Monday, March 15, 2010

Mantic Games Plastic Skeletons

I've purchased and assembled some of the Mantic Games Plastic Skeletons to hopefully use in my Vampire Counts army. For anyone else who might be interested in these, here are my thoughts on them.

Like Mantic's other stuff, the Skeleton Regiment comes in a reusable thin plastic box that resembles a VHS tape box. Inside are two thin sheets of foam, two sprues of Skeletons (one a troop sprue and one a command sprue), 20 20mm square bases, and two sheets of stickers (not water slide transfers, but regular stickers). Each sheet of stickers has 2 banners, shield designs, and a mantic point. When you save up some ridiculous number of Mantic points, you can redeem them for some limited edition stuff or something.

You can see official pictures of the two sprue types on the Mantic Games Blog, specifically the posts here and here. You'll notice right away that most of them have shields, and many can be given either spears or single-handed weapons like swords or axes. It might be tricky if you want to arm the whole unit with spears, for a couple of reason. Each sprue of 10 skeletons only has eight spears. On top of that, three of the bodies on each sprue of 10 have a weapon already modeled in the hand. Two of them would be easy to remove and replace, the one holding the axe would be a little more difficult. So if you want to give them all spears, you'll have a little extra work to do and will need to come up with some extra spears.

You'll also probably notice there are some fun little extras included on the sprue, such as a severed Dwarf head, a skeleton bursting from the ground, and even a little skeleton dog. Those are neat, and I plan to use the bursting skeleton and the dog as just extra members of the unit. Unfortunately, they don't come with bases so you'll have to supply two extras if you want to use them in such a way. Otherwise you could add the dog as a decorative element to the base of one of the skeletons, and use the bursting guy as a marker to represent something. The other little extras can also be used for terrain pieces or objective markers or just base decorations.

While assembling them, I noticed that they did tend to have some significant mold lines. Some of these can be very difficult to get to with a hobby knife or file because they are in cramped spaces, like between a leg and the cloth hanging down between the legs. Also, some of the mold lines can be really hard to remove without removing some of the detail of the miniatures, like on the rib bones. Plus, many parts of these models are very slim and delicate, so you have to be pretty careful not to snap off an arm or weapon while you're preparing them for assembly. As a result of all that, these take a long time to prepare. This does remove some of the advantage they seem to have been going for with having few parts so they can be assembled quickly.

However, once the parts were cleaned of mold lines and ready to go, they were pretty quick and fun to assemble. Out of a regiment of 20, 12 of the figures don't have much customization. You have three different types of lower body, and you stick one of the corresponding upper bodies on. Some of these already have weapons attached, so you're done. Others have empty hands, so you pick a weapon to put in them and you're done. Or give one a horn, bell, or standard pole. By having different combinations of upper and lower body, you can have quite a variety of differences and probably have a unit of 30 without repeating any of the upper body/lower body combinations. But you don't have any way to pose them differently, aside from maybe angling them differently on the base. They are quick to assemble.

The remaining eight out of the 20 are more fun to put together. These have bodies in more dramatic poses with empty hands, or some with separate right arms that you can attach in different positions, and separate heads. This works out well, since you can get a lot of standard-looking guys put together quickly, but still have a few unique poses that are more fun to assemble and will stand out in the unit. There are extra weapon arms and heads, so you have some choices in which ones you'll want to use.

If you're like me, you may have initially been scared off from wanting these by the first pictures they had up on the Mantic website, where it looked like the whole unit was dancing. Once I saw the sprue pictures I was relieved to see that you aren't required to assemble them that way. So rest assured that you don't have to make all your skeletons look like they're dancing. There's really only one or two of them that have to look like they're dancing. I don't know what Mantic assembled theirs that way, or choose to use that terrible picture to show off their product.

Anyway, moving on, another weird thing I didn't notice at first is that these models have eyeballs modeled on them. That seems a little strange to me. But I suppose if you just paint them as glowing orbs of magical energy or something, they'll look okay.

So you might wonder, as I did, if these would work well in games of Warhammer as cheaper substitutes for the Games Workshop skeletons, or for people who prefer the style of these skeletons. In some way they seemed clearly designed for this purpose. They come with the same size bases, they have the same weapon options and the continually expanding Mantic range of undead contains a lot of unit types that are similar to the kinds of units in Warhammer undead armies.

On the other hand, these models are significantly smaller than Games Workshop miniatures. They are a little shorter for one, and in addition are much more realistically proportioned, so they don't have extra large hands, heads, and weapons. This combines to make them look much smaller than most Games Workshop miniatures. The pictures below show, from left to right: very old Games Workshop plastic skeleton, Mantic skeleton, old metal Games Workshop skeleton, another Mantic skeleton, and the previous version of the Games Workshop plastic skeleton.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

Unfortunately, I do not have any of the newest Games Workshop plastic skeletons to include in the comparison pictures. I don't really like the style of them, so I haven't bought any. I have seen them in person, and they are much smaller and way more reasonably proportioned than the previous version, so I think they would likely fit in okay with the Mantic skeletons. The older Games Workshop plastic skeletons, as you can see, don't match well at all. You definitely can't mix parts between them for conversions as they'd be way out of scale, and mixing the models in the same unit would look bad due to the different styles and proportions. It might look okay to have them in different units in the same army. You could always argue that the Games Workshop skeletons are undead mutant ape-men or something.

Here are some pictures of my first completed regiment of Mantic skeletons. There are 22 of them, including the skeleton dog that I based separately, and the one bursting out of the ground.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

Finally, here are a couple pictures of the re-usable storage box they come in with the foam inserts. This might work okay for storing plastic models, even once painted, as they won't be heavy enough to chip each other if they move around in there. I wouldn't store any painted metal models this way.
Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment Mantic Games Skeleton Regiment

I do have a bit of a dilemma in putting together the rest of my Mantic skeletons. There are enough of the standard swords to give all of them such a weapon, except for those that have a molded on hammer or axe. I could arm almost all of my skeletons with the swords and make them look more uniform, but I really like the variety added by some of the other weapons. So, do I make one unit all with swords, and other unit all with completely mixed weapons? In this case, one would have been an organized military unit in life, the other more of a band of warriors that used whatever weapons they could supply themselves. Or do I have most of them with swords, and a few with other weapons to represent those raised during the course of a battle, which would therefore be armed differently because they were originally part of the unit when it was alive? Or do I just mix them any way I want, figuring a vampire general would just reorganize units however was convenient? Or am I just putting way too much thought into this? Let me know what you think.

3 comments:

  1. Nice review, good pics, very helpful

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  2. Thanks for sharing your experience in assembling Mantic games.You give us preview on the possible scenario we may encounter and not be angry because after doing all the effort it is worth it.

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  3. "Or am I just putting way too much thought into this?"

    Never ^^ It's those kind of questions that give armies color :p

    My vampires/necromancers follow the rearrange and adjust to suit convenience/need. I personally just don't see the raising process always producing exact multiples of 5, so there will be random weapons in the mix simply due to necessity of rounding out the regiments (though I guess the vampire could have his minions swap out weapons to meet some personal aesthetic.

    I guess it boils down to the character of the vampires/necromancers you have leading your forces ^.~

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