Monday, May 23, 2011

In Box Review of The Incursion: SNAFU Boardgame Expansion

I’ve been a fan of miniature dungeon crawl board games going all the way back to my first miniatures game with Space Hulk back in 1990.  I’ve played many over the years including GW’s Warhammer Quest, Rackham’s Hybrid, and FFG’s Doom.  I love skirmish and mass battle games too, but board games with minis got me into this hobby and always has a place in my heart.
Up until last year I hadn’t played any weird WWII games.  Between fantasy, Sci-Fi and modern day zombies, I figured my plate was full.  That is until Grindhouse games threw out a great sale on their Incursion board game last fall.  For $150 I got the game, an extra board, and 28 metal figures.  Not too shabby considering the retail price.  They’re great figures and a fun game.
This month Grindhouse is now releasing the first expansion to Incursion titled SNAFU.  I picked up the pre-order set with the book and all the figures for $110 plus shipping.  That deal isn’t offered any longer, but it matches the new “Fat Stack” deal at $120 + shipping.
I went through the package and took some pictures for anyone that wanted some more information before they plunked down their money.  I haven’t had time to look at any of the new rules or character stats in depth, so this focuses on the physical components of the expansion.  Here’s what you get:

SNAFU BOOK – This book is a 64 page, full color, soft cover book that comes with the expansion.  It contains the background and stats of the new figures as well as the MI-13 stats that were previously available as a download only.  It has 13 two player missions, and 6 “cinematic” missions (for solo play), a zombie painting guide and an updated FAQ.  This book is gorgeous.  It’s well laid out, information is easy to find and there’s plenty of art and fluff pieces scattered throughout.  In my opinion it definitely surpasses the original Incursion rulebook.  For some perspective, the last two rulebooks I’ve bought have been from the ATZ range of Two Hour Wargames.  These are black and white, no art, 100+ page monster rulebooks for about the same price as the SNAFU book itself.  While my inner nerd loves to get lost in those dense rulebooks, I can also appreciate the fantastic looking, simplistic layout of SNAFU.

GAMING FIGURES – You get 12 metal figures with the set.  All packed in a plastic clamshell.  The figures all come with plastic slotted Privateer Press style “round lip” bases in 30mm, 40mm or 50mm.
You can find Color pictures of all of the new figures at the Grundhouse webstore:  Webstore Link

Bazooka APE – As the name says it’s an APE….with a Bazooka.  He is a four piece figure of the standard APE design with a realistic sized bazooka in ready position in his right hand and a bazooka round in the left powerfist.  It looks like it will fit in nicely with the rest of the APES.  I particularly like that the sculptor resisted the temptation to make a heroic sized bazooka.  One thing to watch out for are the fins on the bazooka round.  They are individually molded and will bend very easily.

Zip Kelly – This is the new Hero of the MI-13 faction.  He’s a single piece figure in a fighter pilot cap, greatcoat and sporting a pair of Mausers.  He has a dynamic pose leaping off his left leg.  He’s got a few mold lines down the right side but nothing serious.  Overall a nice looking “pulp” style figure.

Gracie – My favorite of the bunch this is a British walker for the MI-13 faction.  It’s a 12 Piece kit that just dry fitting looks to be over 60mm tall!  It is superbly cast with absolutely no flash or mold lines.  All the connections look to be peg and slot, so I don’t foresee having to pin anything.  Dry fitting the parts it looks like it’s a tight fit all around so there shouldn’t be any need to fill any gaps.  I don’t play SOTR but if I did, I could definitely see a squad of these guys.

Blitzhund II – Dubbed “Angry Blitzhund” on the forums after the teaser pic was posted, this is a second sculpt of an SWD werewolf.  This is a two piece figure with a separate tail.  It looks like the tail should be pinned to prevent a weak joint.  I’m very happy to get this guy.  The previous leaping blitzhund sculpt was great looking, and dynamic, but it wasn’t my ideal gaming miniature with a higher center of gravity and legs sticking so far over the base edges.

Drohne – The drohne stats came out with the MI-13 set and the concept art came out late last year if I remember rightly.  Now we finally get the miniature.  This is a hovering cyborg for the SWD faction.  It’s got a real pulp vibe with the brain in the jar and the flailing spindly arms.  It is also a fairly complex kit with five metal parts, a flying stand and a plastic tube for the brain jar.  If you look closely mine has a broken right arm.  It looks like a casting defect left the arm thin and it broke off during shipping.  I contacted Grindhouse and Jim offered to send a replacement, but I just went ahead and pinned the arm as I was too impatient to wait for a new one to arrive.  This one is another favorite of mine from the set.

Panzeraffe – The BIG one!  This figure is not only huge it’s very heavy.    The grid in the pictures is in inches.  Yes he’s that big.  He’s also an awesome sculpt with a dynamic pose and huge chain gun.  Oddly, one of the barrels is longer than the other two for some reason.  It’s a four part figure including an optional cap that fits with both bill forward or backwards.  Dry fitting the arms shows that there will be a noticeable seam, so I’ll probably use a little green stuff to blend the transition.  I have a love hate thing with this figure right now.  I’m not a fan of big metal gaming figures.  They require more care and attention than standard figures or they tend to get bumped around, loose limbs or chipped paint.  I would have loved to see this figure in resin.  I don’t know if it would be more or less expensive to produce, but a lighter figure would be worth it in my opinion.  Even with those concerns though this is one impressive gorilla.

Zombies! – Lastly you get six new Sturmzombie sculpts.  Although new might not be the right word.  If you look closely, the figures are a recombination of the parts from the original sturmzombies.  They took the head from one figure and put it on the body of another.  There are certainly new parts for arms, and hooks, but only one of the six figures is a totally new sculpt.  I’ve got mixed feelings here.  On one hand they will fit right in with the old zombies, on the other hand you start to get a repetition that isn’t really desireable.  I’m hoping that changing the paint scheme between the new and old zombies helps to create a little more definition as well.  These are all single piece figures.  Three of the six have some pretty strong mold lines in the lower legs and boots that will take a little bit of work to remove.  Overall they are a nice addition to the line, but I think Grindhouse could have done better.

Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about what’s not in the expansion.  If you’ve bought expansions for other games like this, they tend to follow a pattern with a box, usually a rules booklet, new board sections, new cards, new tokens and a couple of figures.  Grindhouse has taken a different direction with SNAFU.  They’ve sunk all of their resources into a beautiful book and a whole slew of figures, including two huge figures.  I don’t think of this as good or bad, but as a strategy that some people are going to love and some people, well, some people won’t like it at all.  Here are my opinions on how the typical expansion components not being included affects me (your mileage may vary).
New box –I keep my miniatures in foam trays, and I think I can get the new book to fit in the original game box, so no big deal for me here.
New tiles/board section – The new missions all take place on the original two sided board.  Will this still feel original or will it feel like I’ve done it all before?  My gut reaction is that I wanted a new board, but to be honest I don’t know.  That will have to wait until I can get on the table and start playing.
New Cards & Tokens – Each of the new figures get stat cards and there are new tokens for the MI-13 and things like ladders and other mission specific tokens needed for the expansion.  Instead of printing them for the set, Grindhouse has released them as a pdf here:  SNAFU Assets  This is my only real disappointment so far.  Jim Bailey was up front early on that he was going to do this to keep down costs so I knew this full well when I ordered, but it’s not the way I would have preferred it.  On the plus side, the PDF also has print out standups for  the figures if you don’t want to splurge on the metal figures.
Here’s my logic for wanting printed cards.  The six sturmzombies in the German Starter box weren’t enough to play the SWD to their full potential, so I’m sure most people did like I did and either bought more, or different zombies to fill in the gaps.  Because I have plenty of zombies now, combined with the recombination of old parts on the new zombie sculpts, I would have preferred Grindhouse to have dropped the zombies from the expansion deal and gotten some printed cards and tokens.  Or left the zombies in and charged more (however I can see that would not be popular either). 
Is it a big deal?  Not really.  I can still take the pdf to Kinkos or Office Max and get them to print them for a few bucks.  I guess it comes down to what you’re used to.  I still have my copies of Space Hulk:  Deathwing and Hybrid Nemesis where you got literally a stack of cards several inches tall.  In the end Grindhouse had to make compromises to make this work and this is the path they chose.
In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with what I have so far.  To really decide if the set was worth the money I’ll have to see how fun the new characters and missions are. 
Now on to building those lovely figures.  I’ve cleared off all my other projects for now.  The  first figures up will be the Drohne and Panzeraffe.