When I heard that Fantasy Flight Games was releasing Imperial Assault, a Star Wars miniature combat game, I became so excited that I darkened my trousers with a rich, fragrant urine. It was a dream come true (the game, not the urine). Star Wars has been long neglected in the world of miniature gaming (previous attempts include the underwhelming sculptures in Star Wars Miniatures Battles by West End Games, or the juvenile monstrosities of Star Wars Miniatures by Wizards of the Coast.)
I purchased Imperial Assault as soon as it hit the shelves in December 2014, and have been furiously painting up the miniatures ever since. After 2 months of work, I've painted 33 of the 36 miniatures in the box.
The miniatures in Imperial Assault are well worth the effort. They are sculpted by Benjamin Maillet with Jason Beaudoin, Gordon Robb and Nick Miller. Maillet and his team have gone for a lifelike look with realistically proportioned limbs. In this sense, they remind me of the Lord of the Rings figures sculpted by the Perry Brothers for Games Workshop -- a style of miniature very different from the "heroic" style common to Warhammer.
From foot to eye, the Star Wars minis average about 32 mm, although some figures (Wookies, Darth Vader) are much bigger. This variation in height is satisfying, giving some models a feeling of strength. Maillet's particular talent is capturing the personality of the characters in dynamic poses... so young Luke Skywalker seems almost afraid of his over-sized blaster, while Darth Vader's forward step lends him menace and power.
My only complaint is that the miniatures are made of medium-hard plastic (urethane?), rather than the rigid polystyrene used by Games Workshop. This is a pity: the softer plastic can lose some detail, especially in the faces. It also leaves a serious modeler with some problems: the molding lines on the miniatures can be quite pronounced, and require care to remove, since sanding this material doesn't work (files shred the plastic into a rough fringe rather than a smooth surface).
Also, thinner pieces of the miniature (like lightsabers) are very bendy -- to harden these bits and keep the paint from cracking off them over time, I covered them in layers of white glue and water (50:50 mix). Finally, because the plastic is quite light, I had to improve the figures' stability. So I glued 1/4 x 1" stainless steel washers to the bottom of each plastic base. Happily, these washers are almost a perfect fit with the miniatures' built in round base.
If these figures were just board game pieces, I could forgive the cheap plastic. But Fantasy Flight is contractually obligated to make Imperial Assault a miniature war game since they don't have the rights to Star Wars board games. Indeed, there is a rumour (picked up from my local gaming store) that Hasbro (who does own the board game license) has been jousting with Fantasy Flight over whether Imperial Assault is a war game at all (after all, Imperial Assault bears a striking resemblance to Fantasy Flight's fantasy board game Descent). My view is that if these models are truly war games miniatures, they should be made out of war game grade material: durable urethane, resin or white metal.
But in the grand scheme of things, this is a just a quibble. Notwithstanding the soft plastic, the miniatures carry a lot of texture and detail (at least in their uniforms and weapons). I love the realistic sculpting style. They models have character and an authentic Star Wars feel. In sum: highly recommended! Stay tuned for my next post, when I talk about painting these miniatures.
If you're interested in Star Wars and the influence of Lucas on Warhammer, there have been a couple great posts by other writers/gamers following up on my musings: check out Tiny Basement's article on Storm Troopers & Space Marines and Private W.'s photography of his amazing collection of Star Wars Miniatures from Wizards of the Coast.