Archive for the ‘Miniature reviews’ Category

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Custom mat from Deep-Cut Studio – a review

February 16, 2019

It just so happened, that I wanted a gaming mat for sea battles – possibly unsurprising considering my pirate infatuation. Turns out such a mat isn’t all that easy to find! You’d assume it to be a common gaming mat staple: a lovely, greenish-turquoise Caribbean seascape is pretty iconic and it’s not like pirate gaming isn’t popular. However, this assumption would be wrong. While there are seascapes available, many of them are very much a dark blue. This is nice in itself and probably fits most naval games wonderfully, but it’s not ideal for evoking a sunny Caribbean/West Indies feel. Furthermore, I wanted the mat to be mousepad material as it’s easy to store, lays flat and has a nice feel to it.

After doing plenty of googling and window shopping, I ended up looking at Deep-Cut Studios’ custom mat printing service, Print-O-Mat. I was overjoyed, now all I needed was a suitable image, and surely one would be easily available. How wrong I was. As is apparent in hindsight, you need a very big image for a quality print, and I was going for a 3x3ft map – roughly 90x90cm to fit my small table. While there are beautiful stock photos of Caribbean waters, you need a very high resolution for a high quality mat. After spending hours searching through various photo archives both free and commercial, I settled on something especially designed for the purpose: a printable battle mat image from Tiny Worlds. A bargain at $4.50, it suited my needs wonderfully. While it was also very blue, purchasing it as a file meant that I could simply use Photoshop to tweak it to my needs. I edited the colour balance to make the mat more green to evoke the correct genre feel.

Original on the left, colour-tweaked on the right

Pleased with the result, I headed to Deep-Cut Studios’ site and used their simple interface for creating the mat. The final price for a 90x90cm mat was around 40€ with a flat postage rate of 15€. Deep-Cut is situated in Lithuania, so no customs charges for a Euro customer. I was quite happy with the price altogether! The mat was very speedily delivered in a work week, and boy, was I impressed with the end result.

As you can hopefully see in the photos, the mat is crisp and vibrant. While colours are a tad darker than the original image, it’s still a faithful rendition and looks pretty much just like I imagined, and it should be noted that the lighting conditions and camera settings distort the colour in the photos! I threw down some super old hills that were originally made for WHFB way back in the 90s (I think) as well as some of my badlands/scifi cork outcrops that make for surprisingly nice rocky shoals. I love how it looks.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Overall verdict: I’m super happy with my custom mat. Great quality and quick delivery at a very reasonable price point. While a part of the credit obviously goes to Tiny Worlds for the original image, I’m really, really happy with Deep-Cut’s service and will likely use them again.

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Citadel painting handle – a review

October 27, 2018

After 20+ years of painting, little tends to change in my painting routines. While obviously the level of painting goes up slowly but surely, the biggest change in my painting has been the adoption of a wet palette a few years back. Imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at a new painting tool! I’d been hearing a lot of positive feedback about Citadel’s painting handle, and as it’s a very affordable piece of kit (6,50€ here in Finland), I decided to give it a try. Now, I’ve hardly ever used a painting handle. While I have occasionally experimented with blutac and paint pots, a few occasions of minis suddenly falling off and crashing into the table quickly dissuaded me.

My friend Crab Man sitting comfy. Base is 25mm round.

Having used the handle for a week now, I’m really happy with it! Also, it has changed my painting a bit. The handle is very nice to grip, the spring mechanism holds the miniature’s base securely (although I’ve only used it with 25mm round slottabases so far, it should work with 32mm, 40mm and 60x35mm oval as well). It does help with finger strain, and helps me keep the model I’m painting just a little bit higher, keeping me from hunching down as much as usual – something my neck and shoulders are thankful for. It also keeps my grubby fingers away from the mini itself. The only downside I’ve noted is that the stiff mechanism can be a bit difficult to operate with one hand – although that obviously helps secure the model in place.

Overall verdict: There isn’t all that much that you can say about a painting handle review-wise. If you’re looking for a new painting handle, or are looking to try one, and use minis on round plastic bases, you could do far worse than this. At the price point it’s excellent value for money, and I’m looking to buy one or two more just for convenience. As an added bonus (or minus, depending), it looks a bit like a somewhat painful adult toy, while it’s actually a pain-lessening adult tool.

You can get the painting handle from the Games Workshop web store as well as their physical stores.

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Outpost highwaymen size comparison

June 14, 2017

Last week the postman brought me some lovely new minis by Outpost Wargame Services. They’re part of their highwaymen range, which also includes victims as well as characters from the City of Vice TV show. As the range features plenty of suitable minis for my pirate project, I’ve been eyeing them for a year or two now. One thing that has kept me from taking the plunge is the lack of comparison pictures available. While there are some here and there on various blogs, I wasn’t able to find a proper size comparison. This post will obviously remedy that and hopefully help out other people who might be wondering about the size.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive thing by any means, as I’m just using the miniatures that I happen to have at hand here in Dublin. It does cover a fair few of the most typical pirate ranges though. Also of note is that there is no lovely, handy measuring tool here, nor have I standardized the minis in any way – they are just plonked down on 25mm slottabases with their integral bases intact. The exception to this is the Black Scorpion pirate who doesn’t have an integral base.

Click for a larger version

As you can see, the best matches are Blue Moon and North Star, as Outpost minis are on the chunkier, more cartoony side. This means that Galloping Major and Redoubt 18th century stuff should fit nicely. You can see my previous size comparison with those two manufacturers in this post. Like usual, I will happily use them all together as I’m not picky about 100% size or style matching.

Short and sweet this time, I hope this is of use! I might offer this to OWS just to save others some trouble.

 

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Zest-it brush cleaner – a review

August 13, 2015

I have a confession to make: I’m rubbish at cleaning my brushes. I never wash them with anything more than water and if they start drying up, I’m quick to relegate them to drybrushing, basecoating or glue spreading. I’m sure I’m not the only guilty one – you probably have a few of those brushes that you really, really used to like, but which are all but useless as they’re clogged up with old paint. Every now and then (once every six years or so) I get the idea of trying to revive my old brushes, dunk them in turpentine for very little result, gag at the stench and eventually chuck the old brushes in the bin.

On one forum or another I ran into a product called Zest-it. It was labeled “Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver”, and piqued my interest, especially as a lot of positive things were said about it. Why not, I thought, and put in an order for a small, 125ml bottle.

zestit

In a week or so, a plastic bottle filled with clear, yellowish liquid arrived, and a trip to our summer cottage (hence the phone camera photos) provided me with some extra time to try it out. I chose an em-4 synthetic brush, that I had been using for a year or two, subjecting it to some pretty harsh conditions as it has been my go-to brush for basecoating, inking/washing large surfaces and painting sandy bases. As a result of this loving treatment, the brush was clogged with dry paint from the ferrule up, leaving only a few millimetres at the very end pliable. In other words, it had one foot in the brush grave already.

I poured out some Zest-it into a glass jar, and was surprised with its fairly pleasant odour. Zest-it is made out of orange terpenes, making it basically a sort of orange turpentine. While it’s not something you’d want to spread around your room as a refresher, it’s far more pleasant than turpentine or mineral spirits.

I started by simply sloshing the brush around in the liquid for a while. Sadly, this did nothing – either more time was needed or I’d bought something completely useless. Hoping for the former, I built a high-tech brush cleaning setup from masking tape, allowing me to submerge the whole of the bristles in Zest-it without crushing them against the bottom of the jar:

jar2

An hour or so later, I removed the brush and wiped it on a piece of tissue paper. I was happily surprised to see streaks of black paint left behind, so proceeded to wash the brush with shampoo and warm water. There was significant progress, as half of the brush had gone from stiff-dry to soft and pliable. Encouraged by this, I left it in Zest-it overnight. Here’s the result:

brush2

Click for a larger version

As you can see, the difference is huge. While any semblance of a sharp tip is long lost, 24 hours ago this was a brush on the verge of being thrown out, basically a lump of dry paint, and now it looks like it will serve for another year or two. Based on this small sample, I can say with conviction that Zest-it works and is well worth its price, especially if you have a lot of old dead and nearly dead brushes. As a disclaimer, I haven’t yet tried it on non-synthetic brushes, and will amend this review if there’s a big difference.

I bought mine through Amazon UK, and the 125ml bottle which should last me a while was a little under £7. Larger quantities are much cheaper per litre, but I wanted a small bottle to test the product. Do note that there are several different Zest-it products, so be sure to choose the one for acrylic paints.

Overall verdict: Zest-it Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver is very useful for the miniature painter and you get good value for your money. It revived a brush that I thought was long gone, and I assume it will save me plenty of money in the future in terms of getting more service out of my brushes.

For more information, you can visit the manufacturer’s site.

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18th century comparison

July 17, 2015

I love miniature size comparisons. With plenty of manufacturers out there, it’s useful to know which manufacturers fit together size and style wise. I’m not too fussy with what lines I use together (as you can see from my Colonial Marines), but I know a lot of people are very particular about it. As I’ve amassed a lot of pirate/18th century miniatures in 28-ish mm recently for my small project, I figured I’d do a quick comparison for the benefit of everyone out there. Posts like this are something I tend to google a lot, so this is just paying it forward. This isn’t a review as such, more a quick comparison.

The ranges compared are 18th century sailors by Galloping Major, pirates by Black Scorpion and Foundry and FIW civilians by Redoubt. Here they are side to side:

Click for a larger version

L to R: Black Scorpion, Galloping Major, Foundry, Redoubt

In my opinion all these can be used together, but as said above, I’m not fussy. If you want matches, here are my suggestions:

Black Scorpion has a different style from the others. They also have a fairly large range, so you could just use them exclusively. If the height difference is the thing bothering you, Galloping Major matches up nicely. Style wise Redoubt’s weapons are thinner than Foundry’s or Galloping Major’s and match up quite well with Black Scorpion.

Redoubt can easily be mixed with both Galloping Major and Foundry.

Galloping Major matches Black Scorpion in height but not style. They’re a good match with Redoubt and Foundry style wise, but in general chunkier and taller. However, you could circumvent the height difference by removing the integral base from the Galloping Major minis.

Foundry are short, but style wise match Redoubt and Galloping Major. You could remedy this by giving them a boost under their integral base using putty or a washer.

So that’s my take! As a disclaimer, note that these are single samples from larger ranges which in themselves have internal variation and and..oh heck, I’ll just leave it to Captain Barbossa:

As I like all of these minis and don’t want to unnecessarily put you off from buying them, shown below is a picture of two Foundry pirates and a Black Scorpion one. As you can see, you can do wonders with matching basing and I think they go together just great, even with the height difference.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Hope this post proves useful! If it does, I’d love to hear about it.

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More Predastore Predators

January 18, 2015

My ever-expanding Predator review keeps on going. Three more Predastore miniatures have now been added: Stalking-Hunter, Executioner-Hunter and Mermaid-Predette. Go check out the full review here.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Executioner-Hunter. Click for a larger version

Executioner-Hunter. Click for a larger version

Mermaid-Predette. Click for a larger version

Mermaid-Predette. Click for a larger version

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Genbu by Zenit Miniatures – a review

April 18, 2014

I usually spend money on miniatures somewhat sparingly. Or rather, I do consider price quite a lot when making my purchases, although I end up spending lots of money nevertheless. Usually this means I steer away from keywords such as “limited edition” or “boutique” or “for collectors” when it comes to miniatures. Despite this, every now and then I run into something exceptionally interesting that makes me break this rule, and I end up doing a review like the one that follows after this unnecessarily long intro.

As regular readers know, I’m working on a project inspired by the movie Pacific Rim, and thus I’m on the lookout for interesting monsters and giant robots. I visited Salute 2014 a week ago, and I ran into a miniature I’d seen on a news site before and noticed, but which had slipped my mind – Genbu by Zenit Miniatures.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Genbu is a giant, bipedal turtle monster with a snake for a tail, and a part of Zenit Miniatures’ Kensei line. If the concept sounds strange, it has its roots in Chinese (and later Japanese) mythology, and you can read more about it here. Genbu also links directly into the kaiju genre, as it’s undoubtedly the inspiration behind Gamera.

The model comes in seven parts: main torso, shell, tail and four limbs. Normally I would classify this as a nightmare, as I loathe putting metal miniatures together after too many cases of ill-fitting and poorly cast parts requiring literally hours of filing, sanding, cutting, pinning and filling to fit. Zenit Miniatures’ offering was a positive surprise in this respect: the parts fit together well right out of the box. There are joins that need filling, but the model doesn’t appear to require pinning – although you may want to do that with the tail due to the small surface for attaching it. The shell especially snaps into place in a very, very satisfying manner. The one glaring exception to this is the left leg, which I simply couldn’t get to fit well, and will require filling of the joint.

Both the torso and the inside of the shell are hollow, in a smart move to reduce the amount of metal needed. Genbu stands at 45-46mm from soles to top of head, so the model is impressively sized and will work as a giant monster in smaller scales or an ogre sized one in 28mm. There’s a separate square plastic base included, but I mounted mine on a standard 40mm round base.

Sculpting on Genbu is excellent. The sculptor has managed to make a wonderfully characterful giant turtle monster with a gnarled, well textured skin. My only complaint is that the model was originally supposed to be a giant Kappa (see here for original concept art, notice the distinct lack of tail) and as such the Genbu model still has a patch of hair-like texture on top of its head, which doesn’t quite fit in. Even though it can be painted to match the skin, the texture is obviously different. Casting quality is very good, with crisp detail and very little flash. There are some noticeable mould lines but they were quick and easy to clean.

Praise upon praise then, any downsides? Yes. There’s one obvious one that I mentioned right at the start. I bought Genbu at £18.60, and on the Zenit Miniatures site it retails at €19.95. Nice as the model is, that is a hefty price compared to many competitors on the market and will sadly put potential customers off buying it. The model comes with nice packaging – a padded cardboard box with a full colour sleeve around it. I can’t help seeing this as somewhat too much. I don’t know the actual packaging costs, but this grates on me a from an ecological viewpoint as well. I’ve added a photo below showing the actual space the model takes up vs. the size of the box. Then again, the lovely packaging did catch my eye, but it’s a very rare case that I actually by something from a brick and mortar store. If I was mail ordering Genbu, the shipping would add an extra €5 to the price, bringing it to €24.99 and probably keeping me from buying it. Then again, I know a lot of people are used to spending lots more on a single mini than I am, so your mileage may vary!

Click for a larger version

A smaller box maybe?

As usual, I added a size comparison picture. I also added a 28mm miniature, as Genbu is intended to be a large creature in that scale.

L to R: Pacific Rim Heroclix Knifehead, em4, Genbu, Reaper CAV Weasel

L to R: Pacific Rim Heroclix Knifehead, em4, Genbu, Reaper CAV Weasel

Overall verdict: Genbu is pricey, but you do get a very nice model for your money. Good, clean sculpting and very nice casting with (mostly) well fitting parts mean that you won’t pull your hair out putting the model together. If you’re on the lookout for a great giant turtle monster to spice up your games, whether they’re giant monster ones or something else, you could do far worse. Also, if you leave out the tail, this is the nicest Gamera in miniature form you’ll probably find.

You can get Genbu direct from Zenit Miniatures.

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