Archive for December, 2011

December 26, 2011

Discovering Mantic Games

Salutations to you my readers wherever you are. Recently I have been comparison shopping for miniature models. I had my heart set on acquiring an army of Chaos Daemons from Games Workshop. My reason for choosing this particular army was that I hoped to save money. The Chaos Daemons are a unique army among all the Games Workshop products because, if you mount your models on square bases then many of the Chaos Daemon models can be used in both the Warhammer Fantasy Battles game and the more popular Warhammer 40,000 game. You can basically get two armies for the price of one. It sounded great to me. I was eager to save some money. Unfortunately I have discovered that saving money and buying from Games Workshop just don’t happen together.

I was researching the prices of various Chaos Daemon units that I wanted to include in my army and I came to the conclusion that an entire army would run me about $500. It might even be a bit more then that if I discovered that some of the models that I initially purchased were not tactically useful in the game. New players often make the mistake of buying models that are not useful enough to be considered cost effect for their point cost. So it might eventually come to $600 or more for my new army. I looked at all the prices I had added up in my spreadsheet and I considered. Now it seems that a popular choice at this point is to go ahead and buy the stuff from Games Workshop and then complain bitterly about the pricing online somewhere. I have to confess that this option just did not appeal to me. I decided that the price was high enough that I would either find cheaper models or abandon the hobby if I couldn’t find any such models.

This prompted me to begin searching the Internet for deals on models. I found an online retailer called the Warstore.com which typically sells all products at 80% of the recommended retail price. This is a much better deal than what is available on the Games Workshop web site. I could field my Chaos Daemons for less. However while in the midst of my web searching I discovered something that hinted at an even better deal. A company called Mantic Games makes models which could be proxy substitutes in a Games Workshop game such as Warhammer Fantasy or 40k. Proxy substitute models are frowned on by some gamers and they are usually outright forbidden in tournaments. However I had no intentions of playing in tournaments so some Mantic proxy models seemed great way to further reduce the cost of my new army. The main reason that people use Mantic models even when they really want to play a Games Workshop game is that Mantic pricing totally outclasses the competition. Mantic models sell for perhaps half of the cost of a Games Workshop model.

Mantic Games fascinated me and I began to browse their company web site to familiarize myself with all their available products. Many of their armies seem to be deliberately created to enable their use as proxy substitutes in a Games Workshop game. They encourage this at Mantic. Mantic has a Dwarf army which could easily be used to replace more expensive Games Workshop Dwarfs. Mantic has an Elf army which could be used in place of High Elves from GW. They have Orcs that wouldn’t look out of place in a Warhammer game. They have an Undead army whose units could be at home in a GW army of Vampire Counts or Tomb Kings. On the science fiction side of gaming they have a race of space faring “Orx” which would fit right in with any 40k Ork army. The other science fiction Mantic race is called the Forge Fathers. These guys are basically dwarfs in space with heat guns and power armor. They really have no counter part in the 40k universe as far as I know. Mantic could possibly be accused of creating an original product in this case. Besides the Forge Fathers Mantic sells a few other armies that cannot really be useful as proxies in one of the popular GW games. However the opportunities for building proxy armies are abundant. Mantic seems to have designed many of their products with this in mind. Enthused by these possibilities I decided to abandon all together my plans for a Chaos Daemon army. Instead I would collect an army of the Vampire Counts relying heavily on proxy models from the Mantic Undead army. I decided that whenever possible I would purchase from Mantic instead of GW. As you may have gathered I am a bargain hunter. I am obsessively concerned about pricing.

I have heard other gamers object to Mantic’s models. One claim I have heard is that the sculpting on Mantic miniatures is of a lower artistic quality. I suppose this could be true. I think it is mostly a matter of personal preference. There are significant differences between the Mantic models and what GW makes. They are basically both of a 28mm scale. The GW models are what is called Heroic scale. The miniatures by Mantic Games are called True Scale. Heroic scale uses different proportions in a human body than True Scale. In Heroic Scale you will have thicker limbs, thicker feet, smaller gut, larger chest area, larger face, larger head and larger weapons. All these proportions are slightly exaggerated or diminished to make the model look more fierce and capable. These are artistic choices. The Mantic models are called True Scale and they are more realistic in their proportions. They are basically shaped the way human bodies are in real life. These Mantic skeleton models for my Vampire Counts army are much thinner than the GW skeletons. If you think about it, you would expect skeletons to be thin after all. Some people prefer the Heroic Scale style of sculpting that is used by GW. Some people prefer Mantic’s True Scale.

Another difference between the two companies is the level of detail in the miniatures. I have heard people say that Mantic’s models have less detail. I am not sure if this is true. I have not compared very many miniature models. Some people tout the reduced detail as an advantage because it allows to you paint the model faster. With less detail you can get your army painted and ready for gaming sooner. Personally I would see this as an advantage. Others are disappointed by the reduced detail because the end result of their painting and assembly does not look as impressive.

Another objection to Mantic is that their game system is not widely used. It is difficult to find people to play a Mantic game because it is not nearly as popular as the GW games. This objection is significant to me. Mantic compensates for this problem by making models which could be used in either one of Mantic’s own rule systems or as proxy substitutes in one of the ever popular GW games. The possibility of using proxy models was one of the key factors that finally convinced me to buy from Mantic.

These are the main objections that gamers have to Mantic’s products. Some people complain that the sculpting is poor. The True Scale style is sometimes criticized. I hear it said that the models lack detail. The rule systems for the Mantic Games Kings of War and Warpath games are not popular and this can mean that you can’t find players.

One objection that I have never heard about Mantic is the price. Mantic provides the best value for the money of any miniature model company that I have ever seen. I haven’t seen that many companies but read this following price comparison and decided for yourself. Mantic customers rave about the deals they get. GW sells its plastic miniatures for about two or three dollars per model. Sometimes when a model is of special tactical usefulness in game GW will further increase the price. Two to three dollars per model is about the price you would get from the GW web site. If you go to the Warstore.com and buy at Mantic’s already competitive prices reduced to 80% of retail then you can get a unit price of about one dollar per model. That is basically better than half the GW price. It gets better. I have not fully explained the value that Mantic provides to its customers.

If you buy a Mantic Games Elf Mega-Army from the Warstore.com you get the box of 131 minis with 2 larger war machine models for about $140 plus shipping which is another six dollars. The most comparable product from GW is the High Elves Battalion which includes 40 minis plus two larger war machine models. The price on that is $105 with free shipping. The Mantic box comes with a free 52 page Kings of War rulebook. They give the rules of the game away with every large army boxed set. If you want to play a GW game you have to buy a rulebook separately. The Warhammer Fantasy rulebook is $74.25 on the GW web site. Here GW charges you an additional $74 for something that their competition is giving away free. Now the Kings of War rulebook is 52 pages and the Warhammer Fantasy rulebook is 532 pages. Some gamers prefer the longer rule systems which allow for more complexity. The philosophy behind the design of Mantic’s game system is that shorter rules make for a superior game. Long and convoluted rules create situations in games where the rules are unclear and arguments result among gamers. Mantic touts their shorter rules as superior. The Mantic rules are also made available for free download on their company web site. Free rules are an additional value that Mantic customers receive.

If you go the GW web site and search for “Figure Cases” you will find their cheapest carrying case for a little more than $57. If you are buying an army from GW you will experience the added cost of purchasing one or more of these high priced carrying cases. In some model kits, Mantic Games gives away free Figure Cases. These free cases are not included in the larger Mega-Army deals like the Elf army already mentioned. However whenever you buy an individual unit of models it will come in one of these free foam lined carrying cases. Now the free Mantic Case is not as flashy as a GW hard shell plastic deal with foam trays inside it. The free Mantic Case is obviously cheaper than the GW product. However you are getting a functional case that will protect your minis and you are getting it free! Any of the smaller one unit products will come with one of these free Mantic cases.

Recently Mantic has begun selling a new case that is much more along the lines of the GW cases. They have this special case made by BattleFoam. The BattleFoam company is widely regarded as the company that makes the world’s best miniature cases. The new case is called the “Mantic Battle Foam Bag.” It is being packaged with the larger army boxed sets while the small single unit kits still come with the free carrying cases mentioned earlier. The free cases will actually fit inside the Battle Foam Bag quite neatly. Depending on what customized foam trays you get with it the Battle Foam Bag will cost between between $60 to $125.

I am quite enthused about Mantic because I like their highly competitive pricing. They add value to their products by offering free rulebooks and free carrying cases. Even with these freebies they are still beating the competition by a substantial margin in terms of cost. They are less than half the price of GW. I also appreciate the short rulebooks. The games are simplified and more enjoyable because of the shorter rules. There is less opportunity for discouraging arguments during a game because of the shorter more elegant rule systems. While some gamers complain that the Mantic models lack detail I appreciate this as a benefit because it means you can paint the models faster. I certainly hope that Mantic will be successful as a business because I hope to enjoy purchasing their products in the future. Mantic seems to be doing an excellent job of addressing and correcting all the problems that Games Workshop creates in my hobby.

I recently purchased an Undead Mega-Army boxed set along with an Undead Battalion boxed set. The Undead Battalion boxed set was sent to me by mistake. As a way of apologizing for this error the Warstore offered to sell it to me at half price. The end result of this windfall is that I now possess a collection of 251 Undead models plus one larger War Machine model. This is essentially a complete Kings of War army. I may buy one or two additional units to fine tune it but it is an army. For all this I paid about $180 (shipping included). Compare that to the depressing $500 figure that I was looking at on my spreadsheet not long ago while I was considering that Games Workshop Chaos Daemon army. I don’t understand why anyone buys models from Games Workshop. Forget that nonsense.

December 17, 2011

Wine and Miniatures

I just finished another Evil Sunz Ork Deffkopta. I am excited because only two models from my Assault on Black Reach set remain unpainted. It will be a mile stone to complete the whole boxed set. I believe that I have more or less decided not to play armies of either Evil Sunz Orks or Ultramarines. I am painting models that I will most likely never use in a game. Well, I did play one 500 point game with the Ultramarines. I just bought the Assault on Black Reach box because I wanted to start painting and I wasn’t sure what to buy. As the months have past I have painted almost all the stuff from that box but I have lost interest in Orks and Ultramarines. Currently I am fascinated by Mantic Games. I have purchased 251 Undead models from the Mantic range. I will get into those once I finish the Orks. I really like the Mantic stuff because it is a great value for the money. The models look good to me although I must admit that I am no artist. I have no idea what makes one sculpt better than another. I just know I like the Mantic models. They say that they are faster to paint because the models have less detail than Games Workshop. That appeals to me. Although some people don’t like that. I am always excited by the prospect of finishing another model. It is the completed model that thrills me. I know that my models aren’t very good. I am not really competitive about the painting or the gaming. I just paint the models because I enjoy doing it. I am not really ever going to be a great artist. I am just satisfied if the model looks better with paint than it did with out paint. I have talked to some of the serious painters at my local game store and they can get offended by my attitude. I don’t know why. Some people are very serious about this hobby almost to the point of being grim.

Miniature painting reminds me of experiences I had with people when I attempted to learn something about wine. I really like wine. I really enjoy drinking wine. Here is the deal though. There are people interested in wine who think of drinking wine as some sort of competition. Some people can drink some wine and then tell you what kind it is and possibly even what year it was created. That is pretty impressive if you have ever seen some one do this. So when I was into wine I would read stuff online about different types of wine: Zinfandel, Chardonay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I never quite made it as a wine connoisseur. I would go into restaurants and order a specific wine and the waiter would get mad. I would pick wines that were inappropriately matched to the meal. I still don’t understand why the waiter would react with anger when my order revealed I didn’t know wine. The cool thing about wine as far as I am concerned is that it is a great way to put alcohol in your blood stream and it even tastes good. However I have never been capable of appreciating the subtle differences in types and qualities of wine.

I guess that I am the same way with miniature models. I really like the models and the painting the same way that I like wine. Here I am painting models and it becomes obvious to the serious painters that I am not perceiving subtle variations in color. I don’t have the patience for the advanced painting techniques. My painting reminds me of coloring books I used in the first grade. That is pretty much what I have been doing. I just put solid blocks of color in a defined area. Highlights confuse me because I can never decide where one color should end and another color begin. So here I am failing to appreciate miniature painting the same way that I failed to appreciate wine. But I still drink wine and I still paint models. I am just not very good but still I deeply enjoy these activities I assure you.

They will actually sell miniature models to any random person willing to pony up the cash. They never asked me to prove my abilities as an artist when I went to the game shop to buy models. Now that I have the models I am not really feeling a great desire to prove myself to anyone. I don’t really get the whole competitive side to this hobby. I don’t think that I will ever play in a tournament or enter a painting contest. I hear terrible stories about bitter arguments that arise during tournament play. I am not eager to experience that. I just plan to play with friends. Painting contests are cool. I like to look at other people’s entries. I don’t think I will ever enter a model of my own though. I can assure you that a lack of artist ability does not reduce my ability to enjoy painting. Take care.