Monday, February 25, 2013

DreamForge Games 20 x Stormtrooper Box Review

With the imminent release of the new DreamForge Games Eisenkern kits to the retail market, I thought I would give my review of the figures for anyone looking to purchase them. 

DreamForge Games was started by Mark Mondragon in 2003.  To date their main property is the Iron Core science fiction universe with which it hopes to eventually launch into a full tabletop miniatures game.  You can find more information at their website.  The first physical project to reach market was a pair of large resin kits of Leviathan robots.  Later in 2001 they launched the “Are you man enough for Metal” kickstarter campaign to produce Eisenkern stormtrooper figures.  By all accounts the project was a modest success and the figures were delivered to a generally satisfied audience.  DreamForge was still dreaming of bigger and better things and last fall they teamed up with Wargames Factory to create a second kickstarter campaign, called “Something Wicked This Way Comes” this time to bring the resing and metal kits to plastic.

The centerpiece to the second kickstarter campaign was the 8.5” tall Leviathan Crusader kit.  The campaign was an even larger success and many new kits were funded through stretch goals.  Along with the Crusader kit, the first kits to be released to the kickstarter backers were the basic Eisenkern stormtroopers, the stormtrooper accessory kit and a set of stormtrooper heavy weapons. 

I was a backer of the second campaign and received my rewards in early February.  After having had some time to build and paint a squad of figures I decided to write up my thoughts.  I hope to get to the other kits in time, but this first review will focus solely on the stormtrooper box.

Printed Components
The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box with color art work on all sides as well as a one page, double sided instruction sheet.  The art work on the box is of 3D renders rather than actual models, which is disappointing.  However, due to the compressed schedule of the kickstarter, the boxes were produced before DreamForge could get studio quality photos of the actual models.  Hopefully this will be rectified in future print runs.  The instructions are apparently only the first draft and a better revision was not printed before the boxes were shipped from the factory.  DreamForge has provided an electronic version of the updated (and clearer) instructions on their blog.

Frame Breakdown & Components
The basic stormtroopers come as either a box of ten or twenty figures.  The breakdown for the twenty man box has three frames.  The first frame contains bases, heads, weapons and shoulder pads.  The second frame has the bodies, arms and back packs.  There is a third frame with additional weapons and pairs of arms.

Starting with the body frame, there are ten torso front and backs, ten back packs and twelve sets of legs.  The torsos and backpacks are all identical and the legs have six unique poses from standing to crouching and running (although the other six are a mirror image of the first).  The frame has 10 pairs of left and right arms, all with a pistol grip in the right hand and an open palm on the left.

Moving on to the base frame, you will find ten 30mm bases cast on the frame.  The bases have the DreamForge logo cast in the bottom and a location hole that lines up with pegs on the feet of the figures.  While the bases have the same round lip shape as many other manufacturers, at 2.45mm tall they are noticeably shorter than what I’d consider the standard for this style (3.8mm tall).  There are ten heads with German World War II style helmets and full face masks.  Eight of the heads are identical while two have targeting recitals over the right eye.  The frame contains ten machine guns that look like a beefed up German MG-42.  The machine guns are missing the pistol grip (in order to mate with the hands) and some are missing parts of the stock where they will mate with the arms.  Lastly the frame contains ten pairs of left and right shoulder pads and ten drum magazines for the machine guns.

The third frame contains additional weapons and arm pairs.  There are eight submachine guns, some with folded stocks and some with under-slung grenade launchers.   There are four rocket propelled grenades that resemble a larger version of the German panzerfaust.  Last the frame contains another nine pairs of arms, again all with the pistol grip in the right and the open palm left.  The submachine guns are the first real departure from the German World War II theme.  They resemble more modern weapons like the fictional StA-11 or the real world PP-19 Bison rather than the iconic German MP 40.

One nice feature pioneered by Wargames Factory and carried over onto the DreamForge kits is to use tabs in the bottom of the frame that fit into slots on the top.  This makes it very convenient to stack frames one on top of another without worrying about damaging the parts.

Assembly & Construction
The plastic feels and works like standard model styrene.  It feels very similar to other Wargames Factory kits and in comparison feels slightly harder than Games Workshop plastic.  The parts bond well with standard solvent style glues such as Tenax and Testors.  For the best results you will want to remove the parts from the frame with sprue clippers and clean them up with a sharp bobby knife.

There are some mold lines but they are generally minor and easily removed with careful cutting and back scraping.  For the most part I would not advise sanding or filing as that would remove too much detail.  The one exception is the helmets.  There is a small but noticeable mold offset along the top and back all of the helmets that will take some work to remove.  Scraping works, but sanding might be faster.  Just be careful to rock your tool back and forth to keep from creating flat spots.

The parts assemble fairly logically with pegs on the feet and locating tabs for the crouching leg halves, torso halves and the back packs.  The part that might cause confusion is the arm and weapon combinations.  Each set of arms is meant for a specific weapon on the frame.  The instructions in the box rely on some part numbers, but mainly they color code the proper left and right arms to go with each weapon.  There are reports around various forums that some have found this a little confusing.  My problem is that I am partially color blind.  For the bold colors like red that’s fine, but for some of the more subtle colors, I just couldn’t tell them apart.  Fortunately the updated instructions provided on DreamForge’s blog use part numbers in addition to the colors, making the whole process of matching up the right weapons with the right arms much simpler.

The rest of the parts go together easily.  I had no fit problems with any of the combinations or poses that I tried.  As with most of these types of multi-pose kits, it’s best to work out what you want the final pose to look like before starting to assemble the parts.  I found it best to assemble the legs and torso first, letting the glue cure for ten minutes, then adding the arms and weapon.  This will still give you the ability to tweak the rotation of the torso on the legs if they aren’t lined up just as you want them.  Only after these parts are fully cured did I add the head, shoulder pads and back pack.

I prefer to paint the figures separately from the base so I did not glue the feet to the base at this stage.

Size & Proportion
The most upright pose you can build results in a figure approximately 32mm tall to the eyes and 34.5mm tall to the top of helmet.  Making assumptions for the stance, average height etc, I come up with a figure scale of 1/53 which is slightly larger than the 1/56 stated on the box.  From the perspective of other popular figure lines, they generally fit, being slightly taller than Games Workshop Imperial Guard.  

In terms of proportions, the head, hands and weapons are more realistic than the cartoonishly exaggerated style of Games Workshop, but I wouldn’t say they are “true” either.  I think they strike a good balance.  Figures with more realistic proportions, such as Wargames Factory World War II Germans, end up thinner and more fragile.

Overall Thoughts & Opinions
From a strictly quality perspective, these figures are very well designed and cast.  The part breakdown is logical and the sprue attachment points are in well thought out locations that will be easy to clean up or hide.  There was no flash or sink marks on any of the parts.  As I said above there are light mold lines and a few parts with mold offsets, but they are minor and easily cleaned up.  From a quality perspective, these kits are equal to the best kits that Games Workshop is producing today and I think they rival the quality of main stream modeling companies such as Tamiya and Bandai.  When complete they result in a solid gaming figure that can stand up to normal play and even an occasional trip to the floor with trouble.

However good the quality is though, it is only one aspect of the figures.    From an aesthetic point of view I do have a few issues with the kit.  First, and foremost, the look and feel the figures is clearly “space Germans”.  People can honestly quibble about whether they resemble more an alternative Weird War look such as Dust, or an updated post World War II look projected forward like the movie Jin Roh.  Either way this is ground well trodden in the gaming figure industry.  What sets these figures apart is that they are the BEST space German figures I have ever built, and I have built a few.  They are better than the Dust Germans and better than Wargames Factory Shock Troopers just to name a few.  They may not be original, but they are well executed.

My next issue is with the rifles.  The intent from the instructions seems to be that the larger machine gun is the standard rifle for the squad.  The only difference between the riflemen and the support machine gunner is the drum magazine on the side.  For me this causes two problems.  From a gameplay perspective, it is always best to make figures distinctive and easily identifiable.   If Iron Core follows the normal direction of tabletop games, a machine gunner will be a higher value target than a standard rifleman.  With the drum magazine being the only identifier, this might lead to confusion and misunderstandings.  Secondly, the machinegun just looks off as a standard assault rifle.  It’s always dangerous to bring real world sensibilities into a science fiction universe, but as a US army vet with deployments to Iraq, the machine gun seem too long and bulky to serve as the standard rifle.  The exclusion of an assault rifle from the kit like the StG 44 seems to be a large oversight.

Even taking those issues into account, this is a wonderful kit.  I highly recommend it to anyone that likes building great models or needs generic future armored soldiers.  The kits can be built with little difficulty even by the most novice of modelers.  Even with Iron Core being at least a year or more away from reality, these are great figures that could stand in for many games on the market for now.


  1. Thanks for the great review of the kit.
    They sure look like a great alternative and a must to any serious "modder" :)

  2. Thanks. Yes, these kits have a great deal of flexibility. I'm working on some pictures of my first squad now.