Monday, January 18, 2010

Wargames Factory Vikings review and using them in Warhammer Fantasy

I've had my eye on Wargames Factory for a while now, mostly because of the Liberty and Union League, where the public at large could suggest future products. It was an interested idea, and some of the suggestions proved popular enough to make it to the production line, with some other interesting projects in the works.

Unfortunately, none of their products had interested me much because I don't do any historical gaming in 28mm. But I still liked following their progress as a very young miniature company with some interesting ideas. Recently I finally got around to ordering some of their figures, since I couldn't resist the nice looking vikings. Wargames Factory seems to have both very strong supporters, and very strong detractors, on various message boards, so I was looking forward to seeing for myself what they are like. The next three paragraphs detail my ideas of how I might use the figures in Warhammer Fantasy, so if you have no interest in that, feel free to skip them. I won't be offended.

Now, as I said, I have no use for 28mm historical figures. However, when I first heard they were working on plastic Vikings, I thought they might be worth picking up to use as Warhammer Fantasy Chaos Marauders. After all, they're pretty much supposed to be the Warhammer Fantasy version of Vikings, and it would be nice to have some Chaos Marauders that don't look so... over the top. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the slighty smaller, and much more realistically proportioned, Wargames Factory Vikings would look scrawny next to my existing Chaos Marauders.

If I didn't already have some of the plastic Games Workshop Chaos Marauders, I'd really consider using the Wargames Factory Vikings as my Marauders, since they look more reasonable. That would have the added bonus of making the Chaos Warriors look more intimidating. As it is, the Chaos Marauders look like they are actually bigger and much stronger than the Chaos Warriors, who under that huge armor must actually be pretty small. And the marauders would look more in line with their stats. They are statwise the same as an Empire Swordsman, but they look way bigger and stronger, which seems silly. But since I already have some of the plastic Chaos Marauders I didn't want to go to waste, that wasn't an option.

Then I figured maybe they'd be good to use as Empire Militia or Free Company or even bowmen. As I said, the Games Workshop Empire figures are much smaller than the huge Chaos Marauders, so they'd probably fit in better in terms of size. And they could always represent some hired mercenaries from the north to explain their different style of dress and weapons. So that's pretty much how I talked myself into buying some Viking figures that I had absolutely no need for. Luckily for you, my compulsion to buy new toys is your gain.

And... we're back. I ordered 3 of the Viking Sampler Pack directly from Wargames Factory, for a total of 24 Vikings, 12 unarmored and 12 in chain mail. I believe, when the figures are released as a box set, the intend to offer separate boxes of armored and unarmored. At any rate, the order was processed, shipped, and arrived fairly quickly, so no troubles there.

Each set is three separate sprues. One with 4 unarmored bodies and 24 arms, one with 4 armored bodies and 24 arms, and one with 12 heads, swords, spears, shields, axes, and some other extras. There are good close-up pictures of the sprues on the Wargames Factory website, which is nice of them. If you're too lazy to go there, here are a couple pictures I took of two of the sprues.
Wargames Factory Vikings Wargames Factory Vikings

One pretty minor, but kinda cool, thing about the Wargames Factory sprues is that they are designed to stack on top of each other and stay together. Not a huge deal, but really makes it easy to keep the assembly area tidy.
Wargames Factory Vikings

So I did some cutting out and assembling. The figures are pretty nice, with a huge variety of options in putting them together. As I said, for each set of 4 bodies there are 24 individual arms, plus the weapon sprue include two sets of arms to use for holding two-handed weapons. So there are tons of options, and you'll have plenty of arms left over, which you can try to think of some suitably gruesome use for. The weapons are all separate from the hands, which is good for customization, but it does require that the thumbs be sticking up in an awkward way so the weapon handles can be slid in. With the next ones I assemble, I'll probably try bending the thumb a little before gluing the weapon in place, or cutting and repositioning it, or just removing it and making a new one out of putty.

When preparing the figures, I noticed that the mold lines were extremely slight and hardly noticeable in most places. This is good, though, because some of the parts were arranged so that it was hard to scrape the mold lines without messing up some of the finer details. There were also some pieces that were attached to the sprues in places that made it hard to clip off and clean the bit left without damaging some detail. Then again, this is the case with most plastic sprues, since you have to attach them somewhere. But there is some room for improvement in the sprue layout, I think.

One complaint I have read is that the detail on the Wargames Factory miniatures is not very crisp. This may have applied more to the earlier sets, as I understand this has been greatly improved over time, and the Vikings are their most recent set and the only one I have seen in person. Still, it may be a fair criticism. Some of the detail, especially on the front of the body with the quilted pattern, is very shallow. I'm sure it will look fine once it's painted, but the shallow detail might make it harder to paint than if it was more defined. Oddly, the back of the body with the quilted pattern has much better definition, so they are clearly capable of getting good, crisp definition. I'm not sure why the front isn't as good. They are obviously trying to make the figures more realistically proportioned than most other figures, which is part of the reason they don't have as dramatic of lines, but I think some things need a little exaggeration to make the painting easier.

Another complaint I had read was that the figures look awkward or that it is hard to get them to look right or have good poses. I don't think that's true at all. Honestly, I think those complaints might be from people who are only used to assembling metal miniatures that don't allow any posing or customization. If you don't have any experience at all trying to pose multi-part miniatures correctly, I could see how it might take some practice to get the hang of it. But I think anybody that is used to multi-part plastic kits will have no trouble getting some great looking poses out of these.

Overall, I think they are nice figures and they are great fun to assemble with all the different options you have. And for the money, they are an exceptional value. And considering how much they seem to have improved in the short time they've been around, I expect and look forward to some really great stuff from Wargames Factory in the future. Hopefully I will be able to review some of their future offerings, if they release anything else I can think of an excuse to buy.

Now, back to my original idea. Can these be used in an Warhammer Fantasy Empire army? Well, look below for some comparison photos of the Wargames Factory Vikings and some Games Workshop Warhammer Fantasy figures. First, a picture of some of the separate pieces. On the far left, we have a column of Empire Spearmen and Empire Free Company bodies/legs. The next column in the Wargames Factory Viking bodies. The next column to the right has two Chaos Marauder heads, followed by two Chaos Marauder arms holding weapons. The next column over to the right has two Wargames Factory Viking heads, followed by two of the Viking arms and separate weapons. The column farthest to the right shows two Empire Free Company Heads, followed by three Free Company arms, two holding weapons.
Wargames Factory Vikings Warhammer Comparison

As you can plainly see, using the Wargames Factory Vikings as Chaos Marauders isn't going to work. At least, not if you want to have any of the Games Workshop Chaos Marauders in the same army. The Chaos Marauder arms and heads are huge in comparison to those of the more realistically proportioned Vikings. I didn't bother to compare the bodies, but the difference there is equally large. However, the Empire bodies are actually pretty close to the Viking bodies. The Empire heads are a little bigger, and the arms and especially the weapons of the Empire figures are much larger. First I thought I'd see if it was possible to share pieces between the Vikings and Free Company to make a conversion. I just used to blue tack to hold them together so I didn't have to glue them. Here's how they turned out.
Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Conversion Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Conversion
Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Conversion Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Conversion

Those are Viking bodies with Empire Free Company arms, weapons, and heads. They don't look too bad, actually. The arms are a little big compared with the body and legs. And the weapons are huge, but that's true of the regular Free Company figures. So I think some limited conversion between these and some of the Games Workshop Empire kits might be possible. You obviously wouldn't want to use one Viking arm and one Free Company arm, of course.

What I was really after, though, was just to have a unit of Free Company made out of the Viking figures to use in my Empire Army. So I just needed to find out of these figures would look okay, or out of place, if they were in separate units in the same army as my existing Empire figures. So I put together one of the Vikings and took some pictures comparing it to some of my existing Free Company. Note that I used the two-handed swing set of arms to show that it can look pretty good if done right. I had seen some complaints about those arms being impossible to get to look right, but I think mine turned out pretty well.

Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Comparison Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Comparison Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Comparison Wargames Factory Vikings Empire Free Company Comparison

So, they look pretty close. I probably wouldn't want them in the same unit next to each other, because it would just draw attention to how different the proportions are, and the different sculpting style. But as a separate unit of Free Company mercenaries in my existing Empire army, I think they'll work great.

As of writing this, I hadn't been able to find anything online with good size comparison shots of Wargames Factory stuff next to Games Workshop stuff, or any reviews of the Wargames Factory stuff that focused on the possibility of using them in games of Warhammer. Believe me, I looked quite a bit for some before ordering these vikings, since I didn't want to waste the money if they'd be completely incompatible. So hopefully anyone thinking about getting some Wargames Factory stuff to convert for use in Warhammer will be able to find this post and get some use out of it.

By the way, it looks like you can get a bit of a discount on the Wargames Factory Miniatures on Amazon. And, of course, you can always find a lot of Games Workshop stuff.

5 comments:

  1. Nice objective review thanks.

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  2. Very helpfull, was looking for something like this!
    -Doug

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  3. I had been thinking about that, I did find your post, and I did get some use from it. Many thanks!

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  4. Very useful review. I've been reading other reviews out there and as you mentioned, they go one way or the other. This review convinced me to order some WF Vikings for my Saga games. Thanks.

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  5. Thanks! I bought some vikings after reading your review for conversion into empire swordsmen.

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