Friday, January 7, 2011

Grindhouse Games Combot Review

My first project up is a review of a squad of “combot” robots I recently finished from Grindhouse games.

Grindhouse Games is a small company known for its Incursion board game.  Late in 2010, They announced a new project to be called “Junk”.  As of now, the game is still in the early development phase.  Not much has been set in stone.  Here is what we know.  The game is set in some sort of post-apocalyptic earth where humans are rare or nonexistent.  Robots have inherited the wasteland.  They band together to search out the rubble of humanity to find the parts and resources they need to survive.  It looks like it will be a small skirmish style game with less than 10 models per side.  The goal seems to be less of a competitive game and more of a narrative, “RPG Light” style in the same vane as some of the Two Hour Wargames rulesets.  From the Art and aesthetics shown so far, it looks like Grindhouse is aiming for something between a pulp style look and standard sci-fi.

I like the concept the owner and designer Jim Bailey has put forward so far.  On the company forum they are still soliciting input from the public on what direction to go with the game.  It’s early days yet, but I certainly see potential.

While the game itself is still a work in progress, Grindhouse has already released it’s first set of miniatures.  Called the Dogface squad, it is a group of five robots with a range of different weaponry.  I preordered a set in early November before the release.  Due to problems with the initial casting, they didn’t actually arrived until sometime in the first week of December.  At which time they sat on my desk for a few more weeks until I could clear a spot from other projects and get at them.  Here are my thoughts on the squad:

The first thing that hits you are that these things are pretty heavy for metal miniatures.  They have solid round bodies with a domed head.  At 26 grams they are over twice as heavy as most other infantry figures in my collection.  This had me concerned that the weight and the high center of gravity would be too much for the smaller 25mm round bases they were shipped with.  To keep the figures from becoming too prone to tipping over, I upsized the bases to some 30mm round lip style bases I had in the bits box.
The miniatures have a retro look that could look good with anything from 40’s era Weird War II to 30’s pulp.  I think these guys would look great with a theme from the Fallout video game series.

It should also be mentioned that when these models were first revealed, there was a little controversy as they look visually similar to robots drawn by artist Ashley Wood.  He has produced two graphic novel series, “World War Robot” and “Zombies VS Robots” with a robot called a Bertie that looks quite similar to the combots.  After this raged for a few days,  Jim Bailey claimed to have contacted Asley Wood and stated that there were no problems.  I haven’t seen any negative comments by Mr. Wood, so in my opinion it’s a dead matter.  They’re similar, but different enough that everyone can get along.  Here's a pic of an official Bertie model from A3 Toys.  You can be the judge:

In the confusing and often conflicting world of miniature scale, this can be a problem.  As I mentioned these robots are big.  At 40mm from bottom of foot to the top of head, these guys are going to tower over most smaller 28mm miniatures.  However they do fit in pretty well with bigger miniatures in the 32-35mm range.  Also, being imaginary robots, they really don't have to fit in exaclty with other models to still play well on the tabletop.  Here's a scale shot with an AT-43 model on the left and a Games Workshop 40K model on the right:

Here there was a slight disappointment for me.  I had previously bought at least 30 models from Groundhouse’s Incursion line and they were all crisply cast with almost no mold lines.  The combots were not quite so well done.  All of them had a prominent mold line across the body.  For three models it was easy to remove with just a light backs-crape of my hobby blade.  However for two, the robot with the assault rifle in one hand pointed forward and the robot with the rocket launcher, the mold line was very pronounced.  I tried my best to remove it, but you can still see it on the one with the assault rifle.

Also, the arm holding the RPG was badly misaligned.  In fact the head of the RPG was too bad to salvage.  If I had removed all of the material at the mold line, it would have made the warhead out of round.  In the end I just clipped off the whole RPG and replaced it with a left over part from a Games Workshop plastic Cadian Imperial Guard kit.  It’s considerably bigger than the original, but I think it still works.

I’d say that these guys are pretty typical from a constructability standpoint.  All of the bodies and legs are single part casts, so you only need to attach the weapons and arms.  All of the parts have a ball and socket arrangement that might hold by themselves, but to be on the safe side I pinned all of the joints with 1/16th inch brass rod.  I used a super glue gel to hold the parts together.  It gives you a little longer play time when getting parts in the right place and can also fill small gaps in the parts.  It probably took me longer to clean up the mold lines and replace the rocket launcher than it did to assemble everything else.  All told I probably had everything together in a total of about two hours.

After a good wash to remove any mold residue, fingerprints etc I primed the models with Army Painter Uniform Grey.  I then took one of the models and experimented with some test colors.  After playing around, I settled on German armor yellow for the base with green for the pouches and web gear.  I tried metalics, but just wasn’t satisfied with the effect.  To be completely honest, pics of the Ashley Wood Berties in yellow certainly helped my descionmaking. 

These are going to be playing miniatures, not showpieces, so I went with a quick three color and wash scheme.  I used Vallejo German Ochre as the base coat.  Games Workshop Catachan Green on the web gear and Games Workshop black/Boltgun Metal on the rifles.  I went back and painted the rocket Launcher and rockets Games Workshop Snot Green to make them stand out a little more.  Then everything was washed down with Games Workshop Gryphonne Sepia.

To give the base a little detail I threw on a little bit of gravel and some random junk from the bits box.  I finished it off with some grass tufts from Silfor.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with these models.  At $7.45 a piece (including shipping) they’re pretty pricy, but considering the size and weight of the miniatures, it’s not too much of a stretch for me.  Although there were some casting issues, for me they don’t present that much of a challenge to seasoned modelers.  These are some unique miniatures that I consider a good addition to my collection.

While I’m waiting to see what becomes of “Junk” I think I’ll use them to fight zombies.  One upside of the whole Ashley Wood controversy was to take a close look at his work.  His art style isn’t really my cup of tea, but the Robot VS Zombie comic sparked my imagination.  I’m a big fan of the All Things Zombie rule set from Two Hour Games.  This is a narrative gaming system set in a universe where a zombie outbreak brings humanity to its knees.  I think I can make a fun mod for the rule set where these combots go out to battle the zombies on humanities behalf.  Should be fun!

Here's some pics of the finished models: 

1 comment:

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