Monday, January 13, 2014

Mantic Deadzone Enforcer Starter Faction Review

Well, a couple of holidays, a nasty cold and next thing you know it’s another month since my last post.  Aside from family holiday festivities I did manage to break away and get some models painted.   I spent some time finishing up the post-apocalyptic models on my work bench then I dove into the huge box of Deadzone goodies that showed up from Mantic.
I went in big for the Deadzone Kickstarter campaign and picked up almost all of the models and terrain that were available with the first round of deliveries.  With this review I’ll take a look at the Enforcer Starter Faction that comes in the main game box.  Hopefully I’ll find time to shortly show the rest of the box set as well.

The first thing to know about the Enforcer starter is that Mantic did not include exactly what was promised in the original Kickstarter Campaign.  This is covered in more detail in the update HERE but the abbreviated version is that Mantic is still working through the planned hard plastic enforcer kit.  To get the first shipment out the door on time Mantic decided to slide some of the basic enforcer models from first to second shipment and include some of their older Warpath models with the starter.  There are plenty of reviews around the web for the older models (including a short one I did last month HERE) so I’ll only cover the new models contained in the starter.


Love it or hate it, these models are cast in Mantic’s “restic” material (although they prefer to call it "sprueless plastic").  There are a great number of pros, cons and rants about restic around the web, so again I’m not going to dwell on this too much.  If you haven’t dealt with the material before I highly recommend reading up on it before purchasing any so you know what you’re getting into. 

From my perspective, the figure cast quality is comparable with other restic Warpath minis I’ve bought over the last few years in that there are numerous mold lines around the model (some in the most inconvenient places).  There is some, but very little mold slippage or offsets.  There are no bubbles or serous casting defects.  Similar to most other restic figures out there today, I have a problem with the “sprueless” idea.  The parts are typically ripped or twisted from their sprue frames, which can often lead to damage.  I’ve seen numerous comments that these figures are a significant improvement over the last round of Dreadball releases.  I don’t have any of Dreadball but if that’s the case, I shudder to think about the amount of cleanup the Dreadball figures would have required.
Despite providing great looking Digitally sculpted renders during the campaign, the end result is actually quite disappointment for several reasons.  First, the printing before casting seems to have been at a visibly lower resolution than I've seen from other companies that utilize the process.   There were many prominent details (especially the helmets) where the end result was a lot of blobby or soft detail.  This is one area where I feel the painted figures on the Mantic website are a little misleading.  If you look at the pictures closely and compare them to the bare models you can see that a lot of the helmet details were painted on flat surfaces, not part of the model itself. 

Another issue with the digital prints are the fact that there are still residual print lines on many of the models that were not cleaned up before casting.  This is a disappointing sign of too little quality control in the release process.

The last sculpting issue I have is with the change in visual style between the old enforcers and the new ones.  The addition of the web gear with equipment and a pistol holster is nice, but the overall slimming of the sculpts combined with the change in armor plates here and there is annoying.  You could put this down to different versions of armor, but I was happy with the older style and didn’t see any reason to change. 

While I was disappointed with the final sculpts as compared to the digital renders shown during the Kickstarter campaign, the physical figures do end up at acceptable tabletop standard once they are prepped and painted.  They aren’t great figures, but they get the job done.  Hopefully (knock on wood) Mantic manages to get the hard plastic figures completed for the next wave of deliveries later this year.


As with other soft PVC figures, the devil with restic is clean up of mold lines.  Blast and damn it’s a chore.  I generally enjoy this end of the hobby, but restic clean up can surely try your patience.   My preferred method is to start with a new blade in my hobby knife and remove the mold lines with precise forward strokes.  As you can imagine this is a slow process at best.  As you can see by the pictures there is still the odd mold line still on the model here and there even after my careful clean up work.  I’ve read a number of reports of people cleaning restic mold lines with a brass wire brush but haven’t yet given it a go.  I think I’ll experiment with some of the older Warpath enforcers.

Once the mold lines are taken care of assembly is relatively easy.  There are some confusing parts, especially with the engineer.  Mantic has a breakdown of all the figure parts in one of their updates HERE if you get confused.

One thing to note when you look at the pictures is that I did a few head swaps.  I found the detail unacceptably  soft on a number of the heads (engineer, assault and missile launcher) so I replaced them with some of the older enforcer heads that I had left over some from some of my unused Warpath Enforcers.

For basing, I stuck with the method on my previous Enforcers and used 3mm clear acrylic bases from Litko.



The sniper is another cool figure marred by soft detail on the sniper rifle.




 This figure is surely the worst of the batch.  The print quality left very soft detail with the various parts, pouches and such on the upper torso with the slung weapon and the hand reaching into a pouch.  You can also see the soft details on the gun pieces below.





This figure is a bit different than the others.  This is a new sculpt from the original metal captain model, but it doesn’t appear to be a digital print.  At least I didn’t find any of the residual print lines present on the other models.  Unfortunately, the model has a cape that is mostly cast as a separate piece, but still has bits of the cape molded to the shoulders and chest.  I shaved of the cloak detail on the back, but left the bits on the front and the clasps.  It’s not ideal but they were in a spot that was problematic to get a knife into.  Other than that it fits in with the other figures in that it’s not a great figure, but is passable for tabletop standard.  Unfortunately my painting style from the other enforcers (solid colors with a wash) still left this guy kind of flat.  I’ll probably have to go back and do some dry-brushing or hard edging to make him a stand out a little more.



 Here is a combined shot of what you'll get in an Enforcer starter pack which is five old Warpath Enforcers and six new Deadzone models. 

EDIT:  Oops, I messed up and left one of the old Warpath generic troopers out of the picture.  There should be 12 models total.


To be fair, after going through the other parts of the Deadzone boxed set, the Enforcers are the weakest pieces I received.  I don’t recommend judging the entire game on them alone.  For now I’m taking Mantic’s word that these are acceptable if underwhelming figures that are a stopgap for the future planned hard plastic figures.

For the price I paid through the kickstarter (roughly $2 a piece depending on how you pro-rate them with the rest of the rewards) they were a decent value to me as far as gaming goes.  However if you are looking at them in terms of the retail price for the standalone Enforcer Starter (at roughly $3.5 a figure) I would probably think twice or maybe pass on them. 

The more important drawback as far as the game is concerned is the lack of options compared to the other starting factions.  Not only did the delay of the hard plastic enforcers hold back some of the starter releases, Mantic has held back on the Enforcer booster packs as well.  The other three Deadzone factions in the first wave (Marauders, Plague and Rebs) all have full starters and boosters available in the first delivery.  So far I’ve only played a couple of learning and test games so I don’t know if the lack of Enforcer options is a problem, but for players serious about the game, it might make the faction limiting for the moment.