapult itself. I would have left them off the sculpt and allowed a conversion minded person to craft these on if they wanted. Not to have a dig at the Ghouls again but its surprising to note that the 2 crew sprue has more weapons and options than the ghouls do.
Aside from the usual extra weapons, there isn’t that much in the way of extras spread across this set. The 2 sprues of skeletons have a skeleton rising from the ground, and a skeleton rat. There are a couple of scenic skulls (one with an axe through its head), but nothing that can be really added to the models, besides odd weapons, or added to the bases
The Models Overall
The basic skeletons are superb, they look and feel like a medieval infantry killed on the battlefield and later returned to life. Their battered shields and ragged uniforms fit perfectly onto their bones. The armoured Revenants begin to move the box set to a more ordered feel, now these elite skeletons take care of their armour, but are let down on the whole by using the same battered legs as the first skeletons, whose rags, torn boots and piecemeal armour doesn't fit with the nice armoured upper torso. The War Machine is nice, but unfortunately the ghouls aren’t. Two biggest gripes with this box set: lack of variation in the weapons, and no chance at all to change the shield positions.
I am a historical gamer as well as a enthusiast who buys sci-fi and fantasy models. One part of the hobby that always confuses me is the price difference between the genres for what is in effect the same material (and similar sculpting/production costs). In the world of historical miniatures a plastic box set, containing around 50 models would set me back just over £20 (Victrix Waterloo). Plastic Fantasy from the likes of Games Workshop would cost a staggering £60 for a similar amount of models (Vampire Counts Battalion).
Taking into account these two prices, and all that this Mantic set includes, from the packaging and the excellent plastic cases, to the actual number and quality of the models themselves I would say that this box set, rrp £29.99 represents excellent value for money. Good job Mantic!
COMING UP SOON: My painting guide to the Undead