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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Let's WAB!

The other day I was having a conversation about wargaming with my best mate from Hungary and we realised that there aren't any games left that we both play. Confrontation long dead and Warhammer kicking its last kicks, all we have is Blood Bowl, and so he has drawn my attention to historical wargaming - Warhammer Ancient Battles in particular.
Although I was never a fan of the sort, I like history and I was always interested in the history and culture of the ancient Celts so I kinda decided (well it was more sort of an ad-hoc order made after a few pints - damn you mobile internet) to build a small ancient Celtic army. Since I already have a hundred and one projects running I vowed not to start buying heaps before finishing some other stuff (Malifaux, Infinity, BloodBowl, Cutlass, etc...) but I did my research nonetheless and ordered two boxes of models. I still tell myself that this is only research, not buying new stuff and as long as I can convince myself, it's all good.

Because historical games involve bigger armies (I think ~200 models will bring me to standard 2000 points) I don't want any metals. Plastic is sturdier and lighter and thus much less of a pain to transport. I found that the two main companies producing plastic Celts are Wargames Factory and Warlord Games. Although Warlord doesn't do any cavalry, their infantry seems to be more popular among historical gamers and you get more models in the box for your pounds. As I couldn't find any site or blog that compares them, the obvious solution was (well, as I said after a few pints it seemed to be, anyway) to order one box each of Warlord's Celtic Warriors (40 dudes with random weapons and full command group) and WF's Celt Cavalry (12 riders on ponies). This suits me just fine, worst case scenario I will have one box worth of minis that will be for trying new paints, conversions, bitz-box, etc, or if they are both fine I have a nice starter pack of a bunch of warriors and a dozen riders...

Without further ado, here come the pictures - and first impressions.

Both boxes as they arrived. The Warlord Games' box (on the right) is what you would expect; standard sized flat box, nice design. The Wargames Factory's one on the other hand is a weird sized brick - some might even call it awkward to handle - with an ugly and badly designed and printed sticker on the front. Lucky I bought it online, because in the shop I would skip right over anything that is packed like this.

Excitedly ripping the boxes to get to the contents like a 4 year old on Christmas Eve I found the reason for the awkward packaging of the WF cavalry: the sprues all slot in together!

This is a bit freaky and definitely not space / sprue efficient, but I managed to spend a good few minutes playing with the weird tube effect when looking through the whole lot:

However, this unfortunately will not matter once the sprues are cut, so I looked at the details and general state of the models. The first on the left is one 'command sprue' with extra shields, spears and a few fancy helmets (all 'authentic' based on actual findings from celt diggings) for the noble leaders. The middle ones are 6 rider sprues with 4 bodies, 6 heads, saddles, weapons, a banner pole and a carnyx each. To be honest I would rather have the carnyx and the banner on the command sprue and put an extra body design on the sprues but that's just my opinion. All this stuff may come handy if someone wants to build a unit of real cheerleaders with 6 banners and 6 musicians, for example. The last bunch on the right are the horses' sprues. 
As you can see none of this is exactly GW plastic quality. Hardly any variation of poses (2 rider poses, both with and without chainmail, 3 horse bodies and 4 heads), mashed up, blurry details, and terrible mould lines across faces and hands. They will either need a lot of cleaning up, or will look a bit crap after painting.

There are a few good things as well, though; firstly that the horses are separate from the saddles and riders, so they could be used for any conversions, like carts and workhorses... The other thing is that there are 24 rider bodies in the box, 12 in chainmail and 12 in tunics, so you can actually decide whether you want a light or heavy cavalry unit without having to buy more boxes and combine the bits. All in all not a great set, but still incredible amount of stuff for the price (I think they go for about £15  a box at the moment) especially compared to other historical sets.
Here's one bloke I blu-tac'd together for a quick star-shot:

Now let's have a look at the Warlord Games Celtic Warriors Set.

Standard sprues, much better organised then the WF were. 3 of them are the main warrior sprues, the last one is the command sprue. The only difference is that the command one hasn't got any heads, and the space thus saved is filled with the carnyx, different icons and standards, fancy helmets (just like the other set was) and so on.

The difference in quality is obvious at first glance; now I know why this set is preferred over other companies ones. There are a few little extra bits on the sprue to make the models look a little different if the 10 different torsos and 10 different legs were not enough (yes, that is 100 different combinations, and then there are 15 different heads, 4 different shield options, etc). Although the torsos are one piece with both arms so no changing that, these guys will still not look boring even in big numbers.

Here's one guy blu-tac'd like the WF rider.

And a shot of both of them together for size, proportion and quality comparison. Although the photos are not that hot so that may not be that clear...

All in all I am quite happy with both sets, I wish the WF cavalry box was a bit better quality, but I still think they will look all right side by side and both sets are great value for money. If I ever get down to building an army I may use some of the WG torsos on the WF riders and also buy a box of WF warriors just to make some more options, but for now I am happy with them as they are.

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