Friday, 13 January 2012

Mantic Elves reviewed

Greetings all, today I thought I'd do something a little different and take a close look at another company's figures. In this case Mantic.


I will confess that I have been underwhelmed by Mantic's output to date, their dwarfs in particular are really not to my tastes at all. The elves caught my eye though, with the big sale that they've got on I took the opportunity to try some of their models out. Lets unbox 'em and take a gander:


The sprues come in a plastic box reminiscent of an old VHS tape box. There's a layer of foam in each side and apparantly the box is designed to become a figure case for the contents after you are finished with them. The box also contains a sprue of bases, a sheet of stickers (really Mantic? Stickers?) for shields and banner. There is also a poster sized instruction sheet with advice on assembly and painting.


The box above was the Elf Bowmen, lets also have a look at the Spearmen box too.


The sprues have been cut and cast by Renedra, the same company that works with the Perry's. They seem to have a limited amount of mold line and flashing. Oddly enough the models are much better than the box art on the back would lead you to believe. Check this out.


Seems odd to me that you would go to the effort of designing and manufacturing nice models and then not bother commissioning a decent paint job. I know Mantic are allied to the Army Painter crowd (and don't get me started on that) but the box is supposed to convince you to buy the product! Come on Mantic, leave the kiddy cart basecoat and dip stuff for the inner poster. Actually paint the models on the box art eh?


With the exception of the foot joins the models are easy to remove and the channels have been placed in sensible areas to avoid knackering details. The foot joins though are just a teeny bit too narrow. I couldn't get my clippers in to remove them and had to "chew" through the plastic with the tip of my clippers. Not a major problem but something to be aware of with future sprue design.


I started with the bowmen, the cast-on bases integral to the models works quite nicely all on its own and they stand happily. If you want to though Mantic's bases are simplicity itself to drop them into and provide a little more stability or ranking up-ability.


I left them off as I can envision using these as skirmisher models in RPGs rather than on the battlefield.


There is also a few nice extras on the sprue, broken shields and weapons and alternate options. There is also a casualty figure which I presume is needed for the Kings of War rules.


Once all the bow arms are cleaned up and attached the unit looks like this:


Most of the poses are quite passive, models standing as though waiting for action rather than in combat. That is fine though as frequently the rear ranks look better this way. The firing poses though... not sure I would have gone with leaving the shields on the arms. Mantic have fallen into a common sculpting error of having the shields apparantly floating on the arm rather than having a positive attachment like straps. Given how heavy a shield is, adding the weight of a bow would make it tough for a heavily muscled person to aim a bow let alone the waif thin elves. This makes the poses look a little off, you know there is something wrong but not sure what. Sculpting on the heads is also quite soft and in trying to avoid undercuts they have made the helmets seem very tight. This is a shame because there is something about the inhumanly willowy bodies that works for me.


The spearmen, I quickly realised, are the same sprue, same extras, same bodies, same heads even one of the same shield arms with the arrow quiver in the shield. Only the spears and a couple of shields are different. This, I suspect could lead to the units looking very samey across an entire army. The spears are very nice though. Very different in design to the normal elven leaf type spears.


 The pictures above answer one of the big questions I had. Will Mantic's figures be compatible with the Citadel range. Answer, hell no. Far, far too small and thin. A goblin makes them look tiny, a chaos warrior makes them look like children. They would probably work alongside Lord of the Rings figures as their scale is more closely aligned to these.

So to summerise, lets look at the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good:
Price, very cheap indeed. Heck even without the sale they are only £6-7 for a box of ten.
Elements of design, the spears and armour especially are good.
Ease and speed of assembly.
Integral figure case is a nice idea.

The Bad:
Identical poses regardless of weaponry would make for fairly samey armies.
Face sculpting and some of the fighting poses.


The Ugly:
Stickers rather than transfers, really?
Terrible painting for the inspirational pictures and box.

Conclusions:

It took rather a long time to figure out what I thought about these guys. I eventually had a brain wave. This range seems to have been designed for kids. Young kids at that. There is nothing wrong with this at all but it makes all sorts of sense. The simplistic painting (even down to daubed red paint on the spears as blood), the ease of assembly. The integral figure case allowing young uns to store their models easily on their shelves. The pocket money pricing.

I can see some uses for some of the models, I will be using these as classical norse elves from Elfheim (thinking about doing some fantasy Dark Age gaming). But their real strength is for introducing young gamers. If you are a parent and have a 9-11 year old who wants to have a go at wargaming don't reach for Warhammer first, get them some of these. They're cheaper, simpler and easy to store. For the rest of us? I can't see Mantic being the major player that they clearly want to be until they fix some of their design issues and work a little harder on presentation. They will however be the Asda to Games Workshop's Waitrose. Mantic are cheap and cheerful and not terrible in quality. Games Workshop are expensive but top quality.

Hope that this has been helpful to people like me who hadn't seen Mantic's models properly and were curious. Until next time folks.

TTFN

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