Thursday, February 1, 2018

Emperor Palpatine, Ahsoka and Maul


Here are my painted versions of the latest three miniatures released for Star Wars Imperial Assault: Emperor Palpatine, Ahsoka Tano and Maul. 




I can feel my enthusiasm for Imperial Assault dying a little bit more each day. When it first came out in 2014, I couldn't have been more excited. Star Wars was finally getting the deluxe war-game treatment: good sculpting, innovative rules, and the support of a tried-and-true gaming company in Fantasy Flight Games. I invested a lot of time, energy and love into collecting, painting and converting the miniatures.

It quickly became evident that the situation wasn't perfect. The miniatures were made out of cheaper, bendier plastic. The game play focused on unknown Rebel characters rather than the beloved heroes from the movies or TV shows. And new figures arrived at a glacial pace, leaving lots of holes in the cast (In fact, because Imperial Assault coincides with a raft of new movies and TV shows, charismatic new characters appear in the Star Wars universe much faster than the sculptors sculpt. As a result, with every year that goes by, there's a bigger deficit of miniatures. It reminds me of Tristram Shandy, who wrote his autobiography at a slower rate than he lived his life, so that the longer he lived, the further behind he lagged in his writing).

Underlying all of these problems is Fantasy Flight Games' rigid approach to gaming. They keep each miniature closely bonded to the rules, with character specific cards and counters. Miniature development is slow because the miniatures are subordinate to games development. 

But, even with these downsides, Imperial Assault seemed worth the investment -- especially since it was the only game in town if you wanted to paint a lot of Star Wars miniatures. But Fantasy Flight Games has just continued to disappoint me, and now I feel pretty listless about the whole thing. The quality of miniature became inconsistent. And the slow pace of new releases stuttered to almost nothing in the past year. For instance, the only character from the original trilogy released in 2017 was Emperor Palpatine.

And then Fantasy Flight Games announced that they were producing a new Star Wars war-game with better quality miniatures. Star Wars Legion should have been excellent news. Thirty years ago, Games Workshop showed how much fun it can be when a company releases many different games set in the same general universe. The hobbyist's opportunities for creativity multiply as he or she re-purposes, converts and assembles miniatures in various combinations. Mutually complementary games means more miniatures, more variety, and more reward for the miniature painter (who can paint one miniature and then use it in two, three, or four games). And so, at first, I thought that Star Wars Legions was the answer to many of the problems be-deviling Imperial Assault.

Nope. Fantasy Flight Games decided that they would make Legions in a slightly different scale than Imperial Assault. They are just different enough that setting miniatures from the two games together looks awkward and silly. The message was clear: There is only one way to enjoy our products: in silos. 

That, of course, is their prerogative. But that's where I check out. I like this hobby because painting gives me a sense of freedom and plenitude. I feel like a rich man when I paint a Skaven and can then use him for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Advanced Heroquest  and Mordheim (not to mention D&D, Descent, Frostgrave or any number of generic fantasy games). That a gaming company would do its best to foil that sort of fun seems sad. More to be pitied than scorned.

So I just don't know what more I'll paint in the Imperial Assault range. I guess I'll just play it by ear. But, to quote Catullus, my love for the game has cacked it, uelut pratiultimi flos, praetereunte postquam tactus aratro est.


Emperor Palpatine, painted miniature sculpted by Niklas Norman, 2017


For all my whinging, I did enjoy painting Palpatine. I love his face, with its bluish pancake make-up, red-rimmed eyes and yellow teeth. Jeepers, the man rules an entire galactic empire but can't find a dentist. The sculptor, Niklas Norman, created an ambiguous expression that a painter can pull into a grimace or smile. I went for the smile. I always thought that Palpatine was a hundred times creepier when he looked happy.


Ahsoka Tano, painted miniature sculpted by Adam Martin, 2017


Above we have Ahsoka Tano, the erstwhile Jedi from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. I'm pleased that the sculptor, Adam Martin, opted to give her more realistic features, rather than giving her a cartoon-like proportions that mirror her appearance on the animated shows (In contradistinction, see the miniature for Hera Syndulla -- her sculptor, Gabriel Comin, made her look much too much like an animated cartoon).


Ahsoka Tano, painted miniature sculpted by Adam Martin, 2017


In general, Ahsoka is a lovely miniature, with a dynamic pose and good detail. I did, however, have to replace her bendy-lightsabers with copper wire.


Maul, painted miniature sculpted by Cory DeVore, 2017


Above is the miniature for "Maul, Seeker of Vengeance". He's sculpted by Cory DeVore, which means that each of the three miniatures in this post had different sculptors. There are so many different sculptors in Imperial Assault that there's no consistency and you never know what you're going to get. And what we got here is an awkward and unimpressive pose: bum thrust out, arms extended, torso tilted. Get this man a chiropractor. I honestly don't know how you screw up Darth Maul, who's such a naturally terrifying figure... but somehow they managed to do it.

Oh Imperial Assault, you break my heart.



23 comments:

  1. Oh, how I love your Star Wars painting!
    Fantastic my friend!
    regards

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    1. Thanks Michal - Your appreciation is appreciated!

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  2. When I heard about the scale change for Legions I thought it was a totally a-hole move. Sorry to hear it's soured the well on imperial assault for you. I'm sure that the new game is sucking all the oxygen out of the room for further development of imperial assault, and one wonders if they will quietly kill it in favor of Legions.

    I may have lucked out as I'm not a fan of how fantasy flight games require endless chits and mini cards in addition to their regular stats cards to play their games. It means I haven't bought into any of their games yet (merely playing my friends set ups).

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    1. I am so hot-and-cold about FFG. I love and play many of their products. But they are so dreadful so much of the time. As you have said, their heavy use of chits, mini-cards, booster packs etc. means that they have perfected the art of bleeding white their fan base.

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  3. Well that is a shame mate, though I completely understand your opinion on Legion/Imp Assault's scale differences. Douchebag move by FF for sure. It's examples like this that creates free (Illegal) pdf versions of rulebooks online for those that are likewise soured, but refuse to pay up for something that really shouldn't have been an issue in the first place.

    Palpatine is by far my favourite Star Wars character. Your mini looks amazing - the shades in his robes are gorgeous mate and that face... yes. Just yes. It's right there when he's gleefully zapping the crap out of silly little Luke, though sadly right before Vader tosses him in to the 2nd Death Star's reactor core.

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    1. Yes, talk about a douchebag move... Vader should have never tossed the Emperor like that. No respect. Just think about how peaceful the galaxy would be if Vader just kept his shit together.

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    2. Something something "the centrifugal power of selfishness and cruelty", as you once put it?

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    3. Allison, I am both deeply flattered *and* slightly worried for you that you have such an excellent memory for my posts!

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  4. I cannot but agree, your reflections on how they are managing the Star Wars franchise are quite accurete to me, I find it all quite baffling, to say the best. Time will tell, I guess.
    But regarding the minis, I have to say I particularly love your work on Ashoka, really nice take on her!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that you are also losing your enthusiasm, Suber. I guess it's been a long time since I've seen you do any Imperial Assault models yourself. I do miss you work. Your subtle but elegant conversions for the game are a big inspiration for me.

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    2. Wow. Thank you vry much! I would dare to say it is just the opposite! I've played a few games, and I have a few minis still waiting for their moment to come. Don't lose faith... :P

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  5. Interesting contrast between Ahsoka and Hera Syndulla, for sure. I like both sculpts; I bought Hera for my brother as a gift and had the chance to examine the figure more closely and now wish I'd bought two :). Great painting as always... your Emperor conveys the requisite visual drama the character demands. I always imagine him being dramatic and slightly theatrical on purpose, he can use this to goad Vader (which I'm sure is his favorite sport). But it's also useful for getting Luke Skywalker worked up at just the moment that he needs to do that.

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    1. I'm enjoying the image you've given me of Palpatine constantly winding Vader up when they're alone together. "I can almost hear myself think, Lord Vader. Perhaps, you can breathe a little louder.")

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  6. "The message was clear: There is only one way to enjoy our products: in silos." That is a real bummer. It's funny to me how we as consumers can become so jaded by minor things that onlookers might deem completely inconsequential. This is why miniature neutral games are exploding. Divorcing game design from miniature production and playing matchmaker is the only way forward for me! It's nigh impossible to be burned that way.

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    1. "It's funny to me how we as consumers can become so jaded by minor things that onlookers might deem completely inconsequential." That is sooo true. My whole gaming hobby is based on aesthetic choices that would appear insane to most people (e.g. I love Aly Morrison's Citadel sculpts but hate his work at Marauder... but that's another story.)

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  7. I love the Emperor's hands, and you painting is still top-notch. I can see why you removed Maul's cane, it was unnecessary.

    I hear you about FFG's practices; don't burn yourself out! Take a breather and come back whenever you feel like it. I have 1-2 IA weekends a year, which is about right for me. I am concerned about the impact of Legions, although I'm slightly secretly relieved that I won't have to throw cash and time at it.

    I think an alternative would be to reexamine Pulp Alley or 7TV and play with all the figures and scenery you've acquired.

    I had to google your Catullus, my classics are rusty.

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    1. I really want to try 7TV's Star Wars rules and haven't done it yet. I will try them soon and post about the experience as soon as I do.
      In the meantime, Barks, I'm not completely abandoning IA - I do like the new App. So I'm keeping my mind open.

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    2. PS - I'm glad you looked up the Catullus, Barks!

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    3. I haven’t tried 7TV either and look forward to your review! I’ve done the app campaign once and was pretty happy with it. I’m looking forward to more.

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  8. The new app driven game is fantastic. Forget about legion, it's going to be plagued by the same problems that have ruined Runewars. The new app is fantastic, especially if you have a large collection, drawing in new variations and making each mission more unique! It adds rpg elements and between game decisions that affect what elements will be used in the next scenario. It also tracks a lot of the mundane activity of the games, making them easier to play and focus on the fun once you learn the changes. And let's you save your games, so campaigns are easier to play and finish!

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    1. As I mentioned to Barks, I also enjoy the App. We'll see how FFG supports it.
      It will be interesting to see how Legion plays out. I'll be watching from the sidelines, but with great interest.

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    1. Hey Matt,
      Did you try variants like bounty hunters campaigns?
      https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/136851/few-more-credits-fan-made-custom-scum-campaigns-im
      My group of players really enjoyed it.

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